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5 Tips for Relaxing When You Can't Do Yoga

1. Breathe. We forget this. Breathing long, deep, yogi breaths can happen anytime, anywhere. Inhaling allll the way up from our belly, into our chest so our ribcage expands, even up to the roof of our mouth. Then our exhale drops down, all the back down to our bellies. This kind of breathing comes naturally to us when we let our nervous system relax fully. And--bonus--when we adopt this kind of breathing we help our nervous system relax.

2. Walk with intention. Anywhere we go, we can make the trek into a walking meditation. Using our senses as we walk is a classic yoga meditation practice. Tune into what you can see, or hear, or smell, or feel, or taste as you walk.

3. Move your body. It doesn't have to be asana. Any kind of mindful body movement will help us by-pass our monkey mind and get outta our head. Even simple hip circles can be enough to help our intention and attention drop away from whatever our mind is caught up in--usually planning, rehashing, or fantasizing.

4. More than mantra. Sanskrit mantras resonate deeply on a physiological level--affecting our metaphysical self. Reciting bija, or seed mantras directly related to the chakras, can be a powerful way to bring a deep sense of balance and radiance from all our energy centers. Here's the list of them, moving from the base of our spine to the space between our eyebrows in the middle of our head:
- Muladhara/Base of spine: Lam
- Svadisthana/Pelvis area: Vam
- Manipura/Navel: Ram
- Anahata/Heart centre: Yum
- Vishuddhi/Throat centre: Hum
- Ajna/Between the middle of the eyebrows: Om

5. Expanding our definition of yoga. Yoga is often mis-defined as the physical postures we practice on our mat. In yogic philosophy powerhouse Patanjali's path of yoga, asana is third in a list of 8 branches that lead to union. The intention of yoga is samadhi, or a union with the whole--the greater, good, and wonder-full. And we practice asana to help us ease into this. Any physical movement that helps you ease into a feeling of unity with yourself, others, the world and the universe will do. Dance. Ride your bike. Martial arts. Tai Chi. Breathe and move mindfully. Let go.

p.s. My friend and mentor Swami Maheshananda Saraswati from the Bihar lineage of yoga in India teaches this, too. During a retreat we were assigned the task of a walking meditation into the town we were staying near. We made it there to find a live concert in the park by Oka--video of their stuff below. The shot of me and my friend Pam dancing with the crowd is from his camera. He loved that we dropped the walking and made it with the music.




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