What does it mean to live a Yogic Lifestyle?

If you've been practicing yoga for a while, you likely realize there is much more to it than the postures you do in your weekly yoga class. Maybe you've heard your yoga teacher talking about “practicing off the mat” or mentioning a sutra or Yama related to yoga philosophy. They have also hopefully referred to the fact that Yoga is a 'Union' or a 'Yoking of the Mind, Body and Spirit, and they may have spoken about how we can create this balance in all areas of our life.

In this blog, I want to help you unpick the actions from the vocabulary and see how we can easily weave the yogic principles into all areas of our lives.

 

Beginner students often think the poses and breathing is all there is to master in yoga class. Experienced yogis know that what we practice on our yoga mats, we can take to all areas of our lives. Not just the strength of the body but the strength of the mind also. The strength to find resilience, motivation, control and compassion to ourselves and others.  As students begin to discover the many different and profound aspects of yoga, they soon discover that yoga is a way of life. It can be astonishing to see how applying yogic principles off the mat affects our asana practice. There are many simple and easy ways to incorporate a yoga lifestyle into your daily routine that can deepen your yoga practice and add benefits to your everyday life.

Living by the Yamas from the Eight Limbs Of Yoga

The principles of a yoga lifestyle stem from Patanjali's yoga sutras, particularly the eight limbs of yoga.

The ancient sage Patanjali taught that asana practice (yoga postures) is just one of the eight aspects of yogic life. Moreover, practicing physical postures is considered less important than following the Yamas and Niyamas (the way we show up in the world).

The Yamas are ways that help us bring the best of ourselves to others. They help us show up in a way that is beneficial not just to ourselves but also to others and our communities.

Let's take a quick look at the 5 Yamas and how they relate to living a yoga lifestyle

1. Ahimsa (non-harming)

Ahimsa teaches us not to harm any other living thing (including ourselves) through our words, actions, and thoughts. So, a yogic lifestyle involves being compassionate to others, including animals. This is why many yogis refrain from eating meat or buying any product/service that contributes to animal cruelty. This also includes the choices that we make around reducing damage to the environment, such as reducing toxic overload and supporting organic producers.

2. Satya (truthfulness)

The second Yama helps us be more honest with others, which can improve our relationships. It also guides us to be truthful to ourselves, which is crucial to our self-improvement and overall well-being. Being truthful in the stories that we tell ourselves and understanding that our perception of an incident is just our perception and accepting that this may be different and equally valid for someone else.

3. Asteya (non-stealing)

This Yama goes well beyond stealing physical possessions that don't belong to us. When we apply Asterya to how to live a yoga lifestyle, we learn that this Yama is guiding us not to steal time or energy from others and not to steal from ourselves by partaking in self-sabotaging behaviors. This would also include the concept that spending our time in low energetic activities such as gossiping, non-healthy behaviours and criticising others, is stealing energy from ourselves.

4. Brahmacharya (energy control)

Traditionally, brahmacharya refers to celibacy, something ancient yogis would practice. However, in a modern yogic lifestyle, brahmacharya relates to abstinence, restraining from overindulging. When we apply this to our daily routine, we gain control of our urges and energy, allowing us to cultivate more energy and, thus, a healthy body and mind. If we engage in an activity that is not supporting our growth then we are losing vital energy from the mind and body. We need to be able to support activities that give us positive energy and not drain us. This would also include being conscious of the energy of the people that we spend time with. It is important to be around people that inspire us and lift our energy.

5. Aparigraha (non-attachment/non-greed)

One way we can practice aparigraha daily is with our eating habits. This Yama encourages us to make healthy food choices and eat in moderation rather than binge eating. A traditional yogic diet is clean and nutritious, easy on the digestive system, and eaten intentionally.

A traditional yogic lifestyle closely follows the Yamas and Niyamas and involves daily asana, meditation, breathing exercises, and other rituals. Yogis would lead simple lives and dedicate their time to improving spiritual well-being and connecting to their higher self.

A yogic lifestyle encourages a conscious shift in our approach to life and our outlook on the world around us. The intention of yogic lifestyle choices is to move towards a place of spiritual connection, unity, equanimity, and inner truth. Ultimately, we aim to infuse every moment with mindfulness and have every action stem from yogic principles.

