Off the Mat

What would be the purpose of yoga if we did not seek to apply what we experience in our yoga practice or meditation into other areas of our lives, when we are living off the mat?

This question intrigues me because I continually explore how to embrace the yoga lifestyle and bring the learned lessons into every aspect of my life. Once I have done my rounds of Sun Salutations, forward bends, twists, balance poses, side bends, back bends, hip openers, inversions, restorative poses, breathing exercises, and meditation…once I have rolled up my mat, how do I integrate the good feeling of well-being or the surge of energy that arises from my yoga practice?  How do I integrate the feelings of self-empowerment, peacefulness, health, wholeness, clarity of mind, and awareness into the rest of my day?

Balance

Balance

I strive to be connected to the seen and unseen, to connect to a deeper purpose of existence, and to connect to people, to the wild world of birds, insects, animals, trees.  I live my yoga by striving to find enchantment and the sacred in my surroundings, as well as in my actions and interactions.

I live my yoga by spreading happiness.  By nature, I have a sunny disposition and I like to bring brightness into a room.   Naturally, I have days when my sunny disposition clouds over, but, even then, I always do my best to spread sunshine. It is my hope that everything I do, everything I think, everything I say, every class I teach has an overall effect in making this world a better place.  Like a good contagion, I want this brightness to spread!

Self-Portrait: Gallery Nazionale D'Arte Moderna

Self-Portrait: Galleria Nazionale D’Arte Moderna

Yoga is integration, awareness, mindfulness, union with universal consciousness.  When I practice yoga off the mat, I don’t feel alone (integration), I feel alive and see and feel with extraordinary intensity (awareness and mindfulness), and I do not feel any different from a tree, a homeless person, a child, a laborer, a wealthy person, an elderly person, or a person who is physically or mentally disabled (union).  For me, this is yoga off the mat.  Yoga starts on the mat and continues with every word I say, every action I take, every thought I think, every intention I have, and every decision I make.

Rome: Gallery Nazionale D'Arte Moderna

Rome: Galleria Nazionale D’Arte Moderna

A while back, at a yoga retreat, I asked the participants, “How do you live your yoga?”  I was impressed by the variety and depth of answers.  No one seemed to have to ponder the question or search for the answer.  Their answers came easily, jewels tumbling out from an overstuffed open safe.

If you, reader,  were at the gathering I speak of here, you may notice that I have used a little artistic freedom in my writing to capture your words, to capture the essence of what I heard so long ago.  I didn’t take notes, so I am going by memory. It is my hope that I represent you well!

  • I live yoga through my work.  I work with environmental and social structural improvement. My work involves grass roots implementation of innovative approaches to reestablish or maintain harmony and equilibrium in communities.
  • I also live yoga through my work. My work provides scholarships to university students and these scholarships offer the gift of education.  Yoga teaches me how to balance, which affects every little thing I do to get me through the day.  Yoga affects all of my choices and keeps me alert.  It keeps me young and healthy and teaches me how nothing can stop me from doing what I want to do with my life.  A yoga teacher on PBS said that doing yoga is like putting money in your health account.  Later, when you feel stressed, you can draw from your built up health account.
  • I am raising a child, growing a family. I am bringing a child into the world who understands compassion and kindness and brings joy to many hearts.
  • I grow apples and love sharing them!
  • I practice awareness of others.  I listen and am aware of how each person contributes to humanity in his or her special way.
  • I am present for my family members and help them in any way I can.  I love hiking which gives me an opportunity to be in communion with nature.  I love bathing in the healing qualities of nature.  There is nothing like taking in the profound salubrious effects of nature on the nervous system, mind, and spirit.
  • I live my yoga through my cooking and my social interactions.  I live my yoga by providing a beautiful peaceful, artistic, cheerful, and celebratory home environment.  I teach, live and espouse a peaceful, loving yoga lifestyle.
  • I work with clients and I know what makes them happy because I tune in to them.  I know what makes people happy.  I listen and respond to their needs.  My yoga is listening and providing an experience in a beautiful environment the client will never forget.
  • Yoga brings tears to my eyes!  I am a farmer, so when I work the land and tend to plants and animals, I feel a deep connection to the earth and to the people who will be nourished by the food I grow.  Farming is my yoga off the mat.  I produce sacred nutritious food.
Gallery Nazionale D'Arte Moderna

Galleria Nazionale D’Arte Moderna

Yoga is a practice of postures, breathing, and meditation, but yoga also embraces a philosophy and a lifestyle of living up to one’s full potential as a human being and as a spiritual being.  The ancient yogis imagined a beautiful lush one-thousand-petal lotus sitting on top of the human head.  From the day a person starts on the spiritual journey, the petals start to unfold!  It takes years, a lifetime for the petals to unfold.  The petals represent the unfolding or the manifestation of the full human potential.  I see each day as an opportunity to take an action that will allow one more petal to start its unfolding process!

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