We all know that the only way to realize the deep benefits of yoga is by doing it consistently over a long period of time. But do you ever have a period of time when your mat just isn’t where it’s happening for you?
If not, more power to you.
But if so, you’re like most people who practice yoga. Even the most advanced practitioners of yoga – or of any healthy activity – hit the doldrums sometimes and don’t feel practicing. And what do you do when this happens?
We asked our teachers this question, and their answers – beautiful, inspiring, and very different – may be helpful to you the next time the wind goes out of your yoga sails.
Yoga is such a passion of mine…I read, eat and sleep yoga. But every once in a while I feel like all I do is say BLA BLA BLA and I get sick of talking about yoga and listening to “yoga talk” I may wake up and think I will never do another yoga posture, breath, meditation again.
When that happens to me I just stop and take a nap or a hot bath and simple breathe in this darkness. I take residence into myself and see “what’s happening now”. This is faith. This is the time that I really live my yoga. Am I taking care of myself? Am I honoring my boundaries.
This may last for a day or two and with self-reflection and honesty I heal, learn, and move on. I get back on my mat and find my joy.
I try to let my mind (and to a lesser extent, my body) dictate what form my practice takes on a given day. Just as there are times when I feel called to the mat, there are times when my desire is not strong enough to bring me to my mat for a physical practice. At these times I will often simply sit or lie on my mat in meditation to see what arises in my mind. Sometimes I do reach the point where physical practice beckons; other times the meditation becomes the practice. If that’s the case, so be it. My practice follows yoga’s broad spectrum, in that some days it might be a short yin practice, others, a long energetic practice, or at times it’s meditation without a physical component. I trust my mind and body together to inform me of what they need each day.
I have to be honest… If I don’t practice my pain in the body accelerates to burning, pulsating sharp constant surges, and the next day I have a structural misalignment that takes longer to adjust. This keeps me in a regular self-practice, not just going to class. My body and breath remain more fluid by rediscovering my practice each day.
For me yoga is a commitment and a discipline. When I don’t feel like practicing, I tell myself how good I’m going to feel after I do practice. I know that the yamas and niyamas, asanas and meditation makes me a happier person and alleviate the difficulties that life sometimes brings. By connecting me to what is true, my Source, my essence, my authentic energy, practicing them makes me feel more calm, peaceful, and happy. If I don’t do this, I go off the rails much more easily. So I do it!
When practicing feels like a far reach for me, I scale back my expectations. Practice simply laying over a bolster, a yin posture or savasana to begin. Sometimes that ignites a pull toward a fuller practice and sometimes it is just enough for that day. My tendencies off the mat are to set high expectations for myself and that can, at times, stifle my intentions. I try not to let that happen with my yoga practice.
I’ve been practicing yoga for almost 19 years, and there have definitely been times when I am have been more intense or committed in my the physical asana practice than others. After my son was born, I actually felt so stressed that I couldn’t find the time to practice. I was totally in the “hurry up and relax” mode.
When we are truly in our practice it’s not just about the physical practice. It also includes, meditation, pranayama and self-study. In fact whenever we live with the intention of acting and speaking from the heart we are practicing yoga. So on the days when I find it difficult to come to the mat, I give myself the opportunity to try just for a few minutes of asana. Sometimes that’s all I need to kick start a full practice. Other times I give myself the space to experience yoga on a walk, or in meditation, or in a meal prepared from the heart for my family.
I think the reason that I’ve been practicing so long is that I try to remain open to all the different aspects of yoga and ultimately give myself the freedom to experience yoga in all of its forms.
I do yoga for two main reasons: commitment and curiosity. Being a naturally committed kind of guy, I usually don’t have a hard time getting my body to the mat to do something. But when I get there, sometimes it’s really hard to bring any energy or intensity to my physical practice. When that happens, I often “go restorative,” doing long and comfortable poses. Of course this is physically restful, but I what I really love about it is the opportunity to focus my efforts exclusively on observing the experience of having a body. It’s like going spelunking… there’s my mind with its little headlamp, looking around in the darkness, learning, taking in the deep silences, and coming closer to what seem to be the clear subterranean springs of my life. And that is almost always a very cool experience, whether I felt like “doing yoga” or not!