Bringing yoga practices off your mat and into your busy life
Wake up. Dawdle on your Instagram feed. Attempt to get yourself looking presentable for the day. Stress about the 18 things on your to-do list. Stare at the dishes you were too lazy to clean last night after “the most dramatic episode yet” of “The Bachelor.” Go to work.
Until I discovered how big a part yoga played in my everyday life, the above was typically how my mornings would go. I began practicing yoga about 6 years ago to help with my scoliosis, and for the many physical benefits of the practice. I didn’t realize it would become such an important aspect of my life — on and off the mat.
Sure, I still get pleasure in a mindless TV show or go to sleep with a couple dishes in the sink, but now that I have incorporated yoga into my daily regime — my days feel lighter, less stressed and less cluttered. It’s less of a struggle to wake up in the mornings. My confidence has grown, and my mindset has shifted from “attempting to look presentable” to “I look good today!”
I encourage anyone with a busy life or work schedule to give it a try — whether it’s a 60-minute heated vinyasa class or taking just 10 minutes out of your day to close your eyes and meditate. Below are a few benefits of migrating your yoga practice from the mat and into your everyday life (even though there are way more!).
Taking any amount of time out of your jam-packed day to clarify your mind and focus on the present moment is a huge stress reliever. This is especially useful for people like me, living a fairly sedentary life at a computer most days, where stress continues to build in my seat (and back and neck and shoulders). Stepping back and focusing on how your body feels, where your mind is traveling and the quality of your breath will bring you closer to a peaceful, more relaxed state than you were before you came to your mat. Not to mention that the amazing fragrance of essential oils that fill a yoga studio will immediately put your mind at ease.
If you don’t have time to physically go to a yoga studio, that’s fine. You can practice meditation or deep breathing exercises virtually anywhere. It is comforting to know that there is a safe space where your mind can go to let go of your worries and prepare for the day ahead. Even after taking a few mindful deep breaths, I immediately feel better about whatever is weighing on my mind. Having a recurring yoga practice also helps to train your mind to notice and concentrate on your breath.
Today, we live in a very fast-paced culture that drains our mind’s power and sometimes our physical energy. Spending time with yoga will leave you feeling refreshed and energized for your day, because many of the poses help to oxygenate your blood and brain. Poses also help to awaken muscles that you do not often use throughout the day. Aside from practicing yoga, just simply getting up and moving around periodically throughout the day will help your blood flow and keep you awake and energized.
Practicing yoga increases your ability to concentrate. Focusing on the present moment, your controlled breath and your drishti (or your gaze) all help build your concentration. This skill can then be shifted into your everyday life when you are focusing on work, at home or anywhere that requires your full attention. Working as creative associate at our communications firm, I oversee all of the graphic design projects and consider myself proficient in my role. When it comes to writing, however, it requires my full attention (and patience) to complete a piece that I am content with (like this one!). Therefore, I must hone in on my concentration and focus practices that I have learned through yoga.
It is easy to fall into a rhythm and creating more awareness in your mind and body will make you realize what your passions are, where you excel or perhaps things that you need to work on in your life.
By being more self-aware, your practice will begin to grow your confidence. Yoga is a non-competitive, non-judgemental activity, so the only person you are competing with is yourself. As you grow in your yoga practice, you begin to notice the changes and improvements in your body, balance or poses that you once thought were impossible. This will translate into confidence in yourself and help you believe you are capable of more than you think. I believe confidence is crucial in your everyday life and will help you achieve success and happiness.
This newfound confidence can also affect the relationships that you have with family, friends, coworkers, etc. If you are exuding confidence and happiness, it will be perceived by those you surround yourself with. This self-awareness will also keep you mindful of how you present yourself and treat others.
Have I convinced you yet? If you are looking for a Grand Rapids-area yoga studio to try out, I highly recommend Kula Yoga. The owner, and my mentor through Yoga Teacher Training, Megan Rader, focuses Kula on community, authenticity and a safe space for students at all levels.