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How Practicing Yoga Off the Mat Can Transform Your Life

Some who practice yoga will simply show up for a class, get the physical benefits, and be on their way. But those who practice yoga off the mat experience real transformation.


You might be familiar with the core principles of yoga, or the eight limbs of yoga, which serve as a compass for living a meaningful and purposeful life. The poses you practice, or asanas, are one of the eight limbs. The breath, or Pranayama, is another. Yamas, or the ethical considerations to help guide interactions, also contribute to the eight limbs.


Certain beliefs accompanying the practice of yoga should be utilized within all facets of life, and not merely confined to class. By studying the Yamas, it’s possible to use the philosophy of yoga to transform our actions, words, and thoughts.


practicing yoga in a studio

Stop Stealing From Yourself and Start Practicing Yoga Daily


The third of the five Yamas is Asteya, which translates to non-stealing. To practice Asteya, we must understand the subtle aspects of its meaning, which go beyond the superficial meaning to abstain from taking things that are not yours.


Envy, jealousy, greed, and desire for what others have prevented us from rejoicing in not only what we have but also what others have. The practice of Asteya is refraining from looking outside ourselves to other people, things, and situations to make us happy and fulfilled.


In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Asteya does not mean merely not to steal. To keep or take anything which one does not need is also stealing. We are not always aware of our real needs, and most of us improperly multiply our wants and, thus, unconsciously, make thieves of ourselves. One who follows the observance of Non-stealing will bring about a progressive reduction of his own wants. Much of the distressing poverty in this world has risen out of the breaches of the principle of Non-stealing.”

practicing yoga for strength

Below are common ways you are stealing from yourself: - Wishing you could have the same thing/ability/skill as somebody else. - Holding onto prejudices or judgments. - Worrying about the future or brooding over the past. - Living only in your comfort zone.


In each of these examples, we are stealing from our own ability to be happy or expand. To practice Asteya is to live a fuller, deeper, and more honest relationship with life. Asteya enables us to enjoy our innate beauty, the vastness of life, and the perfectly imperfect reality of the moment.


Moderation Is Key


The fourth Yama, Brahmacharya, states that when we control our physical impulses of excess, we attain knowledge, vigor, and increased energy. There are many different interpretations of Brahmacharya; the translation I feel is most relatable today is moderation.


Practicing mindfulness and moderation are the keys to controlling impulses and directing our energy in more positive ways. Brahmacharya is about providing your mind and body with what they need—and enjoy—without going to a place of excess.


Both courage and will are needed to break the bonds that attach us to our excesses and addictions. What does Brahmacharya look like in practice? Listening to your body, setting limits, and looking for balance are ways to incorporate moderation into your lifestyle.

practicing yoga at home

We’re all guilty of overindulging from time to time. But when we pay attention to what our bodies are asking for, we will naturally live in Brahmacharya. Living outside our means can also be considered living against Brahmacharya.


There are many ways to live your life in moderation. What elements of your life might be considered excessive? From working too much to overeating, to over-reliance on technology, we all have room for improvement.


For the workaholics, remind yourself to work to live and not live to work.

Those who want to lose or maintain weight should make mindful food choices and be cautious of extreme restrictions that often lead to failure.

Finally, understand that excessive use of technology can negatively interfere with interpersonal relationships.


Letting Go


The fifth and final Yama is Aparigraha, which urges us to let go of everything we do not need. Practicing this principle of non-attachment can be very freeing and can open you up to fresh ideas, new relationships, and more harmonious ways of living and being.


To practice Aparigraha, you need first to identify that which you may hold on to too tightly.


This can be anything from a physical item to a relationship or negative belief.

beautiful black and white shot of someone practicing yoga

To let go of physical possessions, you may want to try the KonMari Method, which encourages you to keep only items that speak to the heart and discard items that no longer spark joy. The act of hoarding material possessions weighs us down with not only physical but energetic baggage. The more we have, and the more we become attached to, the more we worry about losing these said possessions. By ridding things from your past, you make room for better things to come in the future.


Practicing self-care and forgiveness are also ways to incorporate Aparigraha into your daily life off the mat. When you nurture and center yourself, you can allow others to be who they need to be. Free yourself of painful memories by offering forgiveness to those who have hurt you and to yourself.


Identify and let go of the “I’m not enough” thoughts. We all have them, and they sneak up in different ways. The belief that we’re not enough is often rooted in fear. This negative thought can be disguised as the following:

“I don’t have time.” “I’ll do it, but I really need to do this first.” “I’m just waiting for the right time.” “There’s too much going on right now.” “I haven’t had the right opportunity yet.” “I would, but…”


When you catch yourself amid these thoughts, remind yourself that you are enough, you can do more, and even if you fail, you will learn a valuable lesson. Aparigraha allows us to fully live in this world without being attached to people, things, or thoughts that create suffering.


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