Is your yoga practice in a rut? Does it feel like you’re moving through asanas (poses) without joy, curiosity or excitement?
Does this sound like the beginning of a cheesy infomercial? Don’t worry, I won’t try to sell you any new yoga props. Also, I feel you! These ruts happen (and yup, they suck).
Throughout my yoga practice, I’ve learned the importance of dedication and going with the flow. But sometimes the flow can become monotonous, boring and just blah. Please don’t be tempted to go out and buy a funky new mat or ridiculously-priced leggings to beat the blah. Instead, explore these ideas and reboot your practice from a new direction.
How can you reboot a stale yoga practice?
If you’re like me, you enjoy practicing challenging asanas (poses). You go to class to connect to yourself through movement–and through sweat. While yoga can be a great physical workout, there are so many added benefits (and challenges!) to finding stillness.
Hold your poses for just one moment longer to relish in the feeling of wanting to move. Double your breath count in sun salutations. Sit still for a few minutes to focus on pranayama (breath) and meditation. Tune into times when you feel rushed (i.e. getting to class, fidgeting, savasana, leaving class).
Switch things up and add a yin class to your weekly regime to learn about your deep muscles and tissues. Experience the connection that comes from understanding your body’s structure on a deeper level. Or open yourself up to the mental and physical aspects–whether struggle or serenity–that can come from gentle and restorative classes.
Perhaps for you, yoga already centers on stillness. If meditation, pranayama, and gentle classes are already on your regular yogic radar, incorporate some new movements by trying a variety of classes. Flow through vinyasa classes; blend breath, movement, and focus in ashtanga; find an energy release in kundalini; get acrobatic with acro yoga; or create your personalized practice with vini-yoga. It may feel intimidating, but the key is to remain open. The journey is all about exploration–not perfection.
A great way to invite intention through movement is with mudras: symbolic hand gestures that guide and redirect your flow of energy. This intentional joining together of fingers is said to have a restorative, healing effect on the body. Plus, mudras can be practiced while sitting, standing, walking, talking–basically any time you can move your fingers.
Does your yoga practice generally consist of a rocking playlist? Mine does. While it’s probably best not to ask your yoga instructor to turn off the tunes, experiment with some silence during your home practice. Dedicate time to silent meditation. Repeat a mantra or words of encouragement as you move through your sequence. Or simply let your breath be your soundtrack.
Before you transition from silence to music, explore other sound options by tossing a mantra into the mix. Mantras are deep sound vibrations created through chanting. Whether or not you delve into the spiritual aspects of yoga, chanting focuses the mind on a sound to bring stillness to thoughts and calmness to breath. Try some mantra meditations to get started.
I’m not telling you to stop practicing forever. Take a week off. Maybe you’ve always wanted to try zumba or pilates or kickboxing but fell in love with yoga and haven’t looked back. I’ve felt the same throughout my practice (and especially after my intensive yoga teacher training). However, I’ve also felt countless benefits from stepping back and exploring other areas of interest.
While climbing an indoor rock wall, for example, I built strength and endurance by focusing on deep yogic breath. I gained a deeper understanding of the benefits of flexibility, body awareness, and proper alignment. And I definitely appreciated the restorative stretches of yin yoga afterward!
Again, I’m not suggesting you quit yoga. But, for me, taking a week off helped me discover the benefits of my practice in a whole new context!
Rebooting your practice is all about exploring the new. Get out of your comfort zone and revisit a beginner’s perspective. Check out that new studio, recreation center, or workshop. Go to that other teacher’s class. If you practice at home, check out community options. Bring a friend or go alone.
Do these suggestions make you feel uncomfortable? Good! All the more reason to try.