7 Ways To Practice Yoga Off The Mat

Yoga isn’t your mat or what you do on it. This discipline is about the body, mind, emotions, and oneness with the world and your community. It’s not just about the physical postures that many associate with yoga in popular culture.

So when you think you haven’t got the time to do yoga, remember that you can do yoga anywhere, anytime. It’s not just about what you do – it’s about who you become.

Here are some ways to think about practicing yoga when your mat is rolled up under the bed. 

What Does Yoga Include?

One of the things that separates yoga from exercise is its goal, which is to create a connection between body, mind, nature, and the universe as a whole. Yoga comprises many components, beyond postures, which you will find change the way you are in the world, even when you’re not in your yoga class.

Yoga’s physical postures are great for your health, but yoga offers much more than that, like opportunities to develop your awareness, mindfulness, personal growth, and action following the guiding principles of yoga—the yamas and niyamas.

So, ways you can do yoga off the mat include: 

  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness
  • Breathing/Pranayama
  • Connecting with nature
  • Discipline
  • Compassion
  • Yoga ethics (yamas and niyamas)

Ways to Practice Yoga Beyond the Mat

1. Meditation

You can meditate almost anywhere, even when it’s busy or noisy. Meditating for a few minutes is enough for you to experience the benefits of stillness, whether that’s to ground you, re-energize you, or calm you.

2. Mindfulness

Meditation is about focusing your mind. Mindfulness is about being conscious of your present state and aware of the moment. 

You can achieve mindfulness through meditation. And with practice and dedication, it’s something you can learn to carry with you throughout your day. 

You can incorporate mindfulness into your day by maintaining your awareness of the present moment and focusing on a task at hand. Observe what you’re doing and things around you. Just—be there, be here.

Have you ever eaten a meal and thought: “Well, that’s gone. I wondered what it tasted like.”

Mindful eating allows you to slow down and be aware of the sensations you experience before, during, and after eating, how your food nourishes your body, and your sense of gratitude.

You can be mindful while walking the dog, cultivating your awareness of the associated sounds, smells, and sensations. 

You can be mindful while taking out the trash, or showering; while washing dishes, making packed lunches, or waiting for a train.

With mindfulness, you can enjoy oases of calm and beauty even if you are active.

And just like when you set your phone to airplane mode, you can flick your switch to mindful mode throughout the day whenever you want to experience the world around you more deeply. If your mind loves airplane mode, it will love mindfulness, too.

3. Breathing/Pranayama

Yoga introduces a whole art to breathing

Pranayama—yogic breathing exercises—combines the Sanskrit term prana, meaning life energy, and yama, which means control.

Life energy control.

Controlling your life energy is a really cool part of yoga and it’s definitely something you can do while your mat is in temporary storage. Taking control of your breathing allows you to connect with your body, mind, and emotions.

You can use your breath to deepen your meditation and make your mindfulness more consistent. 

Deliberate and controlled breathing is important when you need a little help getting to sleep, when you’re nervous before a presentation, or when you put your bank card into the ATM and it gives you neither money nor your card back.

Some breathing exercises will go unnoticed by people around you. Others might have you in the emergency room explaining that you were just cleansing your skull and not only are you fine, you’re better than ever. Still, you can do different breathing techniques during the day to help you with meditation, mindfulness, energy levels, stress relief, or any of the many other benefits of breathwork training

4. Connect With Nature

The Sanskrit meaning of yoga is “union,” referring to the unification of the mind, body, and natural environment. You might have noticed that many of the names of the asanas are drawn from the natural world, such as tree pose, mountain pose, cat-cow pose, and sun salutations. 

It’s normal, therefore, for yogis to be drawn to nature and outdoor practice when doing yoga. Doing yoga in nature connects us with the world and inspires our practice. It’s no longer only conceptual, but something you can feel or reach out and touch.

Connecting to nature doesn’t need to only happen on the mat, however. You can leave the mat at home and get out into nature for a walk. Sit in the sun. Put your feet in the river and listen to the birds.

If you drive to work, you could consider parking a little further away from your workplace so you can spend some time walking. You may not be frolicking over fallen trees in the forest, but pretty much everywhere has some sky. Get out there if you can and breathe. 

Nature can replace everyday distractions with its inherent harmony and balance. Connecting with this can help your process of self-discovery and spiritual growth.

Nature can replace everyday distractions with inherent harmony and balance.

5. Discipline

I once heard that character is the ability to keep going with a plan once the initial enthusiasm has waned. That takes discipline and, good news, it’s a part of a balanced yoga practice, too.

