I often think of my yoga practice as being a lot like a relationship. There is that rush of falling in love when all you want to do is get to another class, go deeper into the philosophy, and attempt a new pose. I can remember when I first started getting serious about yoga; I was taking hour-long courses every day of the week and sometimes even going to two types in a day. It was passionate and intense.
Years later, my practice has evolved past those initial feelings of falling in love. Part of that evolution has definitely included plateaus, times when my practice started to feel stale, or when I took more than a few days off. If your yoga practice has plateaued, read on for several ideas to bring back the magic.
Take a Break
In yoga classes, our teachers often remind us to listen to our bodies. If your practice has started to feel stale, maybe it’s because your body is trying to tell you something: that you need a break. Consider taking a few days off from the physical practice of yoga and allow your body to rest. This is a great time to explore the more mental and philosophical aspects of yoga, such as the yamas and niyamas. You might find that after a few days off of your mat, you are once again eager and excited to return.
While a break might work for some yogis, for others, staying consistent in your practice through a plateau might be a better option. One of my favorite sequences, when I’m not in the mood for a longer course, is from the Jivamukti tradition. It’s called “The Magic Ten,” and it’s a series of ten postures that is an abbreviated but complete practice.
When I don’t feel like hitting my mat, I’ll still challenge myself to complete these ten postures. Just a heads up that it includes a handstand. I chose to practice a modified shoulder stand there instead. Find any short series that you can turn to on days when you feel less motivated in order to stay consistent during a plateau.
Try Something New
Variety is the spice of life, they say. Perhaps your plateau is due to some boredom and a lack of challenge. The solution? Try getting to a new class, visit that studio that just opened up down the road, or practice with a different teacher. It’s amazing what a unique style of yoga can do for you.
If you are typically drawn to more rigorous physical classes, challenge yourself to a therapeutic class. If you usually opt for gentle yoga, perhaps ask your teacher if they think you are ready for a more physically advanced class (though remember always to honor your body). We are lucky to live in a time when most of us have access to several yoga studios in our local area and have a ton of yoga options online. Please take advantage of it!
I have this one yoga friend who I can always count on to get me motivated. She’s super active and does some physical activity every day. When I’m stuck in a rut, I text her and ask her what her plan is for the week. Find a motivated friend and ask if you can tag along this week as a way to hold yourself accountable when we make plans with friends; social energy is a great way to break up stuck energy and hold ourselves responsible.
One of my favorite ways to break a yoga rut is to travel to a yoga retreat. An increasing number of yoga studios are also now offering both local and international yoga retreat trips. Start saving that extra change and make a plan to take your yoga on the road.
Finally, if your yoga practice feels like it’s turned on cruise control, one of the best ways to shift that energy is to deepen your practice. Perhaps this is a sign that you’re ready to transition from being a student to becoming a teacher. Keep in mind that teacher training is not just for people who want to teach classes–it’s also a fantastic way for people to explore the totality of yoga, especially anatomy, and philosophy. No doubt studying yoga on this level will help to end your plateau.
The most important part of moving through a yoga plateau is acceptance. Remember, the yoga niyama of Santosha reminds us to practice contentment with whatever comes. Just as in a personal relationship, perhaps your plateau is a sign that your relationship with yoga is preparing you to move to a deeper level of intimacy.