Continue your yoga practice off the mat this year.
A regular yoga practice has have amazing physical and mental benefits, including improving our response to stress and reducing anxiety. Most of us feel really great after a yoga practice or meditation practice, that is why we keep doing it. Yoga is more than a physical practice and includes theory and philosophy on all aspects of life. Incorporating some of these into your day to day life can help improve mindfulness and keep that good feeling going all day.The more you practice the more regular and long-term it will become, but there are other ways you can live more yogicaly, and mindfully, in your day to day life. Here are 4-ways I like to like to continue my yoga practice off the mat.
1) Detach from your phone
As a yoga teacher who is supposed to expound healthy living I have a dirty little secret. No, I don’t smoke cigarettes or hunt endangered animals. But I am addicted to my phone. I don’t use the term “addiction” lightly, I do think it is a real problem. A problem I am tacking. The easiest and best thing I’ve done so far is to take my phone out of my room! I got into the nasty habit during sleepless pregnancy and new baby nights of checking my phone every time I woke up, which was a great many times. And before bed. And when I woke up for the day. And before I took a nap. You get the point. The worst was waking up, when I realized I would be physically craving my phone as I breastfed my son. I realized I needed a change. About a month ago my husband and I stopped charging our phones in our room, leaving them downstairs in the evening. The change has been amazing! Within a few days I was journaling again, instead of one final Facebook pose I “post” to myself in the evening. The mornings are filled with baby giggles instead of reading whatever grim news happened overnight. I’ve even noticed my overall anxiety level lower throughout the day. There is still room for improvement (read on) but this had certainly created more mindful mornings and bedtimes, which has meant for better sleep and less early morning anxiety.
2) Check in with the breath.
Breathing, we all do it. Most of us don’t do it well. Without getting too much into the physiology, many of us are breathing using the wrong muscles, essentially using our shoulder/torso instead of our diaphragm. This can be detrimental for a number of reasons, including making it more difficult to take in adequate amounts of oxygen, which can ignite the body’s stress response and affecting the posture, leading to pain in the shoulders and low back (which can also ignite the stress response). This can be a chronic problem but for many people it is easy to make some improvements. As a yoga therapist what I most commonly see people doing is breathing into their chests instead of their belly and breathing very fast. While there are a number of exercise I do with clients to improve there breathing for a “quick fix” I suggest working on belly breathing. If you notice you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed this is a great time to check in with your breath. Put your hands on your belly and see if they move away from you on your inhale, and back towards you on your exhale. Take a few breaths this way, slowing down the breath as you do.
Truly changing the way you breathe takes time and practice but noticing when and how you breathe and improving it when you can is a great first step to a more yogic year.
3) Pick a mindful moment.
My favorite thing from the Mindful Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) class I took in 2015 was the “mindful activities”. We were told to choose an activity we do each day and devote our time to being mindful during it. I chose the shower, because I LOVE showering and it seemed like a good idea to start with a task I enjoy doing. All this means is really paying attention to everything, the smell of the soap, the feel of the water, etc. I’ve continued trying to do this regularly years after the class ended. It served me particularly well in my postnatal period when my thrice-weekly shower was often the only “me time” I would get, Being mindful of it really allowed me to take it all in, ensuring I could really enjoy the break. It is also a great time to check in on where the mind is going. Sometimes it is “easier” to be mindful while other times my mind has drifted away before I’ve even turned the water on. This is a great opportunity for me to really notice how I am feeling, whether it is calm, anxious, sad etc. I do this without judgment. I enjoy this practice in the shower because it includes a mind body component (a yoga bonus) but other ideas include brushing your teeth or doing the dishes.
4) Check in with your day (journaling).
I’ve gotten back the journaling. I’ve always wanted to be a journaler, I have about 10 journals with a page or 2 written in, soon abandoned. But this time it seems to be sticking. Aside from the lack of screen time (noted about) I think the other secret to my current journal success is that I’ve become very curious about how I am doing. I view my journaling as another opportunity to check in with myself. What am I still holding on to from the day? What have I let go of? Why? It only takes a few minutes but I find it is now one of my favorite parts of the day.