When most people think of yoga, they probably imagine someone twisted up like a pretzel on a mat in a studio. But the truth is, there is much more to yoga than the postures you make during your 1-hour long practice.
Contrary to popular opinion, yoga actually has nothing to do with postures. I know that might sound wildly contradictory, but yoga is not just some physical practice you do on a rubber mat – it is a state of mind that is connected. If you look at the meaning of the word yoga – it literally means ‘to connect.’
We have gotten so caught up in the technique and the means of achieving yoga, that we have missed the intention behind doing it in the first place. It’s the experience that matters – not how you got there. In fact, there are many ways to get there that are found not just on a yoga mat but in daily life.
Here are some ways to bring that yoga into your life.
1. Mindfulness – Dhayna
One way to bring about this connection is to practice mindfulness. Now this word has gotten a lot of buzz in the last decade. But simply put – mindfulness is an awareness of what is arising. It’s not a rigid technique, but a simple noticing of what is right in front of you. Being mindful is being aware of what is already present.
For example, when we are chopping vegetables and our mind floats around to all the tomorrows and yesterdays; this movement in time prevents you from seeing what is directly in front of you. Instead of being with what you are doing you are living in a thought world, a product of your minds’ created fantasy.
How to practice mindfulness?
Practice by simply bringing your attention back to what you are doing when you notice your mind wandering. Whenever thought takes you to some far place, bringing it back will allow you to be more in touch with what you are doing, here – now.
My advice: A beautiful way to dive into these types of studies to get a foundational grasp of these topics is through an Online Yoga teacher Training which can really help to build a foundational practice for your life.
2. Contentment – Santosha
Contentment is a recognition that you already are content with what you have. It is easy to be continually on the path toward becoming that we never stop and be content with what we have.
Striving and goal-orientated movements are big in western culture and as a result, we have moved further and further away from being content with what we have. Forever chasing things in the field of our dreams, our mind is always moving toward something.
It’s not that we should do nothing, because that’s impossible we are always ‘dping something’, rather it’s the noticing that’s important. Noticing your habit patterns is the first step in being able to recognize these habitual movements. This awareness helps you get in touch with a place that is already content, instead of continually trying to find it outside of you.
How to practice contentment?
You can start by simply writing your thought process on a piece of paper. Writing something down can help slow down the thought movements and bring a sense of clarity around something that was not there before. This also helps bring into focus something that otherwise would be lost in the world of transient thoughts.
3. Order – Saucha
Order is when you arrange your life in a way that gives time for all your duties. While saucha is often translated as ‘purity’ or cleanliness, cleanliness can also be referred to as a state of mind. Order helps to give the things in life their proper place so that they can all be attended to so that we can carry out our dharma (or duty) and conduct our affairs in life at the appropriate time.
When we can not find balance, this comes out in disorder. We work 12 hours straight, binge eat, drink heavily, or play video games all night or a hundred other compulsions. When we do this we only serve to create more disorder and disharmony in the mind.
How to practice order?
Do things at their appropriate time and ensure you are not putting off certain tasks you do not like and only doing tasks that you find pleasurable. We often avoid things that are difficult do only tasks that we find enjoyment in. This often leads to disharmony and a lack of order.
4. Reflection – Atma vichara
Reflection is when we bring out a question or an important topic for investigation. It can be a time in the day when we take a moment to reflect on higher thoughts. Instead of being consumed by lower thoughts of lust, jealousy, envy, or greed, we cultivate time in our day where we can ask meaningful questions, questions that bring us out of the personal world of ‘me’ and ‘mine’ and into a state that is not completely ego driven.
When inquiry begins to happen, these moments of reflection can lead to questions that inquire into the nature of the self, such as ‘who am I?’ or ‘what does it mean to be alive?’ or ‘what is my dharma?’. These types of higher questions are often the ones we do not make the time for because we are too busy with our day-to-day lives.
How to practice reflection?
Take some time each day to investigate a question or problem in your life. Often times our problems arise only because we are in a confused state of mind. The moment we elevate our thoughts and investigate the problem the issue dissolves.
5. Right Action – Karma
It is said that we can not go a moment in life without performing some form of action. From the smallest blink of an eye to the building of a rocketship it is all karma (action). The right action is doing something that is not driven from the ego.
There is a big difference between performing an action automatically, one that reinforces a sense of ego and performing an action that is self-less or done from a place that is not driven by ego – but by awareness.
It is pretty easy to live on autopilot and be led by our habits. If you have ever been a smoker you know how unconscious habits can become. Often times we are not even aware of what we are doing before we find ourselves puffing on a cigarette. Habits can be incredibly difficult to overcome because the moment we wake up till we go to sleep we are run by a series of habitual movements without ever stopping to investigate what I am actually doing.
How to practice right action?
Being aware of what we are doing gives us the ability to stop. Taking a pause before we go into action, gives us a moment, which can be enough to bring awareness into action. That moment is everything. When we are able to perceive clearly, we have more of a choice to actually follow through with the action or not.
By doing these few things we can begin to experience yoga coming into our lives in unexpected ways. Yoga can be more than just that one-hour set of postures on the mat and given enough attention can bloom into something much more profound.