There is an enormity of what we have to gain when we sit in our own realities of the present.
Living your yoga practice off the mat is an immense gift that allows you to stay focused on what is important in your everyday life.
The second limb of yoga, the niyamas, specifically saucha, is a sanskrit term translated as purity and the practice of cleanliness. Keeping things clean from potentially dangerous chemicals, viruses, and bacteria is an ongoing process. Even so it may be good to remind ourselves that balance is key and over-doing "cleanliness" can also block or kill potentially good organisms that are available to help strengthen and protect us.
With that in mind, here are Effective Ways to try saucha on and off your mat:
When attending a yoga class B.Y.O. if you've got it:
- your yoga mat
- yoga blanket
- hand towel for placing under your head
- pillow case to cover a bolster
Hand-wash before and after class
Keep your hands off your face
Mental and air hugs all around
If you are not feeling well or have sniffles, stay home
If you are hesitant about taking group classes, get your yoga on at home!
Nourishment. Plan your weekly shopping to include one of the many local farmer's markets or join our local (Temecula) CSA, EcoCulture Farms which is lovingly tended to by Cory Shallow, an intelligent earth-loving hero!
Go outside. Spend time in nature. Move.
Consciously Breathe. (More about that below.)
Pause, think of someone or something you're grateful for.
Get deep restful sleep. on. the. nightly.
About the Breath
Life flows on the breath. In times of stress, tension and anxiety, there is a tendency to restrict or hold the breath, or your breath becomes short and quick, hyperventilation. There is a tendency to grip, physically and emotionally strongly guarding against real or perceived threat, consciously or unconsciously in stressful or high anxiety conditions.
While these reactions are counter-productive to our well-being and healthy life goals, these are natural reactions that may happen before we even realize it.
Make use your mindfulness practice: pause and observe.
The next time you feel that sensation of anxiety building or there's an unhealthy sense of fear welling up, this is a perfect time to practice your pause and notice skills.
By practicing pausing and observing, you start to break the cycle of pure reaction (or knee-jerk reaction). So in that pause, in that observing, instead of getting caught up in the cycle of tensing up, which hinders the breath and can cause us to react rather than consciously respond, take a split second here.
The simple action of pausing and observing -- even for a spark of a moment -- starts to create new neural pathways that can actually redirect harmful unconscious reactions. By consciously taking a pause and observe moment, you'll learn new ways to respond to support your wellbeing. In this way you create the conditions to make more beneficial, healthy choices for yourself.
In fact, scientists have proven that your brain is being shaped, molded and changed by your experiences every day. So rather than the instinctive reaction of gripping, tightening muscles, and perhaps holding or shortening the breath, we pause. And within that pause, however brief it is, you acknowledge that there are options on how to respond.
Let's Keep Going
You are living your pause and observe practice off the mat and that is the point of your yoga practice! Conscious Living! So, let's take it one step further.
Here are 5 Simple Steps to empower yourself with choices of how to move forward when the sensations of anxiety, stress or fear arise (and they do from time to time -- we are human).
Take 2 to 3 breaths to acknowledge these feelings that are building.
Whisper or silently say, "I am breathing in fully..." (really experience and feel that deep breath in!)
Whisper or silently say, "I am breathing out slooooowly...." (feel how your exhale releases tension in your face, jaw, shoulders).
Again, "I am breathing in fully..." (feel your low belly softly expanding).
And again, "I am breathing out sloooooooowly...." (and feel the body soften and the emotional tightening loosen it's grip).
Repeat Steps 3 & 4 a time or two more to feel tension in the body and emotions softening.
And now you're ready to make a conscious response that allows you to thrive. Life gives us plenty of opportunities to practice this so we have a chance to get really good at it.