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. Really? What if the entire day were just an incredibly creative, invisible, specifically custom designed $20,000 yoga class—that you won! For free! Here’s how I take the template of a yoga class, and apply it to the day.
Begin by centering. Most classes begin with a quiet centering. Why not begin 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 electronic device of your choice for emails…try this instead: Sit quietly. Listen in. Eavesdrop on the voice of wisdom that lives inside of you.
Make an intention. Many teachers invite us to make an intention before moving into the practice. You can apply this to the day 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.
Warm up. In a typical yoga sequence, care is taken to warm up the muscles that will be working for us later on. This is probably one of the easiest things to translate into a daily routine. Will you be sitting all day at the computer? Or standing a long time? No problem. Warm those muscles up. Your body already does this naturally, when you reach your arms up in a big 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): The foundation at the root of all yoga poses. The one where you’re standing up straight. Practice this during your day. In yoga, Tadasana is practiced by pressing the feet into the ground, letting the tailbone look down, lengthening the spine and the back of your neck, relaxing the shoulders, reaching crown up to the ceiling. This can also be done standing at the stove (or standing in line anywhere), or before locking the door as you leave your house. Practice the awareness of how you stand. And as you move through your day, be aware also of where you stand. Stand there (physically, emotionally, politically, psychologically, whatever) without apology or contortion, maintaining your connection with the world.
Side Stretches. Either seated or standing, when you stretch the spine to the right and to the left, it helps bring mobility and health to the whole body, opening up space inside the torso. In your day, this can translate to stretching yourself to each (as in both) sides of a situation. Try on the more mindful route (especially if you’re more comfortable being impulsive). Try walking a freer, less structured path (especially if playing it safe is more in your strike zone). Sincerely investigate points of view that are not your own.
Backbends. Did you know that any time you’re yawning, stretching your arms way up and out with your head looking up, you’re actually doing a kind of backbend? This is one of the basic movements of the spine. It is also known as a heart opener. 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. 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 increases compassion. And if you do it enough, you might even find more compassion toward yourself.
Uttansana (Standing forward bend). When we are in a forward bend (as in child’s pose, or standing forward bend), it is a form of surrender. In yoga, it’s important to stay engaged in the legs, so this surrender is supported and safe. Surrender is not just going all wobbly and giving up. It’s standing firmly where you stand, and releasing all attachment to the outcome. This is a sublime way to approach any activity, especially the projects we’re deeply invested in. Again, try it today. Try it with just one thing, and notice the effects.
Twists. There are five movements to the spine: straight (lengthening vertically, side bending, back bending, forward bending, and twists. When we twist in a class, we begin by inhaling fully, raising the arms…and then on the exhale, we turn to one side, beginning with the belly button, then ribs, shoulders, neck, head, eyes. What does this look like in one’s 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 today, and go to bed a little earlier, so you can savor actually resting. 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 all. And sigh with relief that you don’t have to.
End your DayClass with gratitude. Gratitude for the best teacher of all: your own life. Bow your head to the divine, and release yourself to a deep, well-earned sleep.