By Faye Martins
Yoga off the mat is an oft-used term. The idea is to extend one’s practice outside the studio by incorporating Yogic elements into everyday life. Have you ever been at Whole Foods and noticed your line-neighbor in an asana? Now, that is what we would call extreme off-the-mat practice, which is absolutely encouraged if you can stand a stare or two. However, for most of us, the principle is about incorporating Yoga training into everyday life.
While the premise seems simple, some students may shy away from yoga off the mat practice; which happens when we apply yogic principles to life. However, many people, for one reason or another, only engage in Yoga as a physical exercise and want little to do with its roots or meditative machinations. Even if you instruct more secular minded students – or those with deep faith in a particular religion – there are ways to promote “Yoga off the mat.” After all, no matter what your religious affiliation – or lack thereof – the skills taught in Yoga class can be applied to everyday interactions from the boardroom to the classroom.
Knowing Your Limits
Pushing one’s limits happens all the time. A first time student enters class expecting to breeze through, only to discover that Yoga training isn’t as easy as the models make it look. Even experienced practitioners still feel the burn when it comes to certain asanas.
Yet, in class, we learn how to train our minds to accept what our bodies are saying. Perhaps most importantly, we teach our students to identify their limits. As yoga instructors, we’re constantly reminding students that, “just because someone else is doing the most challenging variation, doesn’t mean you have to!” The deeper message is a lesson everyone, at some point in their life, should work on – as it leads to greater self-discipline, which results in heightened awareness and understanding of others.
In Sanskrit, the word for breathing (pranayama) translates to “extending life-force,” which is the goal of 99.9% of people living on the planet today. Elemental to the practice of yoga, pranayama is also the essence of every human being. When one learns to notice their breath and observe its calming effect – healthy things happen. Stay on your students’ cases about breathing; remind them that breath is the core human function. If you make it a class focus, the proper breathing habits will become intrinsically manifest in all your students – both inside and outside the studio.
Remember, not all of your students want to explore the spiritual side of yoga – and that’s all right! However, it doesn’t mean you can’t guide them to off the mat practice.
© Copyright 2011 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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