There are countless ways to practise yoga, that don’t involve being stretchy/bendy or even getting on a mat! In fact, the mat is simply the practice ground for life off the mat. Yoga offers us guidelines for conscious living, to bring into all dimensions of our day.
These guidelines are the yamas and niyamas, the first two limbs from the wisdom of ancient yoga. Simply stated, the yamas are practices to assist us in modifying our behaviours (particularly to ourselves) and our interactions with others. The niyamas are approaches for living soulfully, our inner attitudes and behaviours, what we do when no one else is around!
These create countless opportunities to realise that it’s much harder to train the mind, than it is to roll out and practise on the mat!
1. Listen wholeheartedly to the person in front of you – drop your inner dialogue, automatic responses.
2. Speak kind words to yourself – notice how your feelings towards yourself change.
Ahimsa: nonviolence, towards ourselves and others
3. Be honest about all you have in each and every moment.
4. Try not telling a ‘fib’ for a whole 24 hours – notice how your self-esteem improves.
5. Hug a tree – we don’t need to remove anything from nature to feel supported and connected.
6. Stop at a park on the way home – learn not to steal from other’s time by giving yourself some time.
7. Start small in your efforts for change, self-improvement – slow and steady wins the race.
8. Practise where you are, right now – it does not have to be fancy, to be beneficial.
Brahmacharya: Moderation in all your actions and pursuits
9. Smile and connect with a stranger – practice giving with no expectation.
10. Perform an anonymous act of kindness – learn to detach from the outcome.
11. Do your housework like an act of cleaning your soul and be grateful you have a place to clean.
12. Respect, honour and be grateful for your food – feel it nourishing you.
Shaucha – cleanliness/purity
13. Be grateful that you wake up and for another day.
14. Watch the sunrise or sunset – notice how the sun greets the earth, without expectation every day.
Santosha – contentment
15. Set your alarm 5 minutes earlier – get up and sit in your quiet place.
16. Sit a few minutes longer in your meditation practice.
Tapas – austerity, self-discipline
17. Consider every experience in your day as a potential teacher.
18. Read an uplifting yogic biography or philosophy book – be inspired by the ancient yogis.
Svadhyaya – self-study, spiritual study
19. Rest with legs up the wall for 15 minutes – the minimum time for the relaxation response to activate. Let go!
20. Breathe – consciously, slowly, rhythmically
Ishvara pranidhana – surrender