Many a busy lady among us has turned to That yoga Mat in times of stress and found a source of inspiration — a place to breathe and to spend some of our precious energy and time on ourselves for once. To sit and be still, or to power through challenging poses and find our strength. To find joy.
That time spent on That Mat, either done in our loungerooms or the yoga studio, brings us flexibility, strength, and balance. But more than that, it improves our mental health by calming our busy minds, reminding us to breathe, and allowing us to be ourselves.
The thing about yoga is that these lessons and feelings don’t have to be limited to that mat or your yoga practice. There are lots of different ways to introduce yoga principles into your everyday life.
Here’s some of our faves:
Go easy on yourself
We all have so much going on in our lives. We’re juggling babies, toddlers, or big school kids. We’re running businesses or climbing career ladders. We’re managing ‘side-hustles’ or creative projects. And some of us are doing all of these things. It seems like we’re all stretched thin these days and if we’re not careful, it’s very easy to find ourselves running on empty.
Yoga teaches you to listen to your body and practice self-compassion. Sometimes you roll out that mat to start your practice and for whatever reason – whether it be yesterday’s workout, *cough* Netflix marathon, or maybe PMS – your body just isn’t feeling it. In yoga, you adapt your practice to accommodate how you’re feeling internally. Which is something we rarely do in daily life.
If we wake up in a grumpy mood, feeling tired or just ‘blah’, we think, “I haven’t got time for that, I’ve got things to do”. And so, we push on, putting ourselves last and going through the motions until we collapse into bed, exhausted.
Instead, try listening to what’s going on internally and adapting your day to suit how you’re feeling. It’s ok to not tick every single thing off your list, every single day. It’s ok to not always meet your expectations for the day – especially if you’ve set them ridiculously high to begin with (anyone else?!). Yoga teaches you not to so hard on yourself.
Live in the moment
Yoga is all about breathing. The fancy Sanskrit word is “Pranayama”, but really it just means controlling the breath. As we flow through our practice, we mindfully focus on matching our breathing with our movements, centering ourselves in the moment and applying mindfulness. For the precious time that we’re there on that mat, we’re focussed on making the most of it.
In day to day life, we almost never do this. In fact, even when we’re in the middle of a task (driving the kids to school, doing the weekly shop, replying to seemingly endless emails), we’re thinking about the next thing on our to-do list, or that appointment we need to book.
Multitasking can be useful, but it can also stop us from being fully present in the moment. Next time you’re feeling run off your feet and overwhelmed, try using the principle of Pranayama to bring yourself back to the present. Take a few deep breaths, think about the sensations you’re experiencing in your body, like the feeling of your back against your desk chair, the sound of your kid’s voice, or the taste of the food you’re eating. Not only can this help you with things like being productive in your work or creative projects, but more importantly, it allows you to fully soak up the joy of the moment and relieves the stress that comes from worrying about the future.
Remember that good things take time
Do you remember the first time you rolled out that mat for a yoga session? We bet that your tree pose was wobbly, your downward dog was stiff, and your warrior pose was dodgy. Unless you’re blessed with freakishly good balance and strength, most of us had no idea what we were doing.
And look at you now!
Over time, you developed the strength to hold an upward dog, the balance to nail a warrior pose or the flexibility to *almost* touch your toes. Maybe you’ve just realised you can now could get through a practice without your mind wandering off (something we’re still working towards!). With every session on that mat, you make tiny improvements that make you feel great. It doesn’t come easy or fast, but that’s the whole point. Good things always take time.
It takes time to build healthy and positive relationships, time to create beautiful things, and time to build careers we love. It’s called a yoga ‘practice’ for a reason – because only through giving ourselves time and space to grow can we improve. Take that principle and apply it to your life, and you’ll be amazed what you can achieve.
It’s important to stretch yourself
In order to improve in yoga, whatever that means to you (holding a pose for longer, practicing two days in a row, being present for the whole session), you have to try. It’s only by taking a leap of faith in yourself in your abilities, for example, by balancing on one leg to hit that three-legged dog pose, that you discover what you’re capable of.
This whole self-care thing, including yoga, has a particular image associated with it, a way that we’re told it’s “meant” to look. Swilling kale and chia smoothies, wearing perfectly coordinated activewear, effortlessly nailing the perfect yoga pose, every time. It’s easy to be turned off by this and turn your back on the whole idea.
What the ‘wellness’ image fails to show is the work that goes on behind the scenes. The moments of dripping sweat in your big old t-shirt, the times when practicing yoga is the last thing you want to do, but you do it anyway because you know it will make you feel better. The times that you lose your balance, but you keep persevering to reach that pose.
Just like learning a new pose or variation, it’s only by having a go, trusting in our abilities, and doing the work that we see improvements in the things that we’re pursuing. Sometimes self-love is a sleep in or a gin and tonic, but sometimes it’s putting yourself out there, testing the limits of what you’re capable of, and taking a moment to appreciate your efforts.
There you have it: by taking just a few basic principles off of that mat and into your everyday life, you can squeeze more joy, pleasure and relaxation out of your day.
Let us know how you go!