Something I love about the yogic system of wellbeing is that we can apply it to every aspect of our lives.
That means taking yoga off the mat and into our routines of daily life.
But how do we actually do that?
We take care of our bodies. We keep our spaces clean. We choose with awareness the food, water, thoughts, and ideas that come into our beings. We cultivate kindness. And we utilize those master teachers and practitioners whose awareness has expanded enough to pass on universal truths of living well by inviting them into our lives.
Whether it's physical health, emotional wellbeing, or spiritual evolution that we seek, we can take simple, effective tips from the yogic system to work towards sustainable, lasting change.
Here are 5 that you can do today (and every day) to start living like a yogi.
1. Scrape your tongue.
Time allocated: 10 seconds
That old adage, cleanliness is next to godliness, illuminates the importance of purification in the yogic path. We use a system of kriyas* or purification techniques as a guideline for purity and cleanliness in the body and mind. Have you ever noticed how much better you feel after taking a shower? How you feel revitalized, fresh, awake? That is the feeling that kriyas offer us at different levels of our being when we incorporate them into our smaller routines.
One such kriya is tongue scraping – a method that takes about 10 seconds and little effort, but produces refreshing results. Scraping off the layer of waste on the tongue each morning before brushing the teeth helps to strengthen the immune system, detox the body, and remove the quality of lethargy.
Scrape the layer of gunk off the surface of the tongue by gently pulling the tool from back to front, rinsing, and repeating as needed until the thick white/yellow layer is gone. Follow up by brushing the teeth.
2. Make your bed.
Time allocated: 5 minutes
Purpose: structure, discipline
To make your space pristine – organized, calming, clean – is to make it an invitation for the best things in life to come for a visit. How do you prepare your house before having a dinner party? Or when a beloved out-of-town guest is coming to stay the night? Exactly. A meditation teacher once offered this advice: maintain your space as if the Buddha were coming over for tea.
How would that look to you? How would it feel?
The physical spaces in which we spend our time have tremendous effect on our minds, our energy, our habits. Maintaining a clean, organized space promotes a clean, organized life, body, mind.
A practical way to start is to make your bed every morning. Do so consciously, even slowly, with tremendous care. Make this a routine, and notice the gentle shift of chaose into stability and structure.
3. Eat for nourishment.
Time allocated: 20 minutes per meal
Purpose: Body-mind connection
There is a saying: an enlightened person eats when hungry, drinks when thirsty, sleeps when tired.
Like so many things in life, it’s simple in theory, and complex in application – complex in that we have so many tactics in modern life that dull our body-mind communication and awareness. The pace of modern life also contributes to the challenge: there’s this belief that the successful person eats expensive food, drinks coffee for daily fuel, and sleeps, well, just not that much.
There’s also this: sometimes we eat for comfort or out of boredom, drink poor quality or artificial beverages, or can’t sleep due to anxiety or a disturbed mind.
When we listen to the body and what it needs, then honor that need, we re-establish the connection with the body as supreme intelligence. We also establish trust: a trust that tells the body it can heal, because it will be offered what is needed in terms of basic things like food, water, and sleep.
That saying from above hints at the wisdom of being able to listen to what the body needs, and respond accordingly.
Because eating food is a part of our daily life, it’s a perfect place to start.
Try this: next time you sit down for food, ask yourself, am I hungry? If you’re not hungry, acknowledge sensation you are feeling: perhaps it’s boredom, sadness, excitement, stress, fatigue. There’s no need to judge what comes up: just notice it.
If the response is yes, I feel hungry, take a moment to ask what you feel like eating. Finally, during the meal, eat slowly. Sit while you do so. Try it without picking up the phone or responding to emails. Stay with the process of eating.
4. Do something kind for someone else.
Time allocated: varies ; )
Purpose: connection, compassion, perspective
I took a course of study at the Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute some years ago, and became interested in the theory of Tibetan Medicine. An approach to healing interwoven with Buddhist practice, it made sense that the antidote, according to TM, for depression and a slew of other diseases was coming out of the mind state of self-cherishing.
Thinking altruistically and carrying out small acts of kindness is scientifically proven to change the map of the brain. Compassion effectively shifts one from the agitated mind-set of “me-me-me” to that of openness, connection, and well-being.
It doesn’t take joining the Peace Corps or neglecting one’s needs or that of the family’s. Start small. Give an elderly person a hand with their grocery bags. Treat your friend to a coffee. As you’re standing in line at the bank and the person in front of you is clearly distressed because they’re in a rush, cultivate the wish, May you be happy.
5. Read a book with high vibes.
Time allocated: 10 minutes
Purpose: Expanded awareness, embodying high values
There is a semi-secret about books that many yogis know, and that is this: when we read a book, we are not just taking in the text, the ideas, the pictures. We are plugging into the energy of the person who wrote it.
The same goes for being in the physical presence of an enlightened being: our conscious mind gobbles up what they say, while our subconscious mind – the mind-body vibrations that house our patterns and deep-rooted belief systems – resonate with that person’s energy.
Have you ever walked into a room and instantly felt uneasy – like there’s something about the vibe that doesn’t feel right? Or perhaps (hopefully) you’ve had an experience where you find yourself around someone and just feel really relaxed, upbeat, well?
That’s you picking up on the person’s energy.
When I’m having a particularly tough day, when I need to lean on someone who understands so much more than I do about life’s mysteries, tragedies, and suffering, I go to spiritual books. I take care with what I read because by opening those pages, I welcome in the person’s ideas, experiences, and energy.
But here’s the thing: you don’t have to wait until things are tough to tune in.
Start with 5-10 pages a day, perhaps before going to sleep, of a text you feel called to. Perhaps How to Love by Tich Nhat Hanh, or the Four Noble Truths by the Dalai Lama; it could be Sadhguru’s Inner Engineering or Prem Baba’s From Suffering to Joy: the Path of the Heart. Allow this book to become a friend on the path, a place you can go once a day to sit with the truth.
After some time, notice the shifts that start happening as you not only learn about their virtues, but embody them in everyday life.