Despite its title, this isn’t a post about what to do if you roll into your favorite studio only to realize you left your mat at home (hint: you can probably rent one from the studio). If you realize your precious new puppy has just turned your Manduka Pro into a chew toy, you can always use a fluffy towel to practice at home.
Instead, I’m here today to gently remind you that almost all of yoga can be practiced off the mat, as the practice of Asana is only one of the eight limbs of yoga.
In Patanjali’s ancient text, The Yoga Sutra, there are 8 paths that work in harmony to guide each yogi towards personal development. The 8 paths essentially encompass a recipe for living a well-balanced and enlightened life. More of a set of philosophical principles than merely a religious text, the Sutras offer the yogi insight into living a moral, disciplined life filled with joy. In Sanskrit, the 8 limbs are known as Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi. There’s no direction translation of these terms into English (although there are many approximate translations), but they all correspond to concepts and themes accessible to anyone who wishes to study them.
Here are three easy ways to practice the fundamentals of yoga off the mat.
ONE: PRACTICE MEDITATION
One entire limb of yoga, Dhyana, is devoted to meditation, and for good reason. Modern science has proven the medical benefits of meditation. Numerous studies have revealed long-term mental, emotional, and physical benefits to those who take up even a short daily meditation practice.
In our modern world, constantly bombarded as we are with electronics and social media, we rarely get the chance to take a smooth, relaxing mental break without all that stimulation pouring in from every direction. There are many fantastic resources out there to help you start a meditation practice, but you can actually start today, without buying any book or DVD. It’s really simple- just sit without distraction, alone with your thoughts, and try to tame your monkey mind.
Each time a thought pops into your head, acknowledge it, and then let it just pass you by.
TWO: PRACTICE SELF-CARE
Another of the 8 limbs is known as Yama (or “The Yamas”), and it actually encompasses five essential moral practices in order to keep us in harmony with ourselves. The very first Yama is called Ahimsa, which normally translates as “non-violence.” But, taking a broader view, it’s important that we also look at something like non-violence on a smaller scale.
How do we practice non-violence personally? By showing ourselves compassion. By practicing self-care.
Taking care of yourself, specifically your mind and body, are central themes in yoga. Self-care looks different for everybody, but we all need to be reminded that it’s alright to put ourselves first occasionally. In fact, it’s even necessary! No matter how you choose to practice self-care, remember that the only rules are: keep growing, keep learning, keep shining.
THREE: PRACTICE GRATITUDE
The observance of Santosha (sometimes translated as “contentment”), one of the five practices of the Niyama limb, relates to being satisfied with what you have. It’s all too easy to get caught up focusing on what everybody else has.
When this happens, we forget all the things we have to be thankful for in our own life, and to count our own blessings. There are so many fun and simple ways to bring the practice of gratitude into your daily life–snap a daily photo of something beautiful you wish to remember, keep a one-line gratitude journal, or simple make it a part of your routine to stop, breathe, and practice a moment of satisfaction each day.
So, next the next time you realize you can’t make it to the studio for your favorite yoga class, you can still take a few minutes to meditation, practice self-love, and show some gratitude for all your blessings.
Amanda is the Spiritual Gardener at Grow Soul Beautiful, a yoga, photography, and soul nourishment blog that’s passionate about helping women to embrace their beauty inside and out. Read the Grow Soul Beautiful manifesto, follow them on Twitter @GrowSoulBeauty and like Grow Soul Beautiful’s Facebook page. And photos! These are snapshots from the Grow Soul Beautiful #YogaADay challenge on Instagram - join in the fun for the remainder of October.
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