Now is a good time to consider the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. For a more in-depth look at this, check out our blog post dedicated to this subject. For now, suffice to say that it is believed that the sage Patanjali wrote this body of work between the 2nd century BCE and the 4th century CE, and in them we can find an accessible lens on the philosophy, spirituality, and practice of yoga.

This is where we find a guide to the eightfold path or the 8 limbs of yoga, which can be described as:

  1. Yama (abstinences, social ethics, and morality)
  2. Niyama (duties, observances, and practices)
  3. Asana (physical postures)
  4. Pranayama (mindful breathwork)
  5. Pratyahara (withdrawing from the senses, turning inward)
  6. Dharana (focus)
  7. Dhyana (meditation, letting go)
  8. Samadhi (bliss, enlightenment)

Tapas is one of five elements of niyama, the second limb of yoga. Tapas is concerned with 

self-discipline, austerity, and drive. It could be translated as “to burn,” a passion that can literally fire you up.

While a strong pose certainly speaks to the tapas, you can cultivate this fiery self-discipline on and off the mat. 

Can you think of something that you should do because it would be beneficial, but you’re not doing it, because meh

It might be checking in with friends or family. Maybe it’s taking the time to cook meals from scratch to eat more healthily. These things could be placed under the umbrella of tapas. 

Pushing through and persisting with taking the actions to achieve your goals will make you happier and stronger. That’s tapas.

6. Compassion

This is something that you can enhance with your meditation and mindfulness practice, partly because becoming more compassionate starts with compassion for oneself.

Compassion is one of five components of yama, the first of the eight limbs of yoga. The yamas lead yogis to consider and practice abstinence and social ethics, of which ahimsa or non-violence plays a key role.

To live without harming living beings requires compassion. And it’s important to note that we are living beings, so we must not neglect ourselves when demonstrating concern and kindness. 

To cultivate your compassion and self-compassion, you’re going to need to listen to your inner voice. Our thoughts about ourselves are not always kind, so it’s good to check in with yourself and listen. We are often our harshest critics. What are you saying to yourself? And why? Is that really you speaking? Are you being kind to yourself?

As you use your awareness to tap into your self-compassion, you will be more capable of sharing that compassion and love with others. 

Compassion never goes out of fashion. This is a great way to practice yoga off the mat. 

7. Ethics

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali can help us think about yoga ethics. Yama contains yoga’s guiding moral principles.

Every day will offer you opportunities to practice yoga ethics.

In yama, we’ve already considered ahimsa or non-violence, living in a way that is in harmony with nature and those around us to avoid harming living beings. The four remaining principles of yama are:

  • Satya or truthfulness—this doesn’t mean being painfully blunt to everyone everywhere you go. It encompasses being authentic, so that your thoughts, words, and actions align. 
  • Asteya or not stealing—this doesn’t only refer to breaking and entering; it also means not stealing non-material things, such as others’ ideas, energy, or time.
  • Brahmacharya or moderation of the senses and self-restraint—this refers to conduct that manages cravings; the idea is to cultivate self-awareness and stay on the straight and narrow regarding your positive habits, goals, and spiritual aims.
  • Aparigraha or not being greedy and letting things go—this cultivates a balance that allows you to go through life without being too attached to people, material objects, and ideas. By detaching from things you no longer need, whether clothes or memories of experiences, you may make room for personal and spiritual growth.

The second of the eight limbs of yoga, niyama, provide ethical guidance in the following areas:

  • Saucha or cleanliness—this doesn’t only mean washing; it can mean letting go of negativity, impurities, and bad habits that don’t serve us.
  • Santosha or contentment—this encourages us to accept and be grateful for what we have.
  • Tapas or discipline—through tapas, you can develop your awareness of the burning passion, drive, and purpose within you; it’s up to you how you express this.
  • Svadhyaya or self-study—this refers to self-reflection and study and recitation of sacred yogic texts.
  • Isvara Pranidhana or surrendering to a higher power—this is about making the shift in perspective that allows a yogi to let go of the ego and self-importance in favor of a higher purpose.

Every day will offer you opportunities to live by these guiding principles. Considering your moral aspirations and practicing ethics throughout your day can deepen your yoga practice, illuminate the lives of those around you, and help you unify your mind, body, and spirit.

Yoga Is What You Carry With You

As we can see from yoga’s origins, the discipline isn’t meant to be restricted to a physical practice in a studio or in your home. A holistic yoga practice helps you connect with compassion, mindfulness, meditation, life energy control, and discipline. And you can do this within an ethical framework that guides you toward union of the mind, body, and greater universe. 

Yoga doesn’t begin when you unroll your mat. And it doesn’t need to end with savasana. You can carry it with you at every moment.


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