by Stephanie Carter
I’ve had a long, tumultuous relationship with yoga. We first met in the early 90s and were inseparable, until a misguided physical therapist told me yoga was bad for my neck (boy was he wrong). After going our separate ways, we reunited several years later and had a series of torrid on-again off-again affairs until about 10 years ago, when we finally settled down. Like any relationship, we’ve had our share of ups and downs, but things have improved since I learned to navigate the ‘downs.’ Perhaps the trickiest part of a relationship is when the initial burst of bliss and excitement is over and the mundane sets in – that is, when the honeymoon’s over.
Maybe you’ve experienced this yourself. You discover (or re-discover) yoga and it makes you feel good. You wonder – where has yoga been all my life? You fall in love with the practice, the lifestyle – maybe you fantasize about becoming a teacher (or actually become one!). All you want to do is yoga. You commit to practicing X times a week, and you do it, happily. You resent things like work that get in the way of practice. Then one day when nothing in particular is wrong, you don’t really feel like practicing. Maybe you talk yourself into it – and maybe it turns out to be a great practice, or maybe it doesn’t. Even your favorite teacher starts to seem a bit stale. You’ve hit a wall – the honeymoon is over. At this point in the relationship, many people bail out in search of greener pastures (pilates anyone?). But if you can steer through this tricky period you will be rewarded with a deeper, more rewarding relationship.
Women’s magazines are full of articles about how to “keep the magic alive” in your marriage/bedroom/etc. How do you do this with yoga? Unlike your romantic partner, yoga doesn’t care about fidelity. A great way to renew your enthusiasm is to try different classes and different styles of yoga. Go to a workshop. Sometimes this sparks a new interest – other times, it makes you happy to return to your routine. Either way, getting out of your comfort zone is rarely a bad idea.
Another tactic is to learn something new. If you haven’t studied anatomy, check it out. Read (or re-read) the yoga sutras. The Bhagavad Gita. Meditate. Learn something new and let it inform your practice, off and on the mat.
Of course, sometimes you find yourself truly, deeply saturated and sick of yoga, and you need to take a break (there, I said it). Give yourself permission to take a week or so off. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and you may actually miss your time on the mat. Yoga isn’t going anywhere – it will be there for you when you get back. Just don’t stay away too long or your body will start complaining.
As with any long-term relationship, though, there are going to be good times and bad times. There are going to be days you don’t feel like practicing and you do it anyway, days in which nothing goes right in practice, times of injury, and times of complacency. Sickness and health. Viewing your relationship with yoga as a long-term one, and getting clear on your motivation to practice will help you steer through these times. What does yoga do for you? Why do you practice? Clarifying your motivation helps you see that the relationship is, indeed a two-way street. Be clear on what yoga does for you, and you will be more likely to reciprocate.
In the end, though, there is no Mr./Ms. Yoga – yoga is not a thing, a person or entity outside of yourself. It is an expression of your relationship with yourself and your commitment to your own well-being. All of the energy you put into your yoga relationship goes right back into YOU, which can then get directed to your loved ones and to making the world a better place. So take the plunge! And who knows, a second honeymoon may be right around the corner.
article originally published on Stephanie Carter’s blog.
I got my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with a specialization in Neuropsychology in 1998. After working in private practice and in the state mental hospital system for several years, I began teaching yoga at the state hospital to fellow staff members during my lunch hour, which became the highlight of my work week. This encouraged me to enroll in and complete teacher training at the Esther Vexler Yoga School, and to register with Yoga Alliance as a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT200). Since then I have continued my studies in therapeutic yoga, Ashtanga/Vinyasa, neuroscience and anatomy. I’ve also become certified to teach Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga and the Yoga Warriors method for working with trauma victims. Read more at www.stephaniecarteryoga.com.
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Thanks so much for your article. I’m coming off a three-month dry spell – I got busy. I’m headed back to the yoga studio today and my new thing is to let people know that if they want me to be nice to them, I need my three days a week of yoga. I’ve also put it on my calendar like any other appointment. Yoga keeps me sane.
Yep! give myself permission to have a break… that was the best thing I learnt about my practice, and mixing it up
If I were not such a hard maintainer, I would take soooo much time off from yoga, now that I am back into dance/movement after years away …
Knowing that I can control my home practice and even that somewhere still exists middle path instruction … and that such an approach is starting to come back into style (viva la backlash!) … the honeymoon may have been over for two years but a breakup has not occurred …
Wow, I totally get this. I was on a roll for about 3-4 months, even spent way too much on a yoga mat, and then I traveled about 8 weeks in a row and lost my groove. Went back to class and it just wasn’t the same. The honeymoon was definitely over!
I’ve got to go back and reevaluate what took me to yoga in the first place and how great I felt mentally, physically, and spiritually in the beginning. Time to relive that!