Yoga class can bring many lessons and a variety of experiences within the span of but 60-90 minutes. Learning how to apply your experiences in yoga class to your life outside of the yoga room can bring that bliss-filled-yoga-class-clarity to other areas of your life, too.
Something that is repeated in yoga class after yoga class is bringing your awareness to your breath. Also, incorporated in a class is pranayama or yogic breathing exercises. This is a helpful and powerful practice that carries over into everyday life almost by default. With regular practice, you begin to notice how you are breathing in any given situation. For example, "Is my breath short and shallow or slow and steady?"
The awareness that yoga practices brings and the ability to return to your slow flow of breathe can be extremely helpful. A relaxed breathe promotes a relaxed body and ultimately a relaxed mind. Try it next time you are stressed while sitting in traffic or facing a deadline at work. First, notice that you are stressing out (that seems pretty obvious). Then, notice your breath. Let go of everything else and breathe slow and deep. What usually comes next is a sense of serene clarity and the ability to to handle whatever it is that has you stressed. The alternate nostril breath is a brilliant "stress-buster" (I have been known to do this while driving).
In the same way that awareness of your breath is helpful, so is awareness of your body. The cues given by yoga teachers in class are relevent in many situations daily. That "dawning" you have in class when you finally understand what it means to release your shoulders back and down holds true in life – release unnecessary tension. In other words, find where you are "leaking" energy with tense muscles, let go of the tension, and you might just find that you have more energy and clarity as a result.
In the most literal sense yoga class helps you relieve the physical tension that leads to energy "leaks." In yoga class you are often confronted with your criticisms, comparisons and judgements of yourself (and sometimes others) as well. You can either continue those patterns of thought and be miserable or you can let go of those things (even if just for the span of the class) in order to have a better class experience. This becomes a practice for life as well. Can you let go of certain patterns that you may have outgrown?
Comparisons and goal-oriented mindsets are part of our nature. We want to strive, we want to achieve. No different with our yoga practice. We have reasons for practicing, for example, weight loss, peace of mind, or a deeper spiritual connection. It is easy to slip into a mindset of "achieving" or in other words "wanting" and thus living in the mental space of "not having" You won't be able perform the most advanced or physically challenging poses in the beginning, nor would you want to (ouch!). However, you can realize that the beauty is, in fact, in the unfolding – the opening up to yourself.
When you realize that where you are in your ability is perfect and exactly were you need to be, a miraculous thing happens. You accept yourself as you are instead of fighting your limitations. Your focus shifts from that which you do not have (wanting mind) to that of appreciation for what you are. And in this space, you are open to way more possibilities than those stringent goals you set in the first place. Why limit yourself in life? Be easy about it and give yourself the freedom to allow infinite possibility.
Please share your thoughts about bringing yoga union to your off-the-mat life. I would really love to hear from you.