Have you ever heard someone say “I can’t practice yoga because I’m not flexible enough?” Maybe you’ve said it yourself!
Truth is yoga encompasses so much more than the pretzel postures plastered all over Instagram. The physical practice of postures is just one aspect of yoga and the benefits of the other parts of yoga practice are just as transformative, if not more, than the workout.
Here are 5 ways you can practice yoga right now, no mat, physical coordination, money, yoga pants, or muscle flexibility required.
The Benefit of Trying Something New
The practice of yoga is unique in that it asks us to get outside our comfort zone. But you don’t have to have a mat to do that. Try a new food or a new route to work. Start a conversation with a stranger. Do a different workout. Try a new hobby or activity.
If you’re intimidated by yoga because you’re afraid you’re not going to be able to do it right or you won’t be good at it, know that this is part of the process of the practice. Yoga asks us to intentionally show up to our discomfort.
Catalyst to Think Positive Thoughts
Part of the human experience involves wrestling with our monkey mind. “I’m not good enough.” “I can’t because…” “I’m not smart enough.” “This is stupid, why am I doing this?”
Although it may sound obvious, yoga philosophy suggests we counter those negative thoughts with the opposite: positive thoughts!
Close your eyes and repeat the following statements to yourself.
“I am enough.” “I can do this.” “I have everything I need.” “I am doing this because I deserve to follow my dreams, fulfill my wishes, and receive what I desire.”
How does that feel? Thoughts have power.
If they are negative, they’ll pull you down into a spiral of doomsday thinking. If they are positive they’ll prop you up into an energetic vortex of support.
Time for Deep Breaths
It seems so simple, but the breath is incredibly powerful. The trick is breathing with the full capacity of the diaphragm. When the diaphragm works properly, our parasympathetic nervous system switches on and we can relax.
Take a moment to check your breath. Place your hands on your belly and take a breath in. Does your belly expand out into your hands? Breathe out. Does the belly pull back in towards the spine?
When the diaphragm is working properly it will descend as you inhale. This puts pressure on the internal organs of the torso, pushing them out slightly and resulting in an outward expansion of the belly. On exhale, the diaphragm recoils back up toward the sternum, allowing the organs and the belly to return to their original position.
If this is not how you normally breathe, don’t worry. Take a few moments each day to intentionally practice breathing and see if you can get more comfortable with the belly expanding on inhale and releasing on exhale. Then notice how just 10 proper breaths can totally shift your nervous system!
Power of a Pause
We live in a fast-paced society with high expectations and little tolerance for rest. But pausing every once in a while, even if just for a second or two can do wonders for your stress levels. Part of the reason why practicing yoga postures feels so good is because it allows us to pause from our everyday activities and create space for breath. We’re given permission to slow down at the end of class when we lie down for Savasana. But you don’t need Savasana to pause.
While at work, take a few seconds to look out the window, take a couple of those deep breaths, notice how your body feels, and think positive thoughts.
Pause to make room for the way you want to feel and you might just find you can feel that way whenever you please. You just have to make room for it!
It’s important to create space for reflection. Through reflection we can integrate all the parts of ourself that we discover in our yoga practice. You can reflect through journaling, by taking a walk, by sitting quietly and contemplating, or even in conversation with a trusted friend, counselor, or family member.
Action without reflection is arbitrary. Arbitrary action brings about unpredictable results. Intentional action, on the other hand, is laser-focused and much more likely to have an impact.
To live intentionally, you must reflect. This is the cycle of yoga. Act, reflect, release and start all over again.
By Ashley Zuberi
Ashley Zuberi trains and mentors yoga teachers to create thriving independent yoga careers. As a full-time yoga teacher with a former professional career in marketing for yoga companies and experience developing and leading teacher trainings across the US, Ashley uniquely understands how to blend the spirit of yoga with the realities of business. She is the founder of Inhale Thrive, a grassroots company dedicated to providing high-quality, affordable continuing education and networking opportunities for local yoga teachers while uniting the global yoga teacher community. She writes extensively about yoga philosophy and the business of yoga at inhalethrive.com and is currently working on her first book — a modern, thematic interpretation and teaching guide of the Yoga Sutra. Ashley is a military spouse, Ohio native, and has lived in 6 states in the past 6 years.
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