You may have heard your yoga teacher allude to the idea of how your practice can translate off the mat, in your daily life. Whether it’s through meditation, breathing, an asana, or a yogic yama or niyama, there are many ways this can happen.
Here are a few examples of how some of your most practiced asanas can translate off the mat:
Tadasana: Mountain Pose
This pose may seem like you’re not doing much, but it’s actually one of the most fundamental postures of yoga. When you stand on your own two feet, you’re drawing your awareness to the whole sole of your foot. You may notice how your toes, your heels, the arches of your feet, and all the muscles work together to keep you effortlessly balanced. Also, it brings us back to the present moment. It encourages us to be still and aware.
Off the mat, you can use this pose to find groundedness and stability. If you’re ever caught in a moment of chaos, when it seems like the world is flying around you, take a moment to stand, with your arms at your sides, and strongly surrender to the present moment. Let your feet and your breath be your anchor. Relax your shoulders. Find strength in this stability and stillness.
Plank can be one of the most physically challenging postures we do. Its physical benefits include balance, focus, core strength, upper body strength, and awareness. One of the jewels of this pose is scanning the body and seeing where you can extend your awareness. Oftentimes, this pose can feel localised in the effort of the shoulders, wrists, or the core. But if you extend your efforts to your heels, or focus your breath, you can disperse a lot of energy, helping to stabilise the pose.
Off the mat, you may notice that stress or effort can feel localised in the thoughts or even in the body (i.e. you may get a headache or shoulder pain from how the body interprets stress). When you come across these moments, see where you can extend your awareness. Notice the peace that’s in your breathing. Take a moment to place your hand on your heart and drop your focus from your head to your chest. Notice where you can find strength in extending your awareness to other parts of your body and your experience.
Adho Mukha Svanasana: Downward Facing Dog
This well-known pose comes with all the benefits of inversions, balance, strength, breath, and lots of play! When we do downward dog, we’re getting a massive change in perspective. It’s incredibly beneficial to see things from a different point of view, and going upside down allows this change in perspective, as well as the physical benefits that boost the immune system.
Off the mat, you can draw from the benefits of changing perspective. There are hundreds of thousands of ways to view one thing or situation–and they’re all valid. The upside-down-ness of downward dog, finding that great combination of strength, balance, and play, can be very beneficial in your daily life.
Virabhadrasana II: Warrior II
This is a pose of focus, stability, and feeling sturdy in the feet, while being lifted from the heart. The word “warrior” can carry connotations of fire-y strength, effort, and determination. But the real strength of a warrior comes from the heart. As our arms extend out to the sides, they become an extension of the heart.
Off the mat, we can find strength in this heart space. Notice where you feel strong in your stability and your foundation, then let that lift your heart as you leave the past behind and go forward with an openness of being. Staying focused, gently gazing ahead, allows for the mind to embrace the future as it basks in the present moment.
Savasana: Corpse Pose
This is the pose of ultimate surrender. We usually go into Savasana at the end of our practice, after our body has worked. But this pose can be done any time.
There is a great bliss in surrender. Off the mat, you can find a multitude of examples throughout your day in which you might think, “I need to surrender”. The idea of surrender is not about ‘giving up’. It’s about letting go into the natural flow of life. It’s about trusting that everything will work out and you don’t need to be in control of everything. Just as a flower blooms with the sun, and a river winds and bends according to the shape of the land, you can experience your life by going with the natural flow of your experience. Surprisingly, out of all the postures, the multitude of binds and balances, more than any handstand, Savasana is the most advanced pose of all. This pose is about truly trusting, letting go, and embracing the strength in our softness.