You’ve probably already heard of the term: Take your yoga off the mat. And as like me, you probably have wondered, what does this actually really mean?!
Well, luckily I’ve pondered over this theme for years and years. In this article, I hope I’ll be able to guide you into this subject a little bit more. And with that, I hope I can make it a bit clearer for you what this means and how you can do it yourself!
Yoga is more than stretching
To begin, we have to look at yoga as a whole system. Yoga on its own is more than just the poses and stretches. Even though this is all we see from yoga on its own. It’s so much more than that!
Of course, if you are doing yoga just for the stretch, then that’s also fine and you might find other articles that might interest you. Chances are though that you are here to deepen your practice, so let’s continue.
When we look at yoga as a holistic system, we see there is much more than just the asanas. These are just a part of it. I’ve written more articles about the philosophy and entire system of yoga. Just check them out!
But to just give you a little resume, yoga is just a reflective system. A way to look at your behaviour and thoughts and to turn those around.
Reflecting in yoga
But how does this reflection work in your yoga practice? I remember when I started yoga and I was thinking: how on earth will this help me emotionally and mentally in general?
It’s actually easier than you’d think and the first part you’ve mastered already. The first part of reflecting is to think. So, great job, you’re already a master in thinking!
But then comes the harder part, which is reflecting upon these thoughts. And I say it’s hard, but this is just in the beginning as it might be very confronting to deal with your own thoughts.
A couple of questions you can ask yourself while you are reflecting are:
- Where is this thought coming from?
- Is this thought serving me or others?
- What does this thought make me feel?
- Is it actually true what I’m thinking right now?
These are just a couple of examples that you might think about while reflecting upon your thoughts. And just remember, there are no bad questions, nor are there bad answers. You just have to keep in mind that there’s a goal behind this. And that goal is seeing that probably most of our thoughts are actually very misleading and we can’t be sure if they are true.
You can do this at all times, but if you are not feeling that safe to do it on your own, you can take it onto your mat first. Your yoga mat can and will be a safe space to do these reflections upon yourself. So don’t worry about what and how to do it. Just go into the asanas and see what comes up.
Why it is easier to reflect on the mat
Let’s have a look at what I said in the last paragraph: take it onto the safety of your own mat. It might sound a bit weird, especially in an article about how to take your yoga practice OFF the mat.
It will make sense, don’t worry about it.
Within yoga we aren’t just doing some weird positions, we are also getting into a relaxed state where we’ll find it easier to reflect on thoughts arising.
We are basically creating the ideal inner scenery for reflection.
And after some practice, you’ll find it easier and easier to come back into this state. Even off the mat!
So let’s take a look at how to take your yoga into real life.
Doing Yoga off the mat
Now that you know what’s going on on the mat, you can also have a look at how this reflects on your own life. But don’t worry, even if you haven’t realised this just yet, I will guarantee you that one way or another your yoga practice will have an effect on you.
So, the moment you leave the mat and you take all those contemplation with you, you can start to implement it! You’ll probably have one or two epiphanies during your yoga classes. Someone might wonder why they are so tough on others or themselves. Others might find out that they actually don’t like their job.
Whatever it is, these things might come up during your yoga class(es), and you will be able to look upon it (observe it) and maybe even wonder what you can do about it.
Is that it?!
Don’t worry, we’re not there just yet. Now we’ve talked about how to take these reflections into your own life. But in the end, we want to be able to do these reflections into our own life as well.
But to achieve this goal, we probably have to do a lot more yoga first. Everything that I’ve mentioned above here, is really possible to do and easily as well. But be aware too that it’s not just something that will happen overnight.
It’s a shame that we don’t learn these things at school. We are so educated into thinking logically, that we forget to be in touch with our feelings and other thoughts.
After some practice we’ll experience that in general we’ll be more relaxed and peaceful, making this a perfect state to have a little look at your thoughts. And yes, you can really do it everywhere! Just be sure that you sometimes take your time to be still instead of responding very quickly.
All of this might have sounded a little bit theoretical. So let’s have a look at some of the own examples I contemplated. And what the eventual outcome was.
I’ve always been interested in going green. But I never did that much about it. In one of my yoga classes I out of the blue came up with the thought: why don’t you do more with ecology? And while I was thinking about it, I could only make up excuses. I could see that my mind was telling me things like: I don’t know how to be eco-conscious.
But then I started the reflection and realized that I felt bad for my own behaviour. Because while I was sharing articles and saying that we need to do something, I wasn’t doing an awful lot myself.
So this is the first example. The second one is a bit of an older one, but also something that I realized in my yoga practice.
I realized that I always felt that I should leave my home country, that I never felt that great there. And one time in my yoga practice, I felt that too. During a very vigorous vinyasa flow, I suddenly got out of breath and it reminded me of times where I was short of breath by my environment. Growing up in a very polluted town, close to the Port of Antwerp.
While reflecting on it, I realized I wanted to move out and go into a country or town that has more nature around. And that’s what I did and I’m loving it so far!