Many people talk about “Yoga off the mat.” It’s likely you’ve heard the phrase. It comes from the idea that Yoga consists of the physical practice of stretching and moving in to and out of body postures done on a sticky mat. When lessons learned from doing the physical postures are taken into the world, then that’s what some people refer to as “Yoga off the mat.”
But this entire idea is mistaken.
Although it’s true that the postures are a part of Yoga, they are only a tiny part. In fact, thinking that these postures are all of Yoga is like thinking that kneeling in church is all of Catholicism. Just as Catholicism is infinitely more than kneeling in church, Yoga is infinitely more than postures.
The heart of Yoga is meditation, and the goal of Yoga is Self-Realization. Other parts of Yoga - postures, breathing practices, ethical/moral practices, emotional purification, mantras, prayer, a vast philosophy and brilliant psychology - are all meant to support meditation so that one reaches the goal of realizing the true nature of yourself and of all life.
So, when you hear the saying, “Yoga off the mat,” understand that most of Yoga is off the mat. It’s fine to generalize lessons learned from postures to help you in your life, but don’t stop with that. Dive into the vastness of the great spiritual science of Yoga.