How to Use Your Yoga off the Mat


Yoga has become a fitness buzzword; now synonymous with gym goers
seeking a slim physique, toned arms or that need a ‘day off from my weight
routine’. Unfortunately, what becomes lost is the true meaning of yoga: the
union between the mind, body and spirit. The physical practice is just one
element of yoga, and it can become easy to get swept up in the fitness yoga
revolution that promises a Jennifer Aniston body. Taking time to step back
from the physical asanas of your practice and connect to your yoga practice
on a deeper level means that yoga is not longer just a Wednesday night
5.15-6.15pm activity at your local gym, but an experience which is infused
throughout your entire day, informing your thoughts and behaviour.

Breathe through stressful situations

Unfortunately stress is part of everyday life: time stress, financial stress, work
stress, family stress – it can be completely overwhelming! Yoga teaches of
the importance of pranayama or controlling our breathing, and way in which
our actions and movements should be linked with our breath. Using these
exercises outside of the yoga studio can help to calm our nerves and gain
perspective when stressful situations occur in our lives. Try slowing down your
breath next time you are stuck in traffic or forget to pick up something from the
grocery store for dinner, and see how it helps your anxiety levels to subside.

Keep working at it

Think back to your first yoga class. Do you remember looking at a lithe,
flexible yogi who effortlessly whipped up into Adho Mukha Vrksasana or
Bakasana without so much as a hesitation thinking to yourself “I will never
be able to do that!”? Take time to reflect on how far you have come! Can you
sink deeper into Virabhadrasana I? Can you balance for longer in Vrksasana?
These are all huge achievements that have taken time and considerable effort
on your part and are only possible through dedication! Remember this next
time you feel like giving up, and kindly remind yourself of how good it feels to
keep trying, recognizing your hard work and accomplishments.

Connect with yourself

Yoga encourages a deep, personal union, and self-observance is a large part
of that connection. By practicing dharana and bringing a consciousness and
concentration to our actions, we are able to develop a heightened awareness
of our own being. This is further extended in the practice of dhyana or
mediation, which involves taking time out to calm the mind, removing intrusive
thoughts and being still with the breath. These are wonderful tools to take
with you outside of the yoga studio, and to put into play in our everyday lives,
allowing us to be present and aware of our surroundings and to take account
of our thoughts during the day.

Don’t just see yoga as a job that must be ticked off, or a way to stretch after
your spin class the day before – yoga is a deep, spiritual union that offers you
the chance to be lifted in all aspects of your life. Take your yoga ‘off the mat’
and into your everyday to reap the benefits of dedicated practice.

Lauren Rose Burke is a writer, yogini and passionate health foodie from Sydney who spends her days drinking tea and dreaming of living in a house made of almonds and goji berries with a stream of coconut water outside…

Twitter: @LaurenRoseBurke

Instagram: @laurenroseburke