embodiment

10 Ways to Practice Yoga without Stepping Onto Your Mat

You love yoga. You love the way it makes you feel, the way you see yourself through the practice, everything it stands for. Yoga means union; it helps us connect mind, body and spirit. Sometimes un-namable, it makes us FEEL things we never felt before.

If you’re like me, you want to practice every day, but life says otherwise. I’m a yoga teacher and I don’t practice in the typical sense every day. Luckily yoga is so vast, there are thousands of things you can do to practice.

These days, my intention is to get on my mat two to three times per week, but I practice every day in other ways. It may be five minutes of breathing, a twenty minute meditation or studying yogic philosophy. Sometimes it’s an intentional walk in nature. Over the years, I’ve discovered many ways to incorporate the practice into every single day, without ever stepping onto my mat. Here are ten ways for you to get started, with audio included on a few:

  1. Before you open your eyes in the morning, vision your day. Take 10 slow deep breaths and let each one easily go. Take your attention to the places of your body that make contact with the bed. Simultaneously relax each of those places. Set an intention for your day.
  2. While lying in bed, lengthen your spine and do a spinal twist on each side. Breathe and roll your neck from side to side. Stretch your arms overhead. Flex your fingers and toes. Breathe.
  3. Quietly make your coffee or tea and allow yourself five minutes to sit meditatively with it. Enjoy the aroma, the flavors. Follow the sensation of the liquid as it enters your mouth, goes down your throat and into your belly. Thoroughly enjoy your cup. Make the morning a sacred ritual instead of rushing through it.
  4. Go outside. Watch the sunrise. Take a brisk walk. Do a walking meditation, or at the very least pay attention to the way you are striding or stepping as you walk into the office (if you must go into an office for work).
  5. Take a five to twenty minute break (or several two to three minute breaks) in your day and do simple stretches at your desk. Go here for a written office yoga sequence and here for an audio version of it.
  6. As many times as you can throughout the day, take time to consciously breathe and embody: feel your feet on the floor, take attention to your fingertips as they strike the keyboard, take note of the length of your spine. In short, get out of your head and into your body.
  7. Read a yoga text or article and incorporate one part of it into your day. This post counts, or you can download my free e-book, Yoga Prayers, if you’d like to learn more about the history of yoga in plain English.
  8. Do this short practice as many times as feels right for you. I call it the 3 Minute Bliss Up. It’s a perfect little practice when you have only a little time.
  9. Another little meditation I developed from a quote by Thich Nhat Hanh is called, “Smile, Breathe and Go Slowly.” Read it here, or get outside and listen to the audio.
  10. End (or begin) your day with gratitude. Start a gratitude journal, or make space for gratitude in your calendar or iPhone (there are apps available). I’ve found that keeping a list of the things I’m grateful for seriously shifts my daily perspective. It’s particularly important when life isn’t so wonderful.

In terms of my own life and practice, I’m particularly interested in learning to be embodied each day. I’ve studied and written about embodiment for while now. Feel free to dive deeper here.

I’d love to hear from you. What ways have you taken your practice off your mat and into the world? What things do you do that are not yoga poses, but yoga, in it’s essence, to you?

Photo by Matic Kozinc on Unsplash

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