The joy of tantra is that our practice isn't constrained by the rigidity of a traditional yogic lifestyle. We are 'householders' - people who are in and of the world. Like you (I'm assuming), I'm not a a monk or a renunciate living in a cave, so I have the pleasure of being able to find divine union everywhere and in everything. But somewhere between the complete wildness of tantra, and the boundaries and discipline of the yoga sutras, is a balanced yogic life that (for me) feels free and spacious, yet contained and grounded. I've by no means mastered this balancing act but sometimes I feel like I've found something that feels pretty bloody good! I woke up and didn’t meditate or 'do yoga' today (something that at one point in my life would have made my feel like a very #badyogi), so I thought I’d share eight ways I stay in yoga even when I’m not downward dogging.
1. Hold a stranger’s gaze and give them a smile. Some of you will know that I really like this one and it has on occasion resulted in stranger’s wondering whether I want to sleep with them or murder them. But eye contact is a powerful way of feeling connected to other people and it counteracts something we all get a lot of during the day, which is people averting their gaze right before your eyes meet – not good for our spirit! Acknowledge and bless each person you encounter today.
2. Give something up. Maybe for the whole day. Maybe just for a few hours. It could be a habit like biting your nails, or a certain food. It could be coffee or your phone or Instagram or even just a thought that you’re gonna do your best to keep at bay. No need to judge it as good or bad, just be curious, choose something, do your best to commit to it, and notice how it feels. This will bring a little more intention to the day and start to build a little bit of disciplined fire in the belly that will make other structured activities flow more easily.
3. Do something new. Listen to your Spotify discover weekly and find a new song you like. Walk a different route home. Eat lunch in a new spot. Delight in the newness. Bonus points for getting lost (physically or metaphorically).
4. Forgive somebody. Choose being free and happy over being right. Find something to love about that person or a way of understanding their actions at that time. Make space in your heart to include them and their choices, knowing that you, too, make mistakes and hurt people.
5. Honour your food. Before you eat or drink, silently give thanks for what you’re about to receive.
6. Ok this one arguably is ‘doing yoga’, but - breathe! See if you can inhale and exhale for equal lengths of time. You want to feel your belly and chest expand when you breathe in and completely empty the breath when you exhale. 10 conscious breaths is less than 0.05% of your day.
7. Listen to somebody with your whole body. When someone calls you or engages you in conversation forget everything else you were doing and be there. Hear the tone in their voice, feel their presence, breathe and try not to think about what you’re going to say back. We speak with so much more than just our words and we can hear with more than just our ears.
8. Light something on fire. Preferably something like an incense stick or a candle. I also like to write lists of habits I'm ready to release or thoughts I've had enough of thinking and then set the paper on fire. Fire connects us to our personal power and reminds us of the beauty in death and destruction.
I hope you find a sigh of relief in this new eight limbs and that yoga is, perhaps, a little more achievable today than you may have thought.
Om Shanti, yogis.