(If you would like to listen to this blog instead of reading it, here is the audio):
My Story: The time before I had to rebuild my yoga practice.
I started my daily asana practice back in 2007/2008. My main influence was the Ashtanga Vinyasa method. I instantly fell in love with it. What I loved the most was Mysore style, which is basically self-practice. I learned for about eight years primary (Yoga Chikitsa) and part of the intermediate (Nadi Shodhana) series. I followed the ‘traditional’ approach in Ashtanga Vinyasa. In other words: doing the same sequence, adding the poses one by one when given by my teachers during the Mysore classes. I practiced six days a week (except for new or full moon), taking led class on Fridays and enjoying rest on Saturdays.
Along the journey
During those eight years, I was travelling a lot and it was very difficult for me at times to meet my teachers so often. Therefor I really had to stick to home self-practice in order to keep ‘advancing’ in my asana. I am not sure how I managed to find the motivation to do it on my own…I guess it was my love for the method as I got so much from it. My love for Ashtanga took me to places like Mysore in India (KPJAYI institute), Bologna (Italy), Canary Islands. And after that came Thailand, where I have been living since 2015.
Then things changed
Towards the end of eight years in love with my Ashtanga, I started to get bored of repeating the same set of sequences every day. I found myself facing a big crisis regarding my yoga practice. I was (unconsciously) going through a huge grieving process because my motivation was falling apart. However, I did not know what was going on and how to move forward from this point.
Furthermore, I did not know anyone who was experiencing the same thing or at least, as far as I knew nobody was talking clearly or loudly about it. In addition, my yoga meant everything to me, it was a big purpose in my life and I was not ready to ‘let go’ of it. It was 2015 and I was also starting experimenting and incorporating other styles and disciplines into my daily routine. I found them very refreshing, interesting and joyful. For instances Vinyasa flow, pranayama, meditation, Yin yoga and other fitness and movement modalities started re-shaping things within my practice.
Transitioning into something new
Certainly, it took me a long time to shift and transition things. Today, I have incorporated many of those elements to my daily routine and I feel refreshed and glad that I allowed those changes to happen. I know now that the grieving process I went through was so necessary for the evolution of my yoga practice. Moreover I realized that my yoga is unique, just as everyone else’s.
We all have different interpretations of what yoga is and what it means for us and that is perfect. Personally, now I value working with some structure (this was helpful especially at the beginning of my journey). However, I understand that sometimes if I try to stick too much to a single lineage or to a set of ideas, my practice becomes dry. Subsequently it is so hard to find the motivation and the inspiration that I need to unroll my mat in the mornings.
I am sharing with you some of the tools that have been super helpful for me over the years keeping my practice fresh, joyful and evolving. I hope they help you too.
Tip #1. Find what gives you joy and follow that.
I know many long-time practitioners may disagree with me here with the argument that…
“If we just focus on how we feel and on what makes us feel good (body sensations), we will never gain the mental discipline required to ‘advance’ in our yoga practice”.
There is a part of truth in this statement (sticking to my commitment no-matter-what was key the first few years). However, I am a big believer that yoga is about liberation. I believe we could use the yogic tools to free ourselves from some of our mental patterns and impressions (aka samskaras).
Firstly, we probably have to stuck to our routine for some time (at least for a couple of years with daily self-practice). This will help us developing the inner fire (tapas) required to sustain our spiritual path (sadhana). We will certainly learn about our samskaras in this process. And then it is time to grow up!
Over the years we will experience every kind of emotion and feeling towards any postures/sequences we take. Our attractions and aversions (raga and dvesha) will be present. Please listen to them! Remember that a goal is to develop a healthy relationship with your own practice where the give and take between you and your yoga is balanced!
- What brought me into yoga in the first place?
- How long should I keep moving forward, sticking-to-my-practice-no-matter-what (tapping just on the mental, idealistic, rigid part of myself) and ignoring my bodily sensations (heartier, visceral, sensual, playful part of myself)?
Tip #2. Allow yourself to shorten your practice and/or to take a break.
Ahhhh….does it not sound liberating? I know, I know…you are also feeling so guilty about it right now as your mind is telling you:
“As a yoga teacher you should practice every day…”
“Yoga should be done uninterruptedly for a long period of time” (often the interpretation of sutra 1.14 PYS).
Here is my take on this. Yoga goes way beyond the mat. Our mat is merely a playground and a training but yoga happens every second of every day in life. Take advantage of this and take your practice beyond your yoga mat. There is a bunch of resources who inspired me during my ‘yogic crisis’ and some of them keep inspiring me today as my own yoga practice keeps evolving. Authors like Jack Kornfield and Jeff Foster or podcasters like J Brown, Shannon Crow and Chara Caruthers…or movers like Natasha Devalia , David Tilston or Nick Brewer. Inspiration is everywhere, go and find it!
- Where can I find yoga inspiration outside of my asana practice?
- How can I take my practice beyond the yoga mat?
Tip #3. Get ready to explore.
I love this…how many times have you heard about ‘the beginner’s mind’ concept? This is the time to tap into it. Remember how you felt when you were starting to fall in love with your practice? Find that again! Do it with other disciplines, styles or modalities and do not feel bad about it. The surprise might be that after sometime you may come back to your yoga practice refreshed, inspired and with a new set of tools that will make you feel richer.
- What do I feel interested about besides my yoga?
- If yoga did not exist, what would my spiritual practice look like?
Tip #4. Embrace the grieving process.
This is so important. Back in the days, when I was being disenchanted from my Ashtanga practice, nobody told me this…and I wish someone had done. I did not have the words or the knowledge to know that I was going through a grieving process and that it was important to let it happen. You are going through a transformation and so is your yoga practice. I know this is not an easy place to be and I talk a bit more about it in this article.
- If your yoga practice could hear you, what would you say to it at this moment?
- Can you have ‘a conversation’ with your practice and write or record that conversation?
Tip #5. Find a reliable person to help you.
Recognizing that we all need help at times is important and going through changes and a grieving process is not easy at all. However, working with a person or a group of like-minded people who has gone through that process before can help you ripen huge benefits from this time. Take advantage and find the hidden gold in this situation.
- Who within my circle do I know that can help me get through this?
- Am I ready to open up to vulnerability and commit to this process of transformation?
Enjoy your practice,
Thank you for the proofreading to my editors Marimentxu and Pichit.