We all embark on a yoga journey with enthusiasm and good intentions, but over time, feelings can wane and we may get stuck in a rut. Perhaps you began with a strong physical focus; you felt driven towards mastering advanced postures, but now they’re losing the thrill. Or perhaps your practice was a meditative one and you loved learning techniques to prompt a deep experience of stillness, but now restlessness is creeping back in. Like any long-term relationship, a yoga practice has its ups and downs.
Even the most dedicated practitioners hit plateaus, where their practice no longer feels inspired, fun, or fresh. What we do during these rough patches makes a big difference in helping sustain our practice over time. Here are seven tips to recharge your routine:
Say you’re an athletic, structure-loving yogi who enjoys yoga with vigor and flow. You religiously attend classes throughout the week and feel confident in each posture, but lately you’re a bit burnt out by sun salutations and warrior sequences. It’s natural to fall in love with routine, and set sequences definitely provide a sense of structure and predictability.
Why not add a gentle yoga class to the mix, such as Yin, Restorative, or basic Hatha? They offer slower, deeper holds in each pose, and more floor postures than the typical power yoga class. On the other hand, if you typically avoid classes labeled power, flow, acro or hot, shake up your routine with a faster-paced class that will help you build more strength. Practicing various physical practices forces us to recruit different muscles and helps us achieve greater strength and flexibility. Whether energetic or relaxed, new sequences are sure to keep your focus fresh.
2. Move Your Kundalini
Most physical forms of yoga follow similar Hatha basics. But the practice of Kundalini yoga, established by Yogi Bhajan, is dramatically different than other forms. Focused on the movement of energy through chakras—energy points—to facilitate cleansing and clarity of both body and mind, a Kundalini practice can help you enter a meditative state with more ease. Known for simple yet repetitive movements, the surprisingly intense and challenging breath work makes this class a lot of fun and a great workout as well.
3. Make Some Noise
We all know how good it feels to move our bodies through yoga postures, but exercising our voices through chanting can also be incredibly liberating and fun. Don’t worry, you don’t have to know Sanskrit or be a good singer to chant.
Sounding mantras invokes the positive intentions they hold, and helps us align internally through the movement and vibration of our vocal chords. This is a great way to clear the mind of repetitive or negative thoughts, or to shift away from feeling down. For those who find meditation challenging, chanting can be a great bridge practice to help you find inner peace, all the while making joyful sounds.
4. Bring It Inward
Eventually, all roads of yoga lead to meditation, as it is the pinnacle of the eight-fold path outlined in the ancient text, the Yoga Sutras. But if finding stillness is not yet a part of your practice, take basic mediation classes to learn some techniques to quiet the mind. Like chanting, the technique of Japa writing—the repetitive writing of mantras—helps relax the mind, as does pranayama energy management through breathing or visualization. Experiment with a few, then settle on one technique to practice for a consistent period of time. The state of deep stillness that is dhyana (meditation) does not come easily for most of us who focus outwardly all day. But meditation is a helpful lifetime tool worth learning—a resting place within yourself—and a portal to experience the true “Self” towards which every yoga practice directs us.
5. Invest in Training
Yoga teacher training programs are no longer just for those who want to become teachers. In-depth training can help anyone delve deeper into his or her practice, as well as understand the broader view of yoga. Many studios offer 200-hour programs, which give you an overview of the history of yoga, a basic study of the human anatomy, and an understanding of yoga’s various forms.
Teacher training inevitably boosts self-awareness, and may even spur interest in a yet-undiscovered layer of your practice. If a months-long training is not an option, yoga studios and wellness centers typically offer a myriad of yoga workshops ranging from advanced pose classes to nutrition and philosophy.
6. Take it Personally
While group classes are great for amassing energy and basking in the feeling of community, private lessons can help you hone in on the specific areas of focus you seek. Private instruction can also help you modify your practice to accommodate injuries or other physical and emotional challenges.
With one-on-one guidance, you can expect posture adjustments that open your eyes to new depths, layers, and sensations. Not only is it refreshing to have your postures tweaked, but it’s comforting to have a guide who can answer your questions as well. Seek out an experienced teacher you trust, who has a solid background in his or her own personal practice.
7. Move It Off The Mat
Ultimately, yoga goes beyond your mat and your physical practice. The asanas (poses) are merely the bridge to your unified state of being—the true yoga. In order to take your practice off your mat, try studying the Yoga Sutras, with a focus on the ethics guidelines of the yamas and niyamas.
These teachings remind you to orient yourself back to a feeling of “wholeness” through adapting qualities such as truthfulness, peacefulness, and dedication. Try adhering to one rule per week, and see how many ways you can apply it in your life.
The yamas and niyamas can be carried throughout the day, while you work, play, create and, relate. When you commit to living with a yoga sensibility “most of the time,” your practice knows no end.
Plateaus and ruts happen, but boredom is primarily tied to a lack of creativity, or a fear of change. So if you sense a stall in your practice, remember why you started, how far you’ve grown, and be introspective. Take time to reevaluate your intentions, and seek guidance from a yoga teacher.
With some authentic self-reflection, you’re likely to determine the edge you need to continue expanding in your practice, as well as within yourself. Let your heart guide you to forms of yoga that uplift your spirit and fulfill your body. As long as you show up with an open mind, yoga will always meet you where you are. Enjoy the journey!
By Jennie Lee
Jennie Lee is a Certified Yoga Therapist who has spent two decades coaching people in the healing tradition of classical yoga meditation. She is also the author of two books – Breathing Love: Meditation in Action, and the award-winning True Yoga: Practicing with the Yoga Sutras for Happiness & Spiritual Fulfillment.