“Taking Yoga off the Mat”

“Taking Yoga off the Mat” by Jacqualine Haller

Founder & Director of Jaya Yoga Centre Toronto, voice/creator of Jaya Meditation and The Global OM Movement. 

It is a time of change. We are coming up to the end of 2018 and I think at this point, we can all agree there is a lot of change and movement happening around us. You just have to turn on the news to see it in our world, or maybe it is happening for you personally or professionally.  Some of it can be unnerving and some of it can be exciting. There is a sense of things falling apart and yet falling together at the same time.

In a yoga class, we often speak about the practice of taking yoga off the mat. But what does that really mean?

What is a Yogic Code of Conduct?

When you come to a yoga class, you move through postures that are designed not only to make you feel good, although that is a wonderful by-product, but each posture has a purpose.  Combined together in a sequenced yoga class, those movements help us to let go of the stuff we are holding onto and help us see ourselves differently.  Through this experience, we are able to build greater self-awareness in how we behave and what we project in the world.

How we behave in the world makes up our world.

Taking our yoga practice off the mat means many things. It means we let go of our need to be right. It means we give others the benefit of the doubt and acknowledge that potentially our perspective might be limited. It means we take accountability for our actions, our misunderstandings and the words that we say to each other.

It means that we are aware of our ego and that when we act or behave from a self-serving place, damage can be done. It means that as we try to strengthen our internal self-awareness, we share that self-awareness in the world.  We are humble enough to understand that the way we perceive things, may not actually be the way they are. We are inclusive of each other, and we give others the benefit of the doubt.  We extend grace. We do not hide behind our own insecurities or worst yet, act from them.

It means we stand in truth.

How is it that we come to our yoga mats to drop our worries, our cares and our “stuff” to then walk out of the yoga room and get right back into the way we were because it is comfortable, or we are used to it.

As students and teachers of yoga we work towards identifying when we are triggered, and then hopefully choose not to react from an emotional place.  We work towards moving forward from a place of calm and understanding. We work towards compassion for others.  We work towards being awakened in our own self-awareness to minimize causing confusion and damage to those around us.

In one of my favorite yogic texts, “The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali” (Translated with a commentary by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood), there are practices shared that help move us through our conditioning, our ideas and judgements about ourselves and the world around us, and onto a clearer and more pure way of being in this world.

The Yama’s are what Yogi’s consider the ethical and societal guidelines for the practicing Yogi.  They are there to remind us about our compassionate nature as human beings, and our generous and honest yogic code of conduct.

Ahimsa – abstention from harming others
Satya – abstention from falsehood
Asteya – abstention from theft
Brahmacharya – abstention from incontinence (self-restraint)
Aparigraha – abstention from greed

We are all works of art in motion. I would encourage everyone reading this blog to take their yoga and meditation practice into the world.  We sure could use more self-awareness around the way things have been happening and we all contribute to that no matter how big or small our circle of influence is.


Jacqualine (Jaya!)