Despite my intention to practice yoga a few times while traveling through Ireland and the UK, that never happened. I went three weeks without doing any yoga–the longest stretch I’ve gone without yoga in years–and my body feels all out of whack. It makes me wonder what my body would feel like if I never did yoga!
In the past few days, I’ve been getting back into my practice, and have been surprised to see just how stiff and tight I got. I was tightest in my hamstrings and back. It was also pretty obvious to me that I lost some strength, especially core strength. Stupidly, I pushed myself a bit too hard the first few days back, and ended up overdoing it. I was lucky not to hurt myself, but I could barely walk for a few days because I overstretched my legs.
This experience has gotten me thinking about two things. First, why didn’t I practice yoga for three weeks while traveling? Second, what is a better way to get back into one’s yoga practice after taking a considerable break?
The main reasons I didn’t practice yoga were the cost and the difficulty of getting to a yoga class. In several cites, like Dublin and London, there are definitely yoga classes around, but they cost anywhere from 20-25 bucks per class, after the currency exchange. I just couldn’t bring myself to pay that much money for a yoga class. In addition to the cost, the schedules were usually pretty sparse, so if you couldn’t make the one evening class on a given day, no yoga for you.
Of course, even if I couldn’t make it to a yoga class, or didn’t want to pay, I could have practiced on my own. I toyed with doing some yoga in my hotel room on a few occasions, but there’s something very unappealing about practicing yoga on a small piece of hotel carpet squished between the bed and the TV.
In the end, I decided to do what most Europeans seem to do as their primary form of exercise: walk. Over the course of 3 weeks, I must have walked about 100 miles, or about 5 miles per day. (I guess this can explain why my legs were so tight.) Although it might have been nice to check out yoga in some different cities, I’m glad in some ways to have taken a break. As I get back into my practice, I’m learning a lot about just how important yoga is to my life, and how it benefits my body and mind.
This brings me to my second question. Obviously, if you take some time away from yoga, it’s a good idea to take it easy as you get back into things. It’s also probably a good idea not to do yoga every single day right off the bat, even if you normally practice that often. Overall, I think for every week you take off, it takes about half that time for your body to get back to its previous stength and flexibility. This isn’t scientifically proven or anything, at least as far as I know, but this has been my general experience. Of course, if you take a huge amount of time off, like 2 years, then it might take bit longer to build your practice up again.
The most important thing, which I didn’t do, is to be safe and patient when returning to a physically demanding activity like vinyasa flow yoga. For me personally, the greatest obstacle in returning to yoga has been my own ego–I wanted so badly to get right back into all the advanced poses I usually do, and wasn’t willing to wait even a week. Keeping the ego in check is, of course, one of the greatest challenges of yoga, something to work on for a liftetime, both when you’re doing yoga, and when you’re not.