Many, many years ago I had a realisation. (I’ve had a few since, but this was a big one.) If I wanted to have a long term relationship with yoga, we needed to have some ground-rules.
Ever since I first stepped into an Ashtanga class because I wanted muscly arms like Madonna was sporting at the time (true story), yoga and I have had some turbulent times together. The more time we spent together the more I realised that this stuff was making me feel good (most of the time). I fell hard and fast, as one does in a relationship which rocks ones world, so it was inevitable that as much as I loved my practice, I was going to end up hating it too.
I fell off, then back on, the yoga wagon more times than I can remember. As things were getting intense, or I was finding stuff hard, it was much easier to find ‘work commitments’ or ‘pub commitments’ which got in the way of my weekly class.
Plus there were times when I felt like I wasn’t living up to the kind of person I felt yoga expected me to be. (See ‘pub commitments’ above for an example.) I wasn’t practicing every day. I wasn’t super-bendy. I liked drinking wine and eating pizza. I enjoyed having a social life. I didn’t want to have to change my life off the mat to feel like I ‘deserved’ to be on it.
And, if I’m honest, sometimes I just got bored of it. I knew the practice inside and out. I couldn’t face the sinking feeling of that first “Ekham; inhale…” knowing everything that was still to come. Our spark had gone.
Luckily I eventually fell back on the wagon. I realised that I missed yoga too much for us to totally break up, but the only way that we were going to stay together for the long-haul was if we made some compromises. For a start, I needed variety and excitement. I needed to find how to get back on the mat, and start enjoying it once I got there.
I always say to my students that any amount of yoga is better than no yoga. So if you need to do as I did and get creative in ways to help you find a way to fall back in love with your practice again, do it. And don’t feel guilty about it. All of the best relationships have their rocky patches; ultimately it’s what makes them stronger. Maybe you can try some of these ideas?
Do it differently.
I lose track of the number of ‘new’ types of yoga which pop up seemingly every week. Whilst there’s always big debate about what constitutes real yoga, I’m not picking that scab right now. Anyway, the good news is that there’s always something new for you to try. If you love it – great! Maybe it can be you new go-to practice for a while. If you hate it – great! Maybe it will send you back to your usual practice with new insights or even just a new appreciation for it.
Do it at home.
There’s a lot to be said for taking your practice into the privacy of your own home. With some quality alone-time together you can really delve into elements that you enjoy, or that you find particularly challenging. There’s definitely a different energy when you create your own space. You can go as fast or slow as you like, with the added benefit of no traveling, no whiffy changing rooms, and no pressure.
Do it with other people.
Here’s the flip-side; if you only ever do your practice on your own think about getting social and taking it to a group setting. Again, you’ll get a whole different energy. Especially if you’re experimenting with a new dynamic style there is something undeniably goose-bump giving when you get a room-full of people breathing and bending at the same time.
Do it with music.
In my head I am always totally ready to be in the next series of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. In the mirror the proof is very different. However – adding music to the experience of moving your body can add a whole new way of engaging your senses and stimulating your practice. There’s no judgement here; whether you want to bust out your salabhasana to Steps; bakasana to Bon Jovi; or matsyasana to Mozart. Find what delights your ears and moves your spirit.
Do it al fresco.
(If you live in the United Kingdom there will be a window of approximately 2.5 hours per year when the weather is perfect to allow this.) Even if you don’t want to give your neighbours a show, there are ways and means to finding a nice outdoor space where you can breathe and bend. Or even just sit and breathe if you’re feeling a bit self-conscious about the whole thing. With an uneven base on which to find foundations, so much to see, lots to hear, and gentle breezes to enjoy, you can transform your practice into a multi-sensory delight.
Do less of it.
There’s a phrase that says ‘a change is a good as a rest’. And it can be true. But sometimes you need a rest; end of. So if your practice is taking more out of you than it’s contributing consider taking it down a gear. Perhaps you want to consider why you need to do your practice every day; and if it’s a genuine need or an addiction. Everything in moderation – even the stuff that’s good for us.
Do it with just one person.
If you’re finding that group classes are leaving you feeling more frazzled and frustrated than stretched and soothed, perhaps now is the time to invest in some 1-2-1 lessons; or 1-2-2 if you have a friend who would like to share the experience. Private tuition is a whole different experience, because your teacher can create a practice in response to your precise needs. Whether it’s working on a specific family of poses, re-finding your flow, or addressing issues from an injury, a private lesson can add a whole new dimension to your time on the mat.