Yoga Musings

How to Work Your Way Out of a Yoga Rut

Yoga can be exhilarating, uplifting, even magical at times. But if you practice long enough, eventually you’re going to find yourself in a yoga rut. What does this look/feel like? Well, one clear indication that you’re in a yoga rut is that you find your practice plateauing or even regressing. Every time you step on the mat it just seems like more of the same, and you no longer notice any improvement in your practice from week to week. As a result, your yoga practice starts to feel uninspired, and it’s difficult to see how you’ll ever get out of this.

I’m not sure when it happened — probably sometime in the last couple of weeks — but I’m definitely in a yoga rut. This is not the first time, and it certainly won’t be the last. I know from experience, however, that this feeling of the yoga “blahs” will pass. In fact, this has happened so many times to me over the years that I’ve developed a few tried and true techniques to jump start my practice and get myself out of my yoga funk. By sharing a few of these ideas, I hope I might inspire other people in a similar boat to stick with it and rediscover their practice.

Back to Basics

A lot of yoga students measure progress in terms of how well they can do so-called “advanced” postures. For many yogis, this means arm balances, handstands, and deep backbends. In the first few years of doing yoga, you can make tremendous progress in these poses, and with hard work you’ll notice major improvements from week to week.

But the honeymoon eventually ends. It’s impossible to make such huge leaps and bounds in your asana practice forever, and eventually you’ll find yourself looking around for the next exciting challenge, only to find there are none.

So what’s the solution? Here’s an idea: Instead of always looking to take your practice up a notch, try going back to basics. As one of my teachers used to say, it’s actually impossible to master any individual yoga pose. Even the most basic postures, like Down Dog or Tadasana, are impossible to master.

So instead of thinking of yoga postures as something to master and check off a list, approach each pose as a unique opportunity to explore. The best way to do this, in my view, is to focus on the fine details of each posture, especially those Yoga 101 details you may tend to overlook now because your practice has become so “advanced”.  Try exploring, say, the subtle alignment aspects of Triangle Pose. Maybe use a block. Back off the deepest expression of the pose and explore it again as if you were tentative beginner.

The sense of discovery that emerges from this approach can be pretty amazing, and if you really commit to revisiting the basics, you’ll start to see all the tiny imperfections (or nuances) in your practice. And now you have a whole new playground to play in. The results might not look as cool as jumping up into a handstand. But they can be just as rewarding, if not more so.

Explore Other Aspects of Yoga

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Yoga is more — a lot more –than just poses. The easiest way to work yourself into a yoga rut is to forget this simple fact.

A good remedy, then, is to expand the field of possibilities beyond asana and to think about other important aspects of yoga, such as Pranayama or Dhyana. If your teacher or studio doesn’t provide instruction in these other areas, consider going elsewhere. It might be time for you to “graduate” from your gym or fitness-oriented yoga studio, and to look for a studio that emphasizes yoga philosophy, breath work, or other practices that go beyond asana.

If neither of the above two suggestions helps  to get you out of a yoga rut, consider these other ideas for reviving your yoga practice:

  • Take a Workshop
  • Try a Different Style of Yoga
  • Read (Yoga Philosophy, Yoga-Inspired Novels)
  • Practice at Home
  • Take Some Time Off

With any relationship in life, especially those that span years and even decades, we inevitably hit soft patches. This is true of our relationships with our spouses, parents, friends, even our own children. For serious yoga practitioners, their relationship with yoga will also go through similar ups and downs.

Instead of wandering away from yoga, or quitting altogether, it’s helpful to remind yourself that the yoga practice is a lifelong process. And as with any process, it evolves over time. Sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes it’s hard. And every once in a while, it will seem impossible to go on. But when you overcome these challenges, you can emerge on the other side with a deeper appreciation of that challenge, as well as its rewards.


7 thoughts on “How to Work Your Way Out of a Yoga Rut

  1. Pingback: Breaking Out of a Rut. | Fearless Food + Fitness

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