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Yoga and I have been together for almost 20 years. It is one of the longest relationships I have ever been in. Like most relationships, it has had its ups and downs.
We have had honeymoon periods where I couldn’t get enough. We’ve also had our low periods, where I’ve felt resistant and resentful. Yoga has healed me—and it has hurt me. I have grown in incredible ways, and I have endured long ruts where it seemed like I was doomed to be “stuck.” But, through it all, I stay committed. I’ve learned how to fall back in love over and over again, because the longest-lasting and most meaningful relationships in our lives are not usually the most exciting ones. They are the ones that have endured it all—the good, the bad, and the boring.
What to Do When You Lose Your Love for Yoga
I cannot count the number of new students who discover yoga and start coming to class multiple times a week at first. It is close to the same number of students who burn themselves out right out of the gate and are never seen again. Remember that song we talked about? Sure, it sounds good the first 200 times—but then it becomes “over-played” and you find yourself doing everything you can to never hear it again. Our relationship with yoga is a marathon, not a race. We want to sustain a practice over our lifetime, and that takes patience.
If you hit a plateau—a point in your practice where you feel like you are no longer improving—it can be tempting to jump ship. Please do not give up here! This is normal. In fact, this is the juicy stuff. This is where you will learn perseverance, and where you will start to grow and evolve on a subtler level than the physical. Like a romantic relationship, the honeymoon may be temporarily over (we’ll talk about rekindling that flame in a moment), but this is where true intimacy is developed.
Wherever you might fall on this spectrum of falling in—or out of—love with yoga, know that like a reliable partner, yoga will always be there for you. The relationship will not always look the same on the surface, and thank goodness for that! It will evolve as you evolve. Stay with it. Keep practicing. And try one or more of these tactics to help you fall back in love with your practice, over and over again.
Learn a different aspect of the practice. What we know of as yoga in the western world is just the tip of the iceberg of this incredible practice. Many of us are drawn to yoga through the physical postures, but in time we start to recognize the subtler benefits, such as stillness of mind and deep connection. There are only so many poses and so many combinations of sequences, so it is not unusual to start to crave more. When your physical practice starts losing its luster, try going to a meditation class or pick up a philosophical book on the subject. There are a multitude of layers to our consciousness and innermost being, and learning in a different way can show you a whole new aspect of yoga—and yourself.
Spend some alone time together. Not getting what you want in group classes? Take matters into your own hands. The body is incredibly intelligent, and when we can get out of our own way, it will tell us exactly what we need. A lot of students tell me they blank out when trying to do a home practice. They tell me they can’t remember the sequences or what to do. I invite you to throw out needing to know and instead, just move on your mat. If we think of the basest definition of yoga as union, being with yourself and connecting to your body is yoga! So what if you lay in Savasana for 20 minutes or only do Warrior II on one leg? This may be just what your body needs. By creating space to let your body do its thing, you are also cultivating flexibility.
Get help. Most people in successful relationships have sought support at some point. It helps to have an objective third party to come in and see things from the outside to give new perspective and guidance. In the case of your yoga practice, the same is true, which is why I urge practitioners to consider taking a private lesson. I have to admit that it is impossible for me to keep an eye on every student in my group classes 100 percent of the time, and I am an incredibly hands-on teacher. Working one-on-one gives me an opportunity to tailor the practice to my student’s specific needs. A private with your yoga teacher can help you identify specific areas where you can focus, and even provide you with a map for the home practice we talked about above. Even doing one private every few months can have a lasting impact on your practice.
Consider seeing other teachers. We can only grow as far as the teacher we are studying under. This is why it is imperative to study with teachers who are continuing to learn on their own mat. Let’s get clear here that this is not encouraging “studying around.” It is hard to gain traction when jumping from teacher to teacher, and many new students make this mistake when they start practicing. Instead, try studying under a few different teachers for specific, yet prolonged periods. It can be incredibly educational. Sometimes, when we feel like we are in a rut with yoga, it is not the practice that we have outgrown, but that particular teacher. This is a natural element of evolution. And many times, we return to our original teacher with a new perspective and appreciation.
Buy your practice something special. Do you remember when you were a kid and shopping for school supplies actually made you excited for school? There is something about getting new gear that gives us extra incentive to practice our hobby. It is not just about upgrading, but also about energy. If you have been practicing on the same mat for the past 10 years, perhaps it is time to shake things up a bit and have a fresh start. Maybe it’s time for a new mat, or a pair of yoga pants that aren’t pilling. When you feel good about yourself, it changes your energy—and may just excite you to get back out onto your mat.