Why Yoga Begins Off the Mat

You ever look at the people coming out of a yoga class, looking zen and maybe a little sweaty and thought, how do they do it?

Between the stereotypical matcha teas that they sip on and yoga pants uniform, it can often feel like this exclusive club they’re all in. ‘Oh, those yogis’ you may have thought. But yoga is much more than the group of practitioners who swear by their daily yoga class.

In fact, what happens on the mat is just the beginning with yoga. And understanding that yoga goes beyond the mat is the first step in allowing yoga in to enhance your life.


Back to Basics


The fact is that the history of yoga never concentrated on the physical act (asana).

At its core, yoga is defined as the capacity to direct the mind in a chosen direction and maintain that attention. Asana being the physical manifestation of this idea is but one of eight different ways yoga can be practised.

Looking at the ancient text, Yogasūtra of Patanjali, we realize that this physical practice is just one piece of the puzzle. Other elements are often included in our practice without us knowing – like prāṇāyāma when you breathe into your stretches or dhāranā that is about the self-introspection and focus you need to hold that tree-pose.

But some elements go beyond that and look at how you can bring this core principle of yoga into your habits or your values. It reminds us that yoga isn’t just what happens on the mat – but can go beyond that and help us bring more mindfulness into our lives.


How This Affects Our Practice


Understanding that yoga is more than just contorting our bodies in different postures can help us have a more fulfilling practice. Going into our practice with the intention of engaging the prāṇāyāma and dhāranā elements, as well as the physical can mean that yoga isn’t just an exercise of the body.

Next time you step up to the mat, take a moment to realize how your breathing isn’t just to help your balance but an intentional act to help hone in on your body and your mind.

When you relax in your savasana, be aware of how the dhāranā is helping you gain awareness of yourself and welcome the opportunity for self-reflection.

It’s not enough to just move your body. Embrace how doing it with intention and awareness can also affect your mind.


How This Affects Our Lives


This connection between your body and your mind doesn’t have to end at your mat. As the yogasūtra says, this can also build into habits of our daily lives. How can you bring the same mindfulness into your day?

It doesn’t have to be huge changes.

It can start with one simple act: a deep breath before you start your day.

By injecting the same self-awareness and focus that you would have in a yoga class into anything that you do – what could you achieve from there?



I’m Tiff and I’m passionate about empowering people to tell their stories in meaningful and creative ways. A year ago, I quit my corporate job in Sydney, Australia to travel and pursue my own projects. Now, as a location-independent freelancer, I can’t imagine going back. As a writer, I love being able to share my stories and struggles with the emerging remote working community. I haven’t got it all figured out and constantly feel like I’m flying blind, but I’m excited to be giving myself the space to do so. You can find out more on my website, from Instagram or Twitter.

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1 Comment

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Radiant Holisticsreply
October 12, 2018 at 09:10 AM

Hey, very nice article on yoga with mat. Thanks a lot for sharing. Keep up with the good work.

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