Relationships

Yoga – Off The Mat & Into Life

OK, I’m going to be provocative, but it’s true – no amount of yoga or meditation is going to help you in your relationships or life unless you consciously extrapolate the principles into the way you live and interact with others.

Over many years of teaching yoga, I’ve seen that what happens during practice is only worth something if we carry the principles off the mat and into our lives and relationships intentionally. Without understanding the why of practice and making aware and conscious applications of the principles, yoga, mindfulness exercises and meditation won’t help you any more than just going to the gym.

Meditation, yoga, and mindfulness exercises, like any potentially transformative practices, are tools for cultivating greater awareness and integration in ourselves, for a clearer perspective and a more connected way of life. They are paths, not a destination. Practice on the mat is nothing without the conscious application of the principles. In the popularisation of all kinds of meditation and mindfulness practices over recent years, there’s been a dangerous glossing over of how the various contemplative practices work and often, an unwitting ignorance of their depth and subtlety.

Let’s examine a handful of the myriad principles meditation, yoga and mindfulness exercises point us toward, and how to apply those principles to consciously improve life and relationships.

(I’m not even touching on the spiritual and moral teachings of the yogic texts here, just some universal basics).

What you practice:

Breathing into the edges of your strength, flexibility, and awareness in postures

Some take-away principles to apply in life:

Aim for a combination of strength and flexibility in your interactions with others. This means, if you don’t agree, stay kind and flexible rather than trying to be right. Say what’s important to you and be clear about what you need and prefer, without being rigid, or critical of the differences between you.

Listen, as you’ve learned to listen to yourself in practice, and be compassionate even when you’re being assertive in interactions.

Breathing into your limitations rather than forcing and straining can help you to deeply experience non-violence as a more powerful path for deep change and transformation, than aggression or forcing, which lead to damage.

What you practice:

Mindful observation of your breath

Some take-away principles to apply in life:

It’s helpful to know to take a breath and pause, before going with an unhelpful reaction, and instead offer a more mindful response.

Utilising your mindful breathing consciously and actively in real world interactions has a tangible steadying effect on your thinking and emotional state.

Modelling staying cool and taking a breath rather than flying-off-the-handle, helps those around you, especially children, to feel more nurtured and connected to you, especially when things are challenging. You inspire trust that you are more often steady and assertive under pressure, rather than emotion-driven and chaotic.

Nobody’s perfect, but breath and emotions are inextricably linked, and being able to apply breathing practices consciously is a powerful life skill.

What you practice:

Staying in the present moment, observing your thoughts and feelings non-judgmentally

How it can help you daily in life off the mat:

Love is a very special kind of attention. You must be present emotionally for someone to feel loved by you.

That is how fundamentally important presence of mind and heart is to our relationships – with ourselves, with others, even with our own passions.

To be able to give our full attention and be present in the moment is a non-negotiable skill for good relationships.

Distraction and short-attention spans are becoming more the norm.

Love requires us to stop and give our most precious commodity – our focused, caring attention. Our presence.

Nowhere do we learn and practice doing this more effectively than in meditation, or on the yoga mat, integrating focus with breath and movement.

 

There’s so much more I could add, but I think you get the idea.

Contemplative practices are tools that teach you a different approach to yourself, others and life, a different way of seeing your inner and outer worlds, where there’s more space around thoughts and feelings.

That extra space gives you the time and mindful awareness to make better choices.

Those better choices mean that more often, your behaviour is consistent with your deepest values and you feel clearer and more emotionally free.

Once you understand what you’re really being taught – it’s all up to you to apply, apply, apply in every moment and aspect of your life, especially when you’re challenged by a person or a situation and under pressure. That’s when you know whether what you’ve done on the mat has been integrated, become part of you and your frame of viewing and interacting with the world.

Why do you practice yoga? Why do you meditate, or practice mindfulness exercises?

Are you clear that the real practice begins when you leave your mat?

Let it be so, and every aspect of your life will be enriched, especially your relationships.

I have so much more to help you feel stronger and wiser and live more mindfully in my free one year project The 3 Loves Project. Do it with me each day (3 minutes) and let’s grow together.

Just BE the love that you ARE,

 

 

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