How to keep that “Yoga High” after we roll up our Mats.
“Rule your mind or it will rule you.”
(Previously published in the Elephant Journal:)
If you are human like me then you have probably had a similar experience: you have an amazing yoga session and you are feeling all relaxed and Zen and you think: Ok, World - I’ve got you. I can start my day now or even my week - heck - maybe even the REST OF MY LIFE - feeling this way. Try your best screaming children, stressful traffic jams, running-late-agains, racing mind, long lists of “to do”, but I got this.
And then……enter reality: screaming children, stressful traffic jams, running-late-agains, racing mind, long lists of “to do”, and….POOF….that “Yoga High” is gone.
So how do you feel that yoga-Zen long after you’ve rolled up your mat? Here are just a few of the reminders that have helped me apply the lessons I have learned on the mat into my life off the mat: crazy, fighting children, long to-do lists and all.
Set an intention that you desire both on and off the mat:
At the start of my practice, I always like to set an intention or state a feeling that I would like to feel on the mat. For, example. I want to be peaceful. I want to feel strong. I want to push myself. I want to be kind to myself. I try to line up my intention for my physical practice with what I am really needing in my day-to-day life. And, as the class progresses and the physical practice becomes more demanding, my breath quickens, and my mind starts to drift; it’s at this moment that I try to come back to my intention.
When the practice is complete (and it really never is!), I like to take a few seconds to pause and recommit to my intention - How can I take this feeling and intention into my life when interacting with others. How can I bring this feeling into my home and work life? And even though there is no hard and fast rule for how to do this, my simple answer is PRACTICE. Just as we practice yoga, we need to practice incorporating what we learn and feel on the mat into our daily lives.
Don’t let your mind get the best of you; focus on your breath:
Whenever my kids can’t sleep, the first thing I tell them: focus on your breath. The same thought holds true for so many aspects of life.
When you feel stressed: focus on your breath. When someone really ticks you off, before you react: focus on your breath. When you are feeling overwhelmed and can’t find a starting point: focus on your breath. The same principle is true for both the physical practice of yoga and our lives outside the yoga studio.
In yoga we use the breath to focus our mind, to deepen a pose, to find softness or balance, to release tension. Off the mat, we know that breath is essential, but we don’t tend to focus on it. Breathing is more of a reflex, something that can be done without thought. However, when we bring awareness to the breath we can use it to relax the body, reduce tension and stress; we can use the breath to slow down and live more fully in the moment.
Know when to push forward and when to pull back:
Have you ever had this experience in a yoga class: you’re holding a pose and the tension is more than you can take. Your muscles are tightening and cramping, you think you’ve reached your breaking point and you want to give up. But your cheery, well-meaning instructor reminds you to breathe into the pose. And, when you do, you notice that you can find some ease, some softness and maybe even hold the pose just a tiny bit longer?
Or, on-the-other-hand, maybe you have had this experience: the instructor cues or models a pose that looks like only a contortionist could get themselves into. You look around the room at the other yogis coming into the shape with ease, and you think - you must all be former gymnasts. Your ego tells you to try the pose - so you attempt to pick up limbs and place them in ways that feel completely awkward. You feel pain, and you know this is not happening. This is the moment when you back off. You take a breath. You come to Child’s Pose.
The same idea holds true off the mat. Sometimes we think we have hit our breaking point and our breath and a positive mindset can get us through or even help us accomplish goals we never thought were possible. Other times, we need to listen to that inner voice and know if something is not for us. We have to ask why do I want to accomplish this goal?; is it something I really want or need? And if the answer is no, let it go and move on.
The beauty of yoga is that it is called yoga “practice”. Just like it takes practice on the mat to get into a pose, it takes practice off the mat to apply what we learn into our day-to-day lives. And of course, like anything, it is easier said than done. But, just take it one moment, one breath at a time. And when you fall down (because we all do), get back up and try again.
With gratitude each and every day,