Finally getting into that difficult pose you've always wanted to do is a great feeling, isn't it? Finding yourself in a perfect Sirsasana or Kakasana and holding it for more than a few seconds gives every Yoga practitioner a wonderful sense of achievement!
But is this really the most important part of a Yoga practice? And how else can Yoga be practiced and proactively incorporated into your everyday life?
An aspect as important as asana and pranayama practice is that which you do off the mat – and it's the part of practicing Yoga full time that regularly shies away from the awesome Instagram photos and Facebook posts.
One aspect of this off-the-mat practice is how Yoga can affect your relationships. This isn't just with yourself – it's with your family, friends and co-workers. Even that stranger on the street who bumps into you because they're too busy looking at their phones!
The most important change you will notice once you start a regular Yoga practice is increased patience. This can be an increase in how patient you are with yourself when that Tree Pose you normally nail doesn't work for a couple of days. It could be an increased patience with and understanding of your boss who decides he/she is going to yell at you today.
This increased patience also means you will be a lot more detached from what the river of life brings your way. It gives you the ability to accept and let go of things when they don't go your way, even though it's very easy to stomp and shout when those things are important to you. It's an understanding that other people react to the daily stresses in their lives in different ways – and that not everyone has Yoga to help them handle things.
Patience is such an undervalued concept, especially in this day and age where more value is placed on speed and "now, now, now". True, Yoga teaches us to focus on the present moment, but not at the expense of how we treat both ourselves and others (and that's not just humans too).
This is why it is good to step back and ask yourself: How do I want to be with myself and others? How do I bring Ahimsa (non-violence) into my daily interactions? And what does that Ahimsa even look like in that context?
This is where the concept of mindfulness becomes an important part of your practice. Like patience, mindfulness is also an undervalued practice. And yet, it helps you face head-on all of life's difficulties. But, instead of dealing with them with drama, you're instead reacting with compassion and understanding.
Think of it another way, and on the mat this time. In asana practice, you're always being mindful of how your body and mind are reacting to the postures you flow through. You're always asking yourself how you are reacting to each pose, and if a pose isn't happening this time, you relax just a little bit. The same can be said of taking Yoga into your daily relationships.
It's not about clobbering your other half just because he/she has left a trail of dirty dishes, dirty laundry (or anything else) lying around the house. Yoga basically teaches us just to relax and accept that what winds us up may not cause the same effect in other people. The practice shows us that, whatever others may do, we still have an energy connection with everything around us. It's more or less up to us to get over ourselves and feel that energy connection no matter what we might be feeling (and the heat of one's temper can always be cooled down!)
So instead of reacting with anger the next time someone does something a bit sketchy, Yoga helps you to step back and just breathe – because breath is the cooling element. Just as there are days when you have your own battles to fight, this is the same for everyone else. Combining the understanding and compassion of mindfulness and patience, you can easily release the tension.
At this stage, it is also good to bare in mind to disconnect with your idealism and the reality of both your emotional needs and the mind field of interactions. It's true that not everyone may practice Yoga. But bringing Yoga practices into your daily life can substantially help you avoid many of the pitfalls of daily life!