The physical applications of this are obvious and you can be as creative as you want! Practice tadasana while waiting in line at the bank. Try your triangle pose (utthita trikonasana) when you get home from work and you feel a bit stiff. Use parsvottanasa (standing nose-to-knee stretch) to stretch out your hamstrings before a hike or a walk. My personal favourite (as my housemate will testify) would be Warrior III while brushing my teeth!
But the asanas are only the beginning. So I want to refer back to my last post about balancing energy, and bring the theory off the mat. We don't only benefit from having balanced energy when we practice our physical Yoga, but being aware of your energy and balancing it in your everyday life can have a positive impact on ordinary situations.
As an example, let's imagine Yogi Jane, who is facing a difficult situation at work. Her boss calls her into a meeting and lays on her a huge task, that will require immense time and resources, that has to be done yesterday, that will require her to drop what she is doing and work around the clock to get it done. Even though she privately thinks that what he is asking is unreasonable (it makes her stomach churn!), she acquiesces. As she drives home that day, she thinks about the task ahead and her stress level rises. When she gets home, her housemate Sarah asks her how her day was, and Yogi Jane explodes into a long tirade against her boss and this task he has set her. No matter how Sarah tries to comfort her, Jane's stress levels don't abate. Finally, Sarah's patience is exhausted and she heads to bed. Jane is left feeling unsatisfied and negative, and her stress keeps her from sleeping well.
Sound familiar? Now let's look at the situation from an energy perspective. When Jane acquiesces to her boss despite her reservations, she is using only softening energy - bending or complying to the situation. The 'hard' or muscular energy in the situation isn't dissipated - and it turns into stress, which then overflows into stress, and impacts other situations in her life (her relationship with Sarah). The imbalance between Jane's softening and muscular energy causes her to experience the situation negatively, and she ends up the worse off for it both professionally and personally.
So, what could Yogi Jane have done differently? Imagine that when her boss comes to her with his demands, Jane takes a deep breath and activates her muscular energy - her willpower. She actively resists the instinct to give into her boss' demands. This has an instant physical effect - making her posture stronger and more self-confident. Instead of agreeing immediately, tells her boss that she thinks his proposal is unreasonable. Then, she balances this resistance (her muscular energy) with some soft energy, and proposes some alternative scenarios that could achieve the objective within the time and resources available to her and her team. Together the two of them come to a compromise that meets both of their needs. Coming home to her housemate Sarah, she shares the story of her problem and how she resolved it and then the two relax into a nice quiet evening.
Perhaps this is oversimplified, but the concept remains. Just like in each and every Yoga pose there are areas that need muscular energy and areas that need softening, the same can be applied to situations we confront. Different contexts require different balances - but learning to apply the right mix of 'hard' and 'soft' energy to the situations in our lives can help us bring the mindful, calming influence of Yoga off the mat.
Practicing 'tiny yogas' - applying the principles of Yoga to an action or an activity in your day, is a rewarding way to begin exploring the path of Karma Yoga - Yoga by action, if you will. In the next post, I'll explore this concept more fully and also touch on the fundamental precepts of the 'Yogi code of ethics' - the guidelines (do's and don'ts!) that Yoga lays out for how to live a fulfilling life.