When we get to class, we take our shoes off, find our favorite place, unroll the mat, settle in and ‘do yoga.’ When it’s over, we roll up the mat, put our shoes back on, go out the door, and now we’re not doing yoga anymore.
What if the entire day were an incredibly creative, magical, custom designed yoga class that you won from the universe in a raffle? Here’s how you can take the template of a yoga class and apply it to your entire day. I’m calling it “Your Life” Yoga.
Most classes begin with a quiet moment to bring you back into your body. Why not open your day this way?
Instead of just lurching out of bed, fumbling for the coffeemaker with your eyes closed, muttering how tired you are and scanning the device of choice for emails…try this instead: Sit quietly. Listen in. Eavesdrop on the voice of wisdom that lives inside you.
Make an intention. Many teachers invite us to do this before moving into the practice. You can set the tone for the coming hours as well. Urgencies very often take people by the scruff of the neck drag them around all day. Today, you decide. Take what you heard when you were eavesdropping, and weave that into an intention. Keep it simple. Something you can apply to everything that crosses your path.
In a typical yoga sequence, care is taken to warm up the muscles that will be working for us later on.
What will you be doing most of the day? Sitting at the computer? Standing for long hours? No problem. Warm those muscles up. Your body already does this naturally, when you reach you stretch/yawn upon waking. Just nudge it a little further. I’m not saying do a 90-minute workout. I’m saying walk around the block. Maybe twice. Maybe just put your palms on the wall, and step back into a sort of down dog.
Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
There are five movements to the spine: straight (lengthening vertically), side bending, back bending, forward bending, and twists. Tadasana is an example of the first one. It is at the root of all yoga poses. In yoga, you come into Tadasana by pressing the feet into the ground, letting the tailbone reach naturally away from the crown, crown reaching upward, lengthening the spine, the front body and the back body, softening the back of your neck, and relaxing the shoulders.
Find your Tadasana wherever you stand — at the stove, or in line at the DMV, or before locking the door as you leave your house. Practice noticing how you stand.
And as you move through your day, be aware also of where you stand. In whatever realm, (physical, emotional, political, or spiritual), stand where you stand without apology or aggression, maintaining your connection with the world through your feet.
Parsvakonasana. (Side Stretches)
Either seated or standing, when you stretch the spine to the right and the left, it helps bring mobility and health to the whole body, opening up spaces inside the torso.
In your day, this can translate to stretching yourself to each (as in both) sides of a situation. If you’re more comfortable being impulsive, try on the more mindful route. If playing it safe is more in your strike zone, try walking a freer, less structured path. Sincerely investigate points of view that are not your own.
Anuvittasana. (Back Bends)
Did you know that any time you’re yawning, stretching your arms way out with your head looking up, you’re doing a kind of backbend? That’s one of the five fundamental movements of the spine. It is known as a heart opener. Even if you just increase the arch in your back while sitting in a chair, you’re doing a form of back bend. In yoga, back bends are considered heart openers.
Open your heart today. Practice. It’s not going to happen by itself. Say you have an interaction with someone who pushes your buttons. You think you know what’s going on with them. You think you know exactly what they’re thinking, what they really meant. Practice not knowing. You don’t have to think they’re wonderful, or even remotely right. Just practice not knowing at all who they really are in their heart. This feeds compassion. And if you do it enough, you might even find more compassion for yourself.
Uttansana (Standing Forward Bend)
In this pose, it’s important to stay engaged in the legs so that the surrender in the torso will be supported and safe. So plant your feet, bring life to the legs (a slight bed at the knees is fine for those with lower back issues), fold at the hip hinge, lean forward and let the head and arms hang in front of you — maybe gently taking hold of opposite elbows if you wish.
The metaphor embedded in this pose is: full on commitment in the legs combined with absolute surrender in the torso. It’s a sublime way to approach anything you’re involved in, especially the projects we really care about. Try it today. Try it with just one thing. Invest yourself in something enough to give it everything you’ve got, and at the same time, release all attachment to outcome. That’s the secret to happiness.
Here’s way of twisting in a yoga class: seated in a chair or in a cross-legged position on the floor, begin by inhaling fully, raising the arms…and then on the exhale, turn to one side, beginning with the belly button, then sequentially letting the ribs, shoulders, neck, head, and eyes follow.
What could this look like in your day? Stop for a moment. Take a deep breath, and on your exhale, look behind you…look back at the beginning of the day, when you made your intention. Can you reconnect? Slowly come to your center again. Let the fresh blood supply of your renewed intention flow into you. Then breathe in again, deeply, turn the other way, from a different perspective, and on the exhale, move in this other direction toward your original intention. Reconnect from here as well. Fresh blood. Renewed direction.
Savasana (Corpse Pose)
One of my favorite moments of a yoga class. I have worked hard. I get to let go. Completely.
Do this at the end of your day. You’ve been up maybe too late. Give yourself a break and go to bed a little earlier so you can savor that sweet sense of rest.
As you lie there, stop trying to figure stuff out.
Know that you will never actually get it all done.
You will never completely understand it.
And sigh with relief that you don’t have to.
End the day of “Your Life” Yoga with gratitude. Gratitude for the best teacher of all: your day. Bow your head to everything bigger than you, everything beyond your understanding, and release yourself to a sound, well-earned sleep.