Step into your yogic lifestyle

Leading a yogic lifestyle is something that is flexible and we can build on each day. It doesn't need to be a 'no fun' strict lifestyle.  You can make a few small conscious changes that can easily be incorporated into your day-to-day life. Start your yogic lifestyle off by making the easiest or most motivating changes for you. Several small changes will eventually add up and make a huge difference to body, mind, and spirit. Over time these choices will become natural and instinctive, and it will be easier to live the yoga way of life.

Here are some easy changes that you can start to bring into your life. Remember the key is in committing to the change and doing something every day towards achieving the yogic lifestyle.

  • Make healthy life giving food choices
    A yogic lifestyle means taking care of your body by making healthy life giving food choices. The easiest way to do this is to increase your intake of vegetables and eat more fresh fruit. You may want to consider a vegan diet or another plant-based diet. The first Yama is Ahimsa and this translates into non-harming. So we want to start thinking about how our food choices impact the life of others and our environment. Our food choices should cause the least amount of suffering for other sentient beings. We also what to think about really reducing our toxic overload by buying organic fresh foods and trying to eat within seasons.

  • Hydrate properly
    This is very basic, but are you getting enough water? Drinking 8 glasses of water a day may seem like a lot, but it’s the best way to keep your skin and body healthy. Drinking water also helps wake up in the morning and keeps you going throughout the day. Adding sea salt to your water has many valuable health benefits and aids hydration. High-quality sea salt has 84 trace minerals that nourish and strengthen our body. We used to be able to get enough minerals from the food we eat. However, with monocropping and improper farming methods, our soil has been depleted of these essential minerals and doesn’t provide the nutrients to our food like it used to.Contrary to popular belief, sea salt is extremely beneficial in keeping us hydrated. The amount of nutrients in sea salt also satisfies our thirst for a longer period of time and keeps us holding on to the fluids for longer.Table salt, on the other hand, dehydrates us and actually leeches essential minerals from the body. It also makes us crave it more because our bodies are in need of nutrients that it wants in natural sea salt that cannot be satisfied by processed table salt.
  • Establish a regular yoga practice
    A dedicated and frequent practice of yoga is essential to support and fuel all of the various ways to infuse yoga into your daily routine. Your body is designed to move, it does not like to be static. Yoga each day helps us keep the connective tissue supple and healthier. It helps us to move the lymphatic fluid throughout the body and flush away the dead cells, stopping accumulation around the lymph nodes. It frees up the new fascia fibres that we produce each day, keeping our muscular system freer. And when movement and breath are in harmony, we create a healthier oxygenation system that is vibrant and not sluggish. Ten minutes every day does make a difference.
  • Stay active
    Your daily asana practice can lead to all kinds of health benefits, including better sleep, better circulation, heart rate, blood pressure, and better range of movement, muscle, and balance. But also we need to think about our daily habits. Could we walk rather than take the car? Could we move around the house or office a bit more rather than staying seated? Could we fit in a weekly swim, bike ride or trip to the gym? Remember our bodies are designed to move!
  • Practice meditation
    If you’re new to yoga, you might find meditation tricky at first, but remember it is a 'practice.' Try five or ten minutes of meditation before your morning yoga session to put you in the right mindset. Or try after your yoga to wind down, and get you ready to face the day with a clear head. A daily meditation session is ideal to ensure a steady level of peace and tranquility throughout your day. When we wake in the morning try not to reach for your phone and get lost in social media or emails. But simply take some deep breaths and ask yourself how you want your day to unfold. Focus on what you would like to achieve with calm smooth breaths.
  • Use natural health and beauty products
    Slowly shift away from highly commercialized products towards purchasing more organic, cruelty-free items. Try using aromatherapy oils as a fragrance and using simple natural ingredients in beauty products. Using natural and organic products will minimize your body’s use of energy to process out toxins. Toxic overload can be the cause of a weakened immune system, hormone imbalance, brain fog, weight gain, cancer, and infertility. Sadly, many foods, cleaners, skincare, haircare, and nail care products are what cause a high toxic load. Each time you need to replace a product, either for your skin, hair or home, choose a healthier option and buy organic with natural aromatherapy oil fragrance. You are also supporting others who are on the same path when you purchase their products.

