Your Yoga Life is Your Own
You are a serious student of yoga. Perhaps you are a teacher. You take class or you work on your home practice. Perhaps you get up religiously every morning and move through your meditation, your asana practice, and take savasana before you move on with your day. Or maybe you make sure to get to class a couple of times a week or take online classes when you can’t get away or want to make sure to fit your practice into your busy day.
You are a pretty dedicated yogi by most people’s standards. You do the practice, you spend time thinking about yoga and talking about it to your friends. Yoga is your lifestyle, in the sense that your days pivot in one way or another around your practice or your yoga community. So you lead a solid yoga life. Is this what it means to take your yoga off the mat? Or is there something more?
Before answering this, the first thing to consider is that yoga means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Many in the yoga world look toward Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras as the bible or recipe book for how to be a yogi, following its structures, rules, and life guidelines. Others look back further to the epic stories of the Mahabharata, and what those myths tell us about our human experience, or back even further to the ancient origins of yoga in the Vedas. There are those who focus on the subtle and energetic body-the chakras and kundalini. And then there are many who are interested in the somatic experiences of moving and breathing, and their yoga has everything to do with the body and its anatomy.
Yoga encompasses about 4000 years of practices, from mantra and meditation to asana and ayurveda. In that time, it has grown, mutated, developed, and changed. So there is actually no one formula for how to take your yoga off the mat. The key for you personally, and for all of us engaged in the yoga world as teachers or as practitioners, is to learn a little about this universe of ideas falling under the designation of yoga, and then choose to investigate the ones that personally resonate. There is no wrong answer. There is no wrong way. Yoga is so abundant that there is a path for everyone who feels drawn to it.
You may wander down one path for a while, perhaps learning about anatomy. And then, perhaps something shifts in your life, and you veer into the path of mantra practices, or perhaps myth. Traveling down these different yogic paths helps you to become more expansive as a yogi. It gives you options. Sometime later, these seemingly divergent paths will meet within you, and you will begin to form your own personal yoga, your own particular way of thinking, being, and doing within the practice. And then you can begin to choose how you will integrate these different yogic practices into your life.
Right now, ask yourself:
What does yoga mean to me?
What in my yoga life do I care about the most?
What inspires me in my yoga practice at this very moment?
After you answer these questions, remind yourself that there are an infinite number of ways to be a yogi because there are an infinite number of ways to be a human being. To powerfully bring your yoga off the mat and into your life, you must begin with what you truly love, not what you think you should love and not what any other yogi tells you to love. Begin with what is written on your yogi heart, and commit to it. Find a way to do it every day. Maybe for 5 minutes. Maybe for an hour. Direct your energy to that which you find meaningful and let it resonate in your body, heart, and mind. You will find, one day, that the yoga life you have created for yourself is rich and powerful because you have made it your own.
Susanna is a yoga teacher, writer and artist, whose work is rooted in South Indian Temple Traditions and Philosophies. Based in NYC, but teaching internationally since 2002, she is the creator of Devi Soul Yoga, combining yoga asana with myth, mantra, and mudra practices. She is E-RYT 500. Susanna created Writing Your Practice writing and creativity courses, contributes to numerous publications, and is the author of the book Yoga 365: Daily Wisdom for Life on and off the Mat. Her latest online course, 30 Things About Ganesha, begins mid-November 2016.