WHY practice yoga outside of class?
So you’ve been going to regular yoga classes (pre-pandemic) and you want to keep on practicing yoga outside of class because:
- You’re committed to your well-being
- Having a home practice is one of your goals
- You need more yoga in your life
- That high you get at the end of class, you want more of it
- You’re the curious type (never loose that sister)
- All of the above
Ultimately the real reason why we practice yoga is to be more at ease, feel more peaceful and a deeper sense of happiness, not just on the mat but when we step off it too.
How to Keep it up
If you ever wonder how you can integrate more of this into your daily life, without having to wait for your next yoga class to feel all these things, keep on reading because I’ll be sharing 7 things you can do to maintain your yoga practice whether you’re on the mat or not.
You know that a lot of our practice is focused on our breath. The way you breathe during a class is more intentional, slow, and deep, and these are the reasons why you feel more relaxed after a class. Hence remember to use the power of your breath when you’re off the mat, and maybe facing a stressful situation.
Next time you feel anxious, overwhelmed or any other emotion that is difficult, come back to your breath. Take deep long breaths. This will slow your breathing down, inviting your nervous system to enter the relax and repair mode (parasympathetic nervous system). Loosen your jaws, face and shoulders.
If you’ve practiced belly breathing in class and remember how to do it, do that!
Don’t remember? No worries, I’ve got you covered! Download my belly breathing cheat sheet.
Think back to some of your favourite poses or stretches that we usually do in class, and repeat them at home, as you get out of bed or before going to bed at night. Some easy stretches could even be done while sitting at your desk, like neck stretches, side body stretch and twist.
The point is to come back to your body and help it release stagnation and tension, and add some light movement to your day.
A few minutes of simple stretches here and there can really go a long way to make you feel so much better. Especially if you are consistent with it.
Here are some of my favourite stretches:
Neck rolls, easy twist, legs up the wall, cat-cow, happy puppy, side-bend, rag doll
Ok, ok, I can already hear you: “Meditation is hard. It’s not for me. I can’t meditate.” I’ve heard many versions of these statements, and I’ve even said them myself. But really, it’s not as hard as you think. Let me help you get on board with meditation.
First off, it can last 1 minute or 10 or 20. There aren’t any rules as to how long your session should be.
Remember what we do at the beginning or at the end of class, tuning in, finding stillness, connecting to ourselves. All those things can be your meditation practice.
However, sometimes, it’s just easier to be guided. And nowadays there are so many great apps, and formats, there isn’t really that much of an excuse not to try.
My favourite apps are:
Still, there are many others like Omvana, 10%happier, Evenflow, etc.
Give it a try. If it’s still not your jam, no hard feelings, move on. There are many ways to practice stillness, mindfulness, and get all the goodies that meditation has to offer.
4. Body scan To Relax
A variation of meditation is actually to just do a body scan. You can choose to close your eyes for this. I find that it helps me to tune in and feel what’s happening with my body.
Usually, I will start or end my classes with a body scan because it’s a great way to notice what’s going on in our bodies. Otherwise we tend to stay stuck in our minds and get disconnected from our bodies.
The greater body awareness we develop, the greater access to our intuition we have, which really helps guide our decisions, and feel more aligned with our choices. That feeling of being aligned is a key to happiness and is a core practice of yoga (body alignment on the mat, and aligned living off the mat).
A body scan can be done anywhere, anytime: in bed, in your car, on the bus, while doing the dishes, whilst at the office…
Just sit or stand and start to notice your feet on the ground, relax them. And then move up to your legs, hips, back, etc., all the way up to your head and face. Notice tension, and relax it.
You can even do this punctually: Feeling your eyebrows frowned? Smooth them out.
You’ve got this. Notice how you feel after and any changes that may have occurred.
This is a juicy one.
Observe before you react.
Just like you do in class as you hold a posture and the teacher invites you to observe what you’re feeling, where you’re feeling it, the intensity, the quality of the sensations…, you can also observe your thoughts and your feelings off the mat.
We observe without judging and without reacting as we hold Warrior II.
Similarly, you can do this when you’re stuck in a real-life uncomfortable situation, like being stuck in traffic, or having a row with your partner.
Before you react to the trigger, pause, observe, notice how you feel, identify the emotion, where do you feel the emotion in your body, etc. Sometimes it’s not exactly what we think, and taking the time to pause and reflect, helps us to respond rather than react.
Responding is more mature and solution-oriented, whereas reacting is usually blame-oriented, because it’s a protective mechanism, but it’s usually not that helpful and can just make the whole situation escalate.
Next time, press the pause button, even if only for a sec. With practice, this will change your relationships and your stress levels. I guarantee it!
6. Practice Gratitude
Another biggie and for good reason.
Research has shown that practising gratitude enhances our well-being because we are biologically wired to remember the negative more than the positive. Intentionally focussing on the happy, lucky moments in your life will help you to create new neural pathways that strengthen your positive outlook on the world.
When you feel more positive, you’ll feel more capable, meaning you’re more likely to achieve your goals, which will give you a sense of satisfaction and happiness, and even more gratitude. Cue the virtuous circle.
Once more, this is a super easy tool, available whenever and wherever.
Think of 3 things that you are grateful for in the mornings, or at the end of the day.
Do it as a weekly practice.
Write them down to keep track (and read over them later), or just exchange them with your partner or family, to make it an opportunity for sharing and connecting with your loved ones.
Do it consistently and watch your life change. Especially how you feel about it.
If you’ve ever been to one of my classes, you’ve probably heard me say that Savasana is the most important pose/part of the class. Because Savasana is about rest and recovery. (read more on Savasana here)
You can’t grow, heal, get strong, be focused without rest. Rest is when we recover and repair, and form new memories. Our muscles repair, our brains digest the information it’s absorbed throughout the day and processes it, or transforms it into memories.
Without this recovery time, you would crash and burn out.
So take 5 minutes to rest. Lie down in the middle of the day for 5 minutes or sit without distractions (no phone, no email, no social media, no one talking to you, no music).
Maybe you do this before dinner at the table, maybe when you get into your car before you start the engine, maybe you just go and sit by the window and look out.
Just take a break. Added bonus points if you focus on your breath too (combining this with tip nr 1). You’ll be amazed at how refreshed you can feel. This will improve your focus and reduce your stress levels.
There you have it. 7 easy ways to keep up with your yoga practice outside of class that you might not have thought of as being yoga. The key to all of these tips is consistency. You can reap the benefits of a one-off session, but the true magic happens when you practice on a regular basis. Because that is when your whole being and life will change.
Reach out if you need help with any of these. Let me know how it goes in the comment section, or send me an email. Know someone who needs this, send it on to them.
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