Yoga can be amazing and relaxing, transforming and uplifting, but if you practice long enough, you may eventually find yourself in a yoga rut. So, what does this yoga rut look like? Well, one indication that you’re in a yoga rut is that you find your practice reaching a plateau, or even regressing. Perhaps every time you step on the mat it just seems like more of the same, every vinyasa feels like you’re just going through the motions…. Stand up, fold over, lift half way, plank, chaturanga, up dog or cobra, down dog, blah, blah… Or perhaps you simply no longer notice any improvement in your practice from week to week. You can’t help but feel uninspired, so what should you do?
Start by Getting Back to Basics
Many yoga students measure their progress in terms of how well they can do the so-called “advanced” postures. For example arm balances, handstands, and deep backbends. In the beginning you can make tremendous progress in these poses, and with hard work you’ll notice major improvements from week to week. Eventually you will stop coming along in such leaps and bounds and the changes will be barely noticeable, this is not a bad thing, but it can be slightly disheartening when you are used to such tangible changes in your practice
So what’s the solution? Here’s an idea: Instead of always looking to take your practice up a notch, try going back to basics.
So instead of thinking of yoga postures as something to master and then check off, approach each pose or sequence as a unique opportunity to explore.
When you are going through your nine millionth vinyasa sequence focus on the details of each pose within it:
- In tadasana feel you’re hips square, your shoulders drop, your fingers reach up
- In uttanasa, really be aware of your hips rolling forward and your sitz bones pointing to the ceiling
- Instead of jumping back into your chaturanga step back into the plank, becoming aware of your alignment – chest forward, shoulders elbows and wrists all stacked
- Lower slowly into your chaturanga keeping your elbows tucked in as tightly as you can to protect your rotator cuffs
- If you always come into up dog, explore cobra and vice versa, feel your heart lift and open in these poses
- As you press yourself back in to the familiar down dog, feel your navel pull into the spine, imagine your hips being pulled as if by a string to the ceiling. As you settle into the pose again become aware of the alignment in the pose, Spread the fingers and ground down from the forearms into the fingertips. Outwardly rotate the upper arms broadening the collarbones.
The sense of discovery that emerges from this approach can be pretty amazing, and if you really commit to revisiting the basics, you’ll start to see all the tiny imperfections (or nuances) in your practice. And now you have a whole new playground to play in. The results might not look as cool as jumping up into a handstand. But they can be just as rewarding, if not more so.
Explore Other Aspects of Yoga
Yoga is more than just poses. One of the easiest ways to work yourself into your yoga rut is to forget this simple fact. A good start is to begin to explore the broader aspects of yoga including yogic philosophy and lifestyle, pranayama (breath work), mantra chanting, relaxation and meditation. Radiance Yoga has many classes that emphasize yoga philosophy, breath work and other practices that go beyond the physical asana. One easy way to explore this is to take one of our free Yoga 101 classes. In each of these monthly classes you will learn a little background of the particular style of yoga the class is focusing on, the proper and safe way of getting into specific poses and be guided through yoga breathing techniques. There will also be some time allocated at the end of class to ask questions. After these instructive and fun classes you will have the basic knowledge of a beginner’s yoga class that will help you feel more comfortable in continuing your own journey!
Other ideas to consider for reviving your yoga practice are:
Take a Workshop – Workshops are intended to be inspiring, informative and transforming. They are led by expert teachers who will share their knowledge of a particular style, technique, or approach. A workshop will help you enhance and further your practice by enabling you to become thoroughly immersed in a single subject or technique over the course of an afternoon, a weekend or a series of weeks.
Try a Different Style of Yoga – If you always take the same class (or even the same teacher) try and mix it up a little. For flow people consider slowing down with a meditation or yin class or change it up with jivamukti, for those who only ever do gentle or restorative yoga why not try a kundalini class. Break out of your routine! Yoga 101 classes are a great opportunity to dip your toes into a new style of yoga.
Read Books (Yoga Philosophy, Yoga-Inspired Novels, etc) – Yoga is great for stretching the body and mind, another way to stretch our minds is through svadhyaya or self-study. One easy way to do this is to read. Sometimes you just need to get off the mat and immerse yourself in a good book and fortunately, people have been writing books about yoga for thousands of years—and no matter what your question, someone probably has addressed it in writing somewhere.
So if you’ve become stuck in a yoga rut, instead of becoming disheartened and wandering away from yoga, or quitting altogether, it’s helpful to remind yourself that the yoga practice is a lifelong process. And, as with any process, it evolves over time. Sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes it’s hard. Once you overcome the internal challenges, anything is possible.