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National Yoga Awareness Month!

Beyond the Mat


September is National Yoga Awareness Month (you all knew, right?). I decided that my purpose for this blog is to share with you how to add yoga into your personal and work life. One of the easiest ways to do this is by making some simple environment modifications.

First, let me give you a quick bio. I am an Occupational Therapist and Yoga Instructor. When I added Yoga Instructor to my resume in 2014, I never could have dreamed of the doors it would open, my life would be changed forever. I started this journey when I led a gym session for my students who have a diagnosis of autism. (I was not a yoga instructor yet just practicing yoga in my daily life). One of my job responsibilities included creating a theme for each monthly gym session. One month I chose yoga as the theme of the month. The immediate feedback from the students was enthusiasm, joy and peace. The verbal and non-verbal students both clearly communicated pleasure in a variety of ways. I knew as an OT, I had to bring yoga into my student sessions regularly and pursued my yoga certification. Fast forward five years and I learned yoga means more than performing the perfect pose. The joy the students displayed in my yoga sessions were equally rewarding as the physical benefits. The aroma of lavender in the air, the soft music playing, and the calm tone of my voice all contributed to the smiles and active participation I saw in my weekly classes. . I consider the environment part of the sensory experience of yoga, not just the poses.

In 2015, I realized it was my obligation to share the benefits of yoga and mindfulness with others who work with children. Teaching “Integrating a Brain-Based Approach to Using Pediatric Yoga and Mindfulness” for Summit has allowed me to share the good news and hopefully transform schools, day being present on purpose. Therefore, yoga and mindfulness unite the mind and body to be present on purpose. I propose by incorporating sensory activities into daily activities and yoga sessions you can create this unity. So how have I taken yoga beyond the mat in my own daily life? If you walked into my office, you would notice the lights are dim and it smells of pumpkin. This sensory experience is part of my personal yoga practice. This is what I refer to as “Beyond the Mat”. I am off my mat and as I type my OT evaluation sitting at my desk however, I am experiencing all the joys of a yoga practice and the sensation of calm that a yoga session brings. To demonstrate this further I will share a story from a teacher. Her student was very upset, and she did her best to calm the student verbally. Then she recalled the weekly yoga class her student attends, where the student has often stated that she enjoyed the lights off in her yoga session. The teacher decided to dim the lights in the classroom and immediately witness a sense of calmness in her student. Consider the sensory element of yoga in your personal life and facilitate the experience in your treatment sessions with students and clients. First, identify what sensory experiences works best. For example, I enjoy my sense of smell. You may identify a different sense for bringing you calmness. Next add your sensory activity into your life. Here are a few examples which are easy to do and budget friendly:

spray lavender in the air of your office, dim the lights in your office, put up holiday lights, place a weighted blanket on your lap as you sit in front of your computer, hang a poster with a picture of a preferred setting next to your desk, choose and afternoon snack that reminds you of happy memory.

As my favorite time of year approaches, the smell of pumpkin will surround my office. Think about the places you spend a good portion of your day and make changes to create a new sensory experience for yourself or for the individuals you work with. After all, yoga goes far beyond the mat. Happy Yoga month. Namaste to you all!

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