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Yoga Off the Mat

Yoga is more than exercise; it is a practice that helps you build strength of mind, body, and spirit. Many of the lessons I have learned through yoga have become analogies for how I do my best to live a yoga-inspired life off the mat.
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If I could engage in just one fitness activity a week, it would be yoga. Yoga is more than exercise; it is a practice that helps you build strength of mind, body, and spirit. Many of the lessons I have learned through yoga have become analogies for how I do my best to live a yoga-inspired life off the mat.

1. Set an Intention

On the Mat- When we begin a yoga session, we are asked to set an intention. It must always be something positive that you wish to cultivate during your practice. Bringing a desired intention to your focused mind will assist in harvesting it into reality. Some examples might be: paying attention to your breathing, being grateful for where you are at this moment, passing no judgment on yourself or others, having patience with yourself, getting rid of negativity, and opening your mind and body to receive peace, love and gratitude.

Off the Mat- Setting intentions in our daily lives can help us to achieve our most-desired hopes and dreams. Setting intentions allows us to trust in the universe or greater power to assist in achieving those dreams and relinquish some of our personal control. Depak Chopra's,"5 Steps to Harness the Power of Intention" discusses the power of setting intentions and the importance of remaining present and unfocused on outcomes.

2. Dedicate your Practice to Someone

On the Mat - We are often asked at the beginning of class to dedicate our practice. We are encouraged to select someone who is struggling and could use the extra comfort and support. Dedicating our practice helps us to stay present and propagates the sharing of the positive energy we have gained through practice.

Off the Mat- By dedicating our practice to someone, we are offering up that we are all in this journey of life together and are part of a greater effort to breed peace, love, and kindness throughout the world.

3. Maintain the Integrity of a Pose

On the Mat- If you are in Warrior One pose, your muscles should be engaged from the ground up, from your toes to the tips of your fingers, pointed up to the sky. When assuming the pose, you should be using your entire body--every muscle engaged and doing its part to add to the pose. If one part is sluggish and not fully performing its role, the integrity of the pose is lost.

Off the Mat- As a nutritionist, I prefer a holistic approach when looking at health. We need all the systems to work synergistically, not concentrating on a single area of diet or body function that might be falling short of it's duties. We also must honor the parts that are sluggish and understand how they fit in aggregate. Sometimes it takes time, strength, and patience to achieve the full expression of the pose--and this is aligned with our health. When we fully connect with ourselves, we can take the necessary steps to healing our physical and emotional challenges.

4. Create Space

On the Mat- Yoga instructors often tell us to create space in our poses (we want to avoid scrunching up our bodies and diminishing space.)

Off our Mat- We need to create space in our cluttered minds and lives. Our packed schedules and stressful lives leave little to no time for spiritual nourishment.

5. Find Joy in the Pose

On the Mat- We often struggle in a pose and look forward to moving on to the next. Instead, we need to find joy in the pose, finding lightness and stability.

Off our Mat- We often want to rush the present. We tell ourselves that we will find joy when we find a different job, a project at work is completed, or when college applications are behind us. But often another task sneaks in, and we never gain the time to focus on ourselves, our health, and our happiness. Continuing to work on staying present and prioritizing ourselves will help us find joy in today.

6. Fall Out of the Pose

On the Mat- We often fall out of poses in yoga. How we feel after we fall out of the pose can align with how we judge ourselves off the mat. Do we fall out without blame, or do we feel discouraged and defeated?

Off the Mat -We need to accept our missteps in life. These lapses contribute to elevating self-awareness, gaining information about ourselves, and assist in formulating a different approach when again faced with the same or similar challenge.

7. Breathe

On the Mat- Synchronized breathing and movement in yoga is what makes yoga yoga.

Off the Mat- Breathing exercises off the mat help to center you, quiet your mind, and find calmness from within to handle stress and anxiety. Read the following on the science behind breathing exercises and how it works to relax and activate the parasympathetic nervous system.

Whether we practice physical yoga or not, we should all add a little more yoga into our lives.


Melissa Reagan Brunetti, C.N.C
Author, The Sweet Side of Balance