What becomes of your yoga when you leave the mat? If you’ve begun to feel the positive effects of practice, it’s only natural to want that sense joy and well-being to carry through to the rest of your life. The physical and mental training that happen during a yoga class help us develop the focus, self-control, and physical health required to begin pursuing true yoga — or union — across the breadth of our lives. Here are five concepts that will help you deepen your experience of yoga and allow the effects of your practice to reverberate throughout your life.
Humility: Know that you are imperfect. Embrace it. If we’re being honest, we know what it would take to be the “perfect” person we think we’re supposed to be, and it’s just not happening. Why? Because being perfect sounds awful. Instead, accept your imperfections, be honest about who you are, and let go of the need to prove something.
How it deepens your yoga: Instead of comparing ourselves with everyone around us, trying to be the best and berating ourselves for our flaws, we start to focus on doing the best we can with where we are right here and now. We lose perspective for whether we are ahead of or behind others and instead start to view ourselves in terms of our quality of life and general happiness. And frankly, you’re less likely to get hurt this way.
Self-Study: In Sanskrit, it’s svadhyaya. Take a sincere look at your lovely, imperfect self. This applies physically, mentally, emotionally, and even socially. Observe yourself in your yoga practice, in your meditation, in your interactions with others, and in your time alone. Always be learning. Life is a learning experience, and you are your own school.
How it deepens your yoga: The more we learn about ourselves, the more we eliminate what is false. Our practice and our lives can be about the True Self instead of about the ego. This is hard because it requires us to face uncomfortable realities, but choosing to be present even in those difficult moments proves priceless.
Tapas: Heat. Drive. Find your fire, and fuel it. What’s moving you forward? Your heart keeps beating because it wants something. What is it?
How it deepens your yoga: Being in touch with what drives your practice is essential because there will come a time when you just don’t feel like doing it. What will keep you going even on those days? You can be driven to get healthy, cope with your depression, or find spiritual peace. You can dedicate 108 Sun Salutations, a month of meditation, or your morning run to any person or cause you’re passionate about. You can dedicate your entire life to something if you really believe in it, and that drive will make you unstoppable.
The Guru: Not some guy in robes. The truth we know without knowing. The teacher that taught the first teacher. The spark. That which brings light. It lives in all things, including you. Seek it.
How it deepens your yoga: Learning to listen to your own inner teacher gives you the ability to step out on your own, to question authority, and to seek knowledge through experience. There is great value in the teachers you will find on your path, but without the guidance of your own wisdom, you can be lead astray too easily! Listening to your guru can start on the mat, but once you learn to recognize that inner wisdom, you can consult it in any area of your life.
Ishvara: Some people call it God. That which is beyond comprehension. The fact that we exist. Intelligence. The infinite animal in which we are cells.
How it deepens your yoga: While the Guru is an internal and personal experience, Ishvara is external and universal. We can barely see beyond our noses and often lose sight of the vastness of the universe, which extends apparently infinitely in all directions. It is beautiful and divine, and in it keeps our drama in perspective. Remember to look outside yourself occasionally. The universe will remind you that you are very small, yet you have value because you are part of something much bigger than yourself.