How to Cultivate Yourself On and Off the Yoga Mat

We’ve all heard or read the excerpt from the Bhagavad Gita, “Yoga is a journey of the self to the self through the self.”

But what the heck does that mean, and how does it translate into real life. Like what self, goes into whose self, and is it multiple selves or oneself?

It’s quite the conundrum.

Well, in this yogini’s opinion, it translates to using the yoga practice as a light. This light shines on the places misaligned or out of balance within our higher selves and gives us the opportunity to use the practice as a vehicle to strengthen, balance, and realign those places.

I’m guessing you’re now thinking…..Whaaaat the hell is she talking about?

I’ll elaborate.

It has been my experience, and please let me know if it’s yours too, that the places where we struggle in life show up more simply and in our face while on our mats.

Like hello pigeon pose with my hip screaming at me, my shoulders tensing, and my forehead crinkling.

But the beauty of these struggles showing up here, and not off the mat, is it can be less intimidating to first tackle our shit during the practice, before branching out into other less controlled areas of our life.

Let me break it down a bit deeper for ya….

You find yourself in Warrior 2 for the umpteenth time in class, you’re sweating, your glute muscles are screaming, and you are dying for the transition….what do you do?

Do you shift your focus to your breath, dig deep and push through the discomfort to allow for growth, or do you shift just as the shift starts to hit the fan?

If you are a shifter take an honest look at other areas in your life. Where else do you tend to shift instead of dig in and allow for the change? What aspects of your work life, home life, or other relationships could benefit from you digging in and allowing for growth instead of moving out of, or away from uncomfortable situations?

What conversations are you not having? What requests are you not making?  What changes in yourself and the way you interact with people are you not addressing?

Deep stuff right?!?

How to Cultivate Yourself On and Off the Yoga Mat - Pin now, discover yourself now!

How to Cultivate Yourself On and Off the Yoga Mat – Pin now, discover yourself now!

Confession time, I was a HUGE shifter, on and off the mat. Becoming aware of my potential to shift on the mat opened my eyes big time to all of the places I was doing this in life, and how much it was hindering my growth in ALL areas.

So how do you stop shifting?

First step – become aware of it.

Awareness is key and the first huge step in creating serious change. In the words of the great Brandi Carlile, “You might make it further, if you learn to stay.”

How about fear and self- doubt?

We can see these self-defeating thought patterns easily manifest themselves on our mat surrounding poses that require trusting yourself and taking a leap of faith….can you say arm balances, headstand, or heck any balance posture for that matter.

We are afraid that we will fall and repeat to ourselves that we shouldn’t even try because, “Ganesha knows I could never do that!”

When the truth is that most of us can, barring any real physical restraint. Now does that mean that having never done Crow pose that your going to Yoga Journal nail it on your first try?

Likely not, but again you CAN move in the direction of the pose, learn each part from the ground up and one day you face that fear and self doubt, lift your toes and fly.

Okay, most of us don’t do crow pose for a living, so lets translate.

If you shy away from scary places on your mat because you tell yourself you’ll never be able to do “that pose”, then I encourage you to shine a bright light on your life and figure out where else this comes up.

Do you have a dream job that you are dying to leap towards, but don’t because that could never, even be you? Would you love to travel, but don’t have anyone to go with, or just couldn’t possibly make it happen….besides isn’t Paris just the place where Madeline lives in the books?

How about adjusting your life and schedule to make more time for things you love?

Well I’ve got news for you yogi, Paris does exist, and it’s not that far away!

So what do you want and how do you get it?

Again you can’t just up and quit your job tomorrow, start selling honey at the local farmers market, and go to Paris next week. I get that.

But what you can do is drop the self- doubt and start building your dreams from the ground up. It’s going to take time and work, and at some point you will face your fears, pick up those toes and fly in the direction of your dreams.

What about focus and follow through?

This is another area that I personally struggle with, (awareness is key right!). I get all of these grand ideas and plans about what I want and how to get it, then the work part comes in and maybe I get a little bored with the original plan, and before I know it the pallets that I collected for that “insanely easy” Pinterest project are still sitting in the backyard……as pallets.

So where do we see this in our yoga practice?

Well I would ask you this.

How often are you hitting your mat? How frequently do you practice that pose you would like to nail? How much time do you put into opening those hips so that you can nail that pose.

Again just like my pallet project, you can’t just try a pose once and expect to have a chair.  You have to put the work in, even if it’s boring/feels monotonous and is far less glorious than you dreamed that it.

Instead, bring your focus back to the original intention, and follow through on your goals. By doing so you find growth, both on and off the mat, which ironically translates into the whole damn point of practice anyway!

So to bring it all back to a central thought, you on and off the mat, there are a million more examples to give, and a million more ways to interpret them. It’s your responsibility to open your eyes and become aware.

Maybe you are like me and this will be a mind blowing, eye opening moment, or maybe it’s like running into an old boyfriend, familiar and a bit uncomfortable.

Either way, I challenge you to honestly evaluate your habits in a non-judgmental, take the ego out of it way.  Establish where change can be created, make an action plan (it can be one small step), and then do the damn thing!

Let’s Talk – What did you learn? Did this open any doors for you? Any holy cow moments? Tell me about your self-exploration both on and off the mat.

Hey! I’m Allie.

I’m a self-growth student, freedom-seeker, yoga teacher and the founder of a tight-knit online yoga community: the Body Mind Soul Studio. I’m here to teach you how to transform your life on-and-off-the-mat with a holistic yoga practice.

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If your practice has waned, if your yoga journey feels lonely or you like the way I share yoga’s teachings, then this is where you need to be. Join me once a month, for free, to practice yoga as a community.