  • Minimize waste and consciously consume
    Examine how your purchases, including your yoga pants and yoga mat, affect the planet’s health. Reduce your consumption whenever possible, and recycle as much as feasible. Try to buy your clothes and yoga props from conscious manufacturers who use eco-friendly materials and processes....and remember to wrap your precious skin in natural organic products that are not harmful to you or the environment.
  • Reduce stress and find relaxation
    Every time I read this I say to myself 'this should be the first change' because it actually is the most important, but maybe the most difficult. But quite simply.... STRESS IS KILLING US......and Stress will ruin your best attempts to create a calm and conscious yogic lifestyle. It’s no secret that stress can wreck your emotional well-being, but chronic stress works quietly behind the scenes to wreak havoc on your physical health, too. Prolonged exposure to sources of stress can quite literally make you sick, and the effects on your body can be life-threatening if left unaddressed. Even in the short term, stress can have detrimental effects on your body. Left unchecked over the course of years, however, chronic stress can lead to conditions that are extremely serious.Short-term physical effects of stress include:

    • Headaches, or other aches and pains. Changes in your circulatory system can cause distress in all areas of your body. Stress-induced muscle tension can also lead to muscular aches.
    • Digestive or intestinal distress. Studies have shown that stress changes the way your gastrointestinal system processes food, and chronic stress can also cause changes in appetite.
    • Insomnia or other sleep-pattern disruptions.
    • Fatigue.
    • Changes in sex drive.
    • Increased susceptibility to infections. The stress response impedes the immune system, increasing the chance that you’ll get colds or other common infections.

    Over the long term, the cumulative effect of these smaller problems can produce chronic conditions, including:

    • High blood pressure
    • Heart disease, heart attacks or strokes
    • Diabetes, obesity or eating disorders
    • Impotence or other sexual dysfunction
    • Gastrointestinal conditions such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, or other inflammatory bowel diseases.
  • So if you want to practice Ahinsa....start first with your stress reduction.  Give yourself ample opportunities for complete relaxation, and make sure to incorporate stress-reducing yoga exercises like yoga nidra and Shavasana pose.
  • Create a positive and mindful social life
    Social media and office politics can be draining and energetically disrupting. It’s surprising how much negativity you can let slide in your social life without even noticing. Since yoga is all about being more mindful and conscious of your daily life, it is important to create a more engaging, supportive, healthy, and positive social circle. Let go of toxic relationships. Cultivate positive interactions by making eye contact, complimenting others, and practicing kindness. Look for other ways and opportunities to be a positive influence on those around you.

  • Be true to yourself
    Personal honesty and accountability are key to living a more mindful life. Continuously check-in with yourself to make sure your actions are congruent with your values. Make personal vows to study and incorporate the Yamas.  Make an effort to be generous, kind, compassionate, and honest with yourself. Always aim to be true to who you are and content with what you have. To develop mindful habits, you’ll need to work on your mind. Avoid negative self-talk to keep yourself positive. Take time to be with yourself. Try a daily gratitude exercise or journal reflection before going to bed or waking up. This can help you de-stress and learn to see more positive thinking better overall mental health. And one of my daily mantras in business is looking at my students with the aspect of ....what can I offer you....not what can they give me. I get very sad when I see yoga teachers and studios viewing their students as 'theirs', and becoming possessive of them. As yoga teachers, we don't own the sacred yogic teachings, we are there to pass these teachings to others...our students are not a business commodity. So when we make business decisions it is important to think about being of service and that in turn will create the energy of abundance.
  • Declutter and clean
    Mindfulness is about the mind, body, and spirit, but it’s also about taking care of your space. It can be tough to cultivate a daily practice of meditation or yoga in your home if your house is dirty and too full of stuff. A minimalist approach to your home decor can help you focus and be present on what’s important. Instead of buying things you don’t need, think more about what’s essential for your lifestyle. Make sure to declutter regularly, and remember to donate unused items rather than throwing them out!
  • Create a yogic home environment
    The surroundings in your home affect your mind and spirit. Begin to notice how the colours, textures, and placement of furniture relate to your inner being. Choose to decorate mindfully and simply, incorporating calming colours, and pleasing lines. Keep things around that promote a healthy and relaxed environment, including green plants, scented infusers, crystals, candles, and a few great art pieces you really love.

 

 

Living a yogic lifestyle is not just about doing your morning poses and mastering mindfulness with meditation. A well-balanced and mindful lifestyle requires a whole-life approach. It does take commitment and motivation but the benefits to you are those around you are amazing.... absolutely worth the effort.
Photos by, Wendy Hero: Pexels. Audrey Badin: Pexels. RF._. studio: Pexels. Ella Olsson: Pexels. Monstera: Pexels. RDNE Stock project: Pexels.