Sometimes we yogis miss very clear opportunities during our daily lives to take our practice off of the mat and place it firmly and prominently into our every day existence. It can be all too easy to become comfortable with how we view our practice and the world around us. Yoga provides a wonderful toolbox for us to use to continually hone the physical asana aspects of our practice, but even more importantly, the mental (mind) and spiritual aspects as well.
A potential hazard of the yogic lifestyle - and this is true for pretty much any skill that we work to acquire throughout the course of our lives - is the tendency to become complacent in furthering those skills. If we make the effort to live more consciously and mindfully become aware of our surroundings, we can discover that opportunities to deepen our yoga practice are around us at all times.
The key is in being able to not only notice them, but to capture and leverage them into activities that strengthen those parts of our practice that we would like to take off of the mat: equanimity, consciousness, awakening, and ultimately a more holistic way of being.
I know this sounds very "Yoga 101", but it's also one of the most important things that you can learn to consistently do in your practice. Why? Because setting an intention not only establishes a tone for the next 1-2 hours or so of your life, but it also it helps to channel and focus your energy for the rest of the day in the very positive direction that you set for yourself or others with your intention.
Days of positive energy channeling turn into weeks, weeks turn into years and years become your lifetime. With more and more use, these positive energy channels become deeper and more ingrained like the grooves in a old record. Before you know it, the theme of your life has been one of positivity.
One of my favorite intentions to set is simply to repeat the word "clarity" to myself because with clarity comes all of the answers, solutions and direction that my mind and spirit are subconsciously seeking. Just think, all of this goodness gained from the simple little practice of remembering to set an intention for your practice.
*Another option to setting an intention is to dedicate your practice to someone in your life, alive or not. Surround them with white light and energy and think of them often throughout your session.
Truth is, we meditate all day whether we know it or not. We meditate standing in line at the store, we meditate while driving, we meditate while folding laundry, we meditate during our morning shower...But often times, we miss out those little moments of stillness when our mind is not chattering like a little monkey at the end of a leash. It's important to learn to notice these small moments of peace and more importantly learn to cultivate, grow and expand them. These simple moments of stillness are like seeds being planted of a much greater consciousness that we are ALL working toward. Water them so that they will grow like vines that will eventually cover your house.
It's possible to recognize these moments by thinking about how you feel when you are mentally lost in activity that you enjoy - whether it be painting, sports, playing guitar, woodworking - or whatever it is that you do well. You know those moments where it's almost like something else takes over, your mind is clear and you can do no wrong (when you're "in the zone")? That's actually continuously happening to you throughout the day. Uncover these moments and build upon them.
The purpose of asana practice is to prepare the body (and mind, mostly mind) for meditation. That being said, it seems that with the current asana-mad Yoga explosion we are experiencing right now in the US, meditation doesn't always seem to get its fair play.
It's one thing to GO to a Yoga class 4 times a week, but in reality, your Yoga class should always be with you. Take as much...no, TWICE as much time to practice meditation and breathing techniques as you do your physical practice. Be dedicated, consistent and persistent with practicing and learning new techniques - just as you do for the physical parts of Yoga. You'll find very quickly that the physical practice will take a complementary and somewhat backseat role to the inner fulfillment that meditation and breathwork practices can bring.
Yoga has been growing in popularity among people of all interests and athletes of a diverse list of disciplines. The unique combination.