Do you remember the first time you did yoga and thought, what is this magic that’s happening? If you continue into a long-term, lifelong yoga journey, and especially if you undertake any kinds of trainings or workshops towards teaching yoga, you’ll likely find yourself searching for the spell behind that magic. What’s its source? How can I recreate it at will? At this point in my yoga journey, I have been delighted to learn (and continue learning) that the magic of yoga bubbles up from many sources. Every small component that goes into the movements and experience you have in a typical yoga class is a portion of the magic. And something especially liberating and transformative can be transferring much of that magic, that transcendence, into the rest of your daily life: yoga off-the-mat, as it can be called.

Some great places to start can be, as many yogis put it, releasing “things that no longer serve you.” I love the “no longer” part, because it’s so forgiving. I have a cynical side, and I can find myself tempted to believe that things that don’t serve me now probably never did, but crept into my life due to my vices: laziness, selfishness, carelessness, vacillating self-esteem, so on. But there is another way to look at it. I’ve heard therapists talk about the parts of the self, and how some of the “negative” parts might be there to protect other, vulnerable parts of us. That’s a way to understand the forgiveness and truth inherent in the “no longer serving us.” It’s harder to get rid of a bad habit if we get tripped up being mad at ourselves for having the bad habit in the first place. There needs to be a period of acceptance and calm assessment of it, a befriending of the bad habit, before we can move it into the waiting room to board the ship to then leave our lives.

So, pick a habit that’s no longer serving you. Think about when the habit tends to rear up. What are its triggers, its favorite times of the day, week, its favorite situations? Try to be gently reflective about the habit as it approaches, and then try repeating a mantra that you’ve prepared for the occasion, along with some breathing and perhaps separation from society, or the triggers of the habit. The mantra “I am not my thoughts” can be a powerful one, or, if you prefer a positive spin on it, “I am peace. Peace is in me” (or any positive, neutral, universal-connection type word can be substituted for “peace” there).

This week I’m taking on my stubborn, patterned reaction to small communication mishaps with my spouse. It’s a small thing but pernicious habit that definitely no longer serves me. I won’t judge myself, and I won’t get mad at myself. I will try breath and mantra. I will try to let the magic work.

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