Take Yoga Off the Mat and into Life
How to use yoga as a tool to regain control of your day to day life, with Embodied Yoga Principles. Anyone who has practiced yoga mindfully will have experienced the positive effects this can have on your clarity of mind. Imagine if you could transfer this yogic perceptiveness into your daily life. Imagine if you could be Zen and balanced in every single mundane situation that you find yourself in. Whether you’re going for a new job, waiting for a delayed train, or asking for a date.
Mark Walsh, Founder of Embodied Yoga Principles, has over 20 years’ experience in taking yoga off the mat and into daily life. His method is rooted in the life-changing potential of embodying practices like yoga. Yoga allows us to take a step back from what is going on around us and to identify what is truly important in our lives. It does so by creating a space for reflection, as well as reconnecting us with our bodies, where our personalities are expressed and created.
In order to tap into this practical application of yoga, though, we need to demystify the exotic and orientalised hype that surrounds it in our society. Yoga is all-too-often culturally ‘contained’ by fancy clothes and foreign words. It is also marketed by the beauty industry as a component of the ‘high life’ led by Instagram stars and celebrities who have time to be kooky and work on their bods. The danger of this is that we come to believe that yoga can only be a ‘way of life’ for the Other, but not for us. For us, it tends to be a much-needed yet short-lived escape from the busy street or buzzy office. Great while it lasts, but in no way practical or actionable when a real life dilemma crops up.
Yet it is such a waste to view yoga in this way. Because yoga can be a tool for getting back in touch with our bodies and our emotions.
Even a simple, centring exercise can reveal problem areas in your life, such as attempting to regulate your breathing while in Mountain pose (standing with arms by your side, hands outstretched). In this posture, you might ask yourself: What is it in my life that stresses me out? For instance, when you think of your flooded inbox or your next deadline, notice if your shoulders tense up, if your heartbeat and breath quicken, or if you begin to lose balance. You’ll be surprised by how automatic stress responses are when you listen to your body.
Try it yourself, and you’ll see that asking questions in relation to your delay life during your yoga practice can be a truly effective tool for getting physical feedback on your psychological state. To give another example, it is common today to experience a yearning feeling in Child’s pose (kneeling on your heels with chest flat on thighs), and this is not an accident. This feeling may be an indicator that you need to incorporate more nourishment or care in certain aspects of your life.
Only you can make that judgement call by asking “How does this show up in my life?” while doing the pose.
Through this questioning approach, you can flow (or transition however you wish) through a series of yoga poses while considering what each archetypal posture reveals about your life patterns. In this way, you not only develop better physical awareness, which the majority of practitioners in the West seems to strive for anyway, but you harmonise your embodied sensations with your emotions and conscious goals. There is no reason why doing yoga can’t be a holistic M.O.T – or affordable therapy – that flags up actionable areas of your everyday life.
Of course, once you’ve identified any blocks in your life through your yoga practice, it is important to set an intention. This intention is necessarily personal to you and dependent on the problem areas you identified during the practice. It might be a generic intention, as in “I need to be less critical of myself”. Or it might be more specific, such as “I need to take a deep breath and gain control of my mood every time I speak to Mr or Ms Annoying Person today”. Set your intention for the day or week while meditating on it in the resting pose of your choice. This way, your goal will become ingrained and your actions throughout the day will mirror it, taking yoga off the mat and into life.
Video of Mark Walsh, Founder of Embodied Yoga Principles: