How far does yoga follow you off the mat? We usually leave yoga class feeling good - calm, serene, happy, focused and energized, all at the same time. As we return to our daily activities, at some point, our yoga glow begins to wear off. Some days, it fades quickly; some days, it lingers. If we become aware of it, we can often stay in our yoga state of mind for a longer period of time.
In addition to the feelings listed above, yoga practice may infuse us with other aspects of yoga. Truthfulness, non-violence, non-greediness and surrender to a greater force or power are all part of yoga. Aren’t these also part of us when we leave yoga class? Do they stay with us through the day or fade away along with our calm, yoga state of mind?
Yamas and Niyamas
Yoga is more than the practice of asana, the yoga poses. The yamas and niyamas are ten yogic guidelines to individual observances and how we interact with others. They encourage us to live honestly, simply, but with inner fire, devotion and surrender. Our physical practice of yoga poses actually helps to reinforce these traits and behaviors. They are part of each asana; staying aware of this helps us to improve how well we do the poses.
Yoga practice teaches us to become more aware of our physical body. We begin to observe the subtleties of individual actions, becoming more finely tuned to how we move, how we engage muscles and how we relax. Over time, we can spread that awareness, that improved ability to observe, to other layers of ourselves. Learning more about our emotional and intellectual responses to other people and the world around us is also part of yoga, but it takes practice.
As it may take years or decades for us to place our hands flat on the floor in uttanasana, standing forward bend, it can take an equally long time for the other aspects of yoga to be fully absorbed. We all have some yoga poses that are particularly challenging or difficult for us. In the same way, there will be some of the yamas and niyamas that are more difficult, harder to bring about.
As our alignment and the physical expression of yoga poses gets better with time, it serves to deepen the other parts of yoga, too. We become more comfortable with being truthful, less prone to violence or anger and less interested in acquiring more possessions or wealth. Some of this goes on without our being aware of it. It is incremental change, just like many of the improvements that occur slowly with yoga poses. Be patient and observant; allow the transformation to happen.