Since the 30 Day Yoga Challenge, I have continued to find time daily for moments to be still, unwind and stretch. It helped me learn so much, but I know that was only the tip of the ice burg…so here is Heather with more practical steps to extend your yoga beyond the mat.
You can practice yoga for an hour every single day for a month, a week, a year or a lifetime, but all you’ll really get from that is a physical practice. And if that’s what you’re after – great, you’ll get that yoga butt you’ve always wanted! But if you want to see how yoga can really change your life you have to roll up your mat and take your practice elsewhere.
Yoga isn’t just a physical practice – it’s a yoking of the mind body and soul (though I don’t like using that last word because it typically implies some religious affiliation). Basically yoga is a tool you can use to improve everything in your life. Using the tools you pick up in your day-to-day physical practice can drastically help you in other areas of you life outside the yoga studio.
Some ways that yoga has made me a better person are as follows:
1) Control: I tend to be a hot head. It takes a lot to truly upset me, but when my top blows it blows big time – we’re talking Mount Saint Heather (instead of Helens). I’d be lying if I said I’d never hit someone or shouted irrationally cruel things. It was only since taking yoga (and growing up a bit) that I find myself able to step back and take a deep breath before reacting. Who knew Ujjayi breath could help your personal relationships as well as warm up your body for an asana practice? Holler!
2) Discipline: This sounds like the first one – but it’s subtly different. Never in my life have I found myself as dedicated to something as I am to yoga. It was always easy for me to shrug something off before I found yoga. If I said I was going to get up early and workout it was not only possible, but most likely that I would slam the shit out of my snooze button and inevitably oversleep my workout. With yoga that all changed – it became something I couldn’t live without – and consequentially I realized that I slowly became more reliable. Having that dedication to my yoga practice forced me to have a dedication to other things in my life as well.
3) Self-Awareness: This is two fold – one) before I started yoga I would run into almost anything that was in my general vicinity. I had no balance, no spatial awareness and was pretty much just a human wrecking ball. Happy to have improved on all that since starting my practice several years ago. And two) I am more aware of how I talk to and interact with others. In yoga you hear a lot of teachers and gurus lecture on unconditional love. You can’t hear that daily without allowing some of it to sink in. Now when I’m stopped at a red light in the most infuriating stop and go traffic only to be held up by someone who has neglected to see the signal change, I take a moment and try very hard not to flip out. Maybe they just got a very important phone call? Maybe they’re having a baby. I’m more aware of how I relate to others since starting a daily yoga practice.
4) Pride: My yoga practice gives me something to be proud of. Not in a gloating egotistical way (I at least try not to show off so much anymore), but in a “who can I share this awesome thing with” way. I believe that there has been no one thing in my life that has influenced me more than yoga. Yoga is the one thing in my life that has truly changed me. And whether people change themselves through yoga, meditation or some other sport or hobby (like soccer or playing the bagpipe) I hope people find that outlet of change. The dedication I have had to yoga has improved me as a person – and you better believe I am proud of being a better person.
5) Essentially yoga has chilled me the F out: I just don’t take things as personally or as seriously or as intensely as I once did. That’s not to say I don’t feel passionately about things; but I do find that I’m able to just enjoy my life. It’s easy to plan the crap out of your life. To have every day, week and month for the next seven years all laid out – but yoga has allowed me to be happy in the now. One of my favorite things about yoga is savasana (duh) when I just get to lay there and be in that moment. I mean if you think about it taking at least 5 minutes a day to zone out after an intense physical practice is bound to have lasting effects on you – right?
I’m not saying that yoga is the one right thing for everyone, but it sure has made a difference in my life. It’s funny what you can accomplish when you let the philosophy behind yoga wander into your “real life.” I started yoga because I wanted to workout, now that I practice daily and have been listening to my teachers and gurus spit their sweet philosophy it’s hard to find aspects of my day-to-day life that aren’t effected by the practice.
Happy practicing and Namaste!
Heather Colvin is a writer turned yogi who has lived in Miami, Florida for the past seven years. She is an RYT certified instructor who believes that yoga should be approachable, challenging and most of all fun for everyone who tries it. She teaches at Green Monkey Miami Beach and Green Monkey South Miami. In addition to that you can find all Heather’s thoughts on yoga and life on her website and blog: theviewfrommymat.com.
Do you find that your yoga practice has translated beyond the mat?
I am grateful for learning to embrace the moments of stillness.