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Take Your Practice off the Mat

The yoga practice is designed to promote a feeling of calm, peace, and equanimity. The movements are fluid and synched to the breath. The mind finds relative ease and less distraction. The atmosphere is usually relaxing. While the environment in which we practice yoga is, in general, set up to make it easy to find peace, we must be sure to not rely on it as our only means of coming back to this peace. In fact, the yoga practice encourages us to take our practice off the mat and out into our lives.

Just as the yoga practice often begins as a physical practice that is body-centric, it can be helpful to begin your yoga-off-the-mat practice by simply noticing how you hold yourself throughout the day. Wherever you find yourself sitting—at a desk, in the car, or at the kitchen table—notice how you are seated. If your back is rounded and your shoulders slumped forward, straighten up! Ground your sit bones and lengthen your spine upward. Then, feel your shoulders open and pull down the back as they relax away from the ears. Do this every time you remember until it becomes natural for you to sit up straight. Your body will become more comfortable over time, as a result.

Next, remember to breathe. Sounds easy, sure, but the simple-yet-profound breathing practices we do in yoga class often stay in yoga class. Our busy lives and multitasking tend to leave little time for us to experience the present moment. Luckily, the breath is one thing that can only happen in the present moment. It sounds silly, but even though we breathe all day long, we are rarely aware of it. A great way to incorporate breathing into your day is to take a moment for three deep breaths—a moment in which all you do is take three deep breaths. Go ahead, take them now…

Great! You’ve already begun. Just these two practices can make a big difference in your overall well-being. And that is only the beginning. Once you cultivate more awareness of your body and your breath, you will begin to notice how your mind gets involved, whether in relation to your own experiences or your interactions with others. Begin simply, here and there, and just notice how your yoga practice truly unfolds. You may find a whole new way of being.

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