Confused? I’ll get right to it. There is SO much yoga you can do without just a yoga pose on a mat. You can do yoga when you’re off your mat too. Yoga in the modern day has been confined to make us believe that strictly asana is yoga. It’s taught us to assume that doing yoga poses with a bit of breathing is the only way to “yoga”. A lot of people believe that when you stop doing an asana (a yoga pose), the yoga practice ends there and doesn’t begin again until you return to your yoga mat. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
In this blog, I want to share with you 5 ways to do yoga without doing yoga. Still confused? It’s easy! Let’s begin…
Yoga is a Lifestyle
Traditionally, yoga is meant to be a way of life. It was never designed to just fit into your daily schedule. It WAS your daily schedule. You woke up with it, lived it all day, and went to bed with it. You may be wondering how’s this possible? Modern-day yoga is so heavily asana focused that yamas (positive, ethical guidelines) and niyamas (inner observances) are easily forgotten. Other aspects of yoga like pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), and dhyana (meditation) are also typically looked over. If you’re not familiar with these concepts yet, don’t worry. A full series on the 8 limbs of yoga will be coming to the blog soon. It was by integrating not only the physical practice of yoga but also these other aspects of yoga into everyday life that one got to live a yoga life.
Living a yoga life means practicing various yamas and niyamas while working through everyday tasks. This includes trying to practice these when we are confronted with situations that test us. These are applicable more so today than ever before. They are easy and challenging at the same time but a little goes a long way. Here’s a quick list of the yamas and niyamas.
- Ahimsa – Kindness or causing no harm to one’s self and others.
- Satya – Being true to yourself as well as others.
- Asteya – Not coveting what doesn’t belong to us – physically and mentally.
- Brahmacharya – Moderation- not overindulging the senses.
- Aparigraha – Not hoarding material possessions.
- Saucha – Purity of thought, word, and deed.
- Santosha – Contentment with what we have in our present moments.
- Tapas – Austerity
- Svadhyaya – The study of one’s self through contemplative practices and texts.
- Ishvara Pranidhani – Not operating with a selfish goal or outcome in mind.
Practice tip– Just pick one yama or niyama. Practice that for a day or two or even in an activity. Try not to get overwhelmed by trying to do all of them all the time. Don’t try to achieve perfection in all of them. The important thing is to be mindful about applying these whenever and wherever we can, both with ourselves and with those around us.
To me, this is one of the aspects of yoga that makes it so accessible off the yoga mat. Your yoga practice is never tied to a teacher, studio, or class. It’s tied to you and only you. If anyone else tells you otherwise, it’s time to move on. Let’s talk about active meditation. To practice this, here’s what you need to do:
- Pick an activity from your everyday life. Ex – dishwashing, morning walk, cooking, eating breakfast, morning tea, etc…
- Set an intention to be fully present in this activity. Try not to get lost in your thoughts or look for distractions like the TV, your phone, etc…
- If its dishwashing, then pay attention to the sound of the water, the temperature of water hitting the skin, the feel of the vessel. Also note the smell of the soap, your body doing this action, and your breath. If you get distracted, notice where your mind tends to go. Try to keep it fully in the present moment.
- This form of meditation is NOT easy, so don’t be discouraged. A little goes a long way. There is no need for perfection on day one. As you do this more often, you’ll notice that you start to get better.
Tune into your Breath
This is probably the easiest one on the list. The breath is with us from the time we come into this world until we leave. Most of us spend a lifetime breathing incorrectly or neglecting to focus on the breath at all. In yoga, the breath is paramount. Think of it as the bridge between the body and mind. We breath to calm the mind and control the emotions. By tuning into the breath for even a short while, we can easily find a deeper sense of quiet and calm within us and around us. It helps us to find space in our ever busy lives and slow ourselves down mentally. Who doesn’t need to slow down nowadays?
Practice Tip– Sit comfortably and turn your attention to your breath. Notice your inhales and exhales. Pay attention to the sensation, the sound, and the feeling of your breath. This is you in the present moment. If you can, let the breath get a little more steady and slow. Breathe into your lower lungs and belly. Do this for a short burst every now and then. That’s it. You can even set a timer for 3 to 5 minutes if you need more accountability.
We constantly interact with the world through our senses. An easy way to save some energy and enhance clarity as well as mindfulness is to stay silent. In yoga, this is called ‘mouna’. Where you choose to not speak for a certain amount of time. Apart from not speaking, this also extends to avoiding social interactions, explicit eye contact, and digital stimulation if you can help it. While it may not be possible for all of us to take time off and go on silence retreats often. A few hours or a day where you take a vow of silence will help turn your senses inward. This will help you preserve energy, think clearly, feel joy and stay mindful in the present moment.
Practice Tip– Start small with this. Pick a time in your day where you can effortlessly stay silent. A time where nobody needs you. Switch off your phone if possible, avoid social interactions of any kind and just be. You can choose an activity to do this or set a timer. We prefer to pick a day of the week and call it a silence day.
Be a Witness
This is perhaps the hardest of the list. Learn to be a witness in your own life. This means to consciously disengage from your thoughts, emotions, and experiences. Don’t get tangled in them mentally or emotionally. You want to be able to watch your highs and lows without judgment or reaction. Know that our innate nature is one of the dualities. Without a low, we can’t have a high and vice versa. Learn to develop this art of noticing or witnessing yourself. This allows you to show up in situations. How do you process them? Do you tend to react to everything or can you let things go? This is not easy but well worth the effort. The more yoga asana, meditation, and pranayama you practice, the easier this will get.
Practice Tip– Notice what triggers you in everyday life. Pick one positive trigger and a not so positive trigger. Try to step away and watch yourself in these situations. Much like watching a movie, this will help you understand your nature better. In turn, this helps you tone down your reactions and not get emotionally drawn into everything.
Remember you don’t have to practice ALL of these together. Just get into the habit of doing a little at a time. It’s okay to slip up every now and then. Keep trying to do a little more yoga without a yoga pose. This creates the ability to truly take your yoga practice with you everywhere.