Why Your Yoga Practice Feels Lackluster
I hear this ALL. THE. TIME: "My yoga practice just doesn't feel like it used to." "There's no joy in it anymore." "I don't know where the magic's gone." "Getting on my mat seems like just another obligation these days." Can you relate?
It seems like hitting the doldrums phase in yoga practice is pretty universal (I've certainly felt this way too). Most students take this as a signal to step back, take a break, or try something new instead of yoga. But I have a different response entirely. Let me explain...
When I decided to become a yoga teacher, about nine years ago now, I chose this path as a real commitment. I made a promise to myself that I would stick with yoga through thick and thin for the rest of my life. Sounds a tad dramatic maybe, but it's true! See, I was disillusioned with the office work I was doing at the time (does anyone really like punching a time clock and sitting in a cubicle most days?) But even more than that, I was pretty freaked out by the fact that the career path I had chosen - the international non-profit work that I thought was my dream job - had lost its appeal after only three years of work in the field.
It felt like getting married only to find within the first couple years of living together that you picked the *entirely* wrong partner. Oops.
So when I started looking for a new line of work, I was determined to find something that I could deepen into it for the rest of my working days. Something that could grow with me, that could be flexible, that would allow for the full range of expression of my humanity and my curiosity. Nowhere felt more like that space than my yoga mat, so I took a vow to love and cherish yoga always, and off I went to my training.
I'm not saying that everyone has to treat their yoga practice as they would a marriage, but I can tell you that in choosing to do so, I've created a totally different relationship with my practice than if I'd treated it more like a casual fling.
Just like in any relationship, the biggest benefit of true commitment is that I've been willing to keep going when the going gets tough. So when the initial starry-eyed infatuation wore off and boredom, indifference, and tedium started to set in - I didn't use those feelings as an excuse to turn away from yoga. Instead, I used them as a prompt to turn inward and ask myself some pointed questions:
- What exactly do I feel like is missing from my practice?
- Is there anything specific about the way I'm practicing that contributes to this uninspired feeling?
- What unhelpful habits that I notice in other areas of my life are sneaking onto my yoga mat?
- What do I want my practice to feel like and how can I create that feeling for myself?
Instead of taking a step back from my yoga practice, I took a step forward into inquiry. I invested in the relationship instead of withdrawing.
When I did, I learned a TON about how I could use my practice in a way that was both nourishing and interesting to me. I began to be completely absorbed in practice again. I clarified a lot of my own thoughts about how modern yoga is taught in the West, what's often missing from the "yoga scene", and the prevalent approaches and attitudes towards yoga that I need to cut out entirely for the practice to feel authentic to me.
I also grew as a person in ways that I didn't know I needed. I was forced to examine my own patterns of thought and behavior that were keeping me caught in the same old circuits. I developed clarity about the inner changes I wanted to make and my yoga mat became my own personal laboratory and sacred space to experiment with new ways of being. I allowed myself to try and fail and keep showing up even when I felt discomfort and resistance. I was more consistent than ever before because I finally was clear in myself about WHY I was practicing.
(By the way, even though the last paragraphs are written in the past tense, this is and will always be an ongoing, never-ending process. And I love that!)
So if you're on that barren plateau - if your yoga practice is feeling more lifeless, predictable, and drab than provocative, pleasurable, and engaging - I encourage you to stay the course.
You can start by asking yourself the questions I listed above. I'm tempted to share some of my answers with you, and maybe I will in future posts, but I'm going to hold off for now because what I know for sure is that my answers won't be your answers. Nor should they be. This is about developing your own dynamic relationship with your practice, not copying someone else's. (Hint: this was one of my answers!)
Stay engaged, don't check out, and I wish you all the best on your journey!
PS If this sounds like the kind of revamp you need in your current relationship to your practice, this is EXACTLY the kind of material we'll be diving into at my Fall Back in Love with Your Practice retreat with Gilda Goharian coming up soon, particularly in the second week. The dates are November 27 - December 3 (only one space left!) and December 3 - December 9. For more information, prices, and to register please see the webpage here: https://www.aliciawatersyoga.com/advancedpractice
PPS There's a sale going on for the December 3 - 9 week that's not advertised on the website. If you book for just that week, it's £100 off. If you book for just that week with a friend, it's £200 off for each of you. Just mention the sale when booking. It's going to be inspiring, inquisitive, refreshing magic!!