5 Tips for Anyone Feeling Bored or Stagnant in Yoga

I have something important to share about yoga. I’m a big proponent now, a practitioner for almost 15 years, and also a yoga teacher. I don’t think yoga is boring—at all. Rather, I find it invigorating, challenging, and simultaneously relaxing and stimulating. However, I can truly relate to those who dismiss it after little exposure and say they just can’t get into it or that it is boring. I can relate because I felt the same way at first. In spite of my initial disdain, I continued to practice occasionally at the urging of my older sister who insisted it was like an acquired taste, and one worth acquiring. So, I occasionally would join her for a session (though I honestly thought my time would be better spent lifting weights or going on a long run), but didn't really get the point of arbitrarily putting my body in these stupid positions.

Then one day it clicked while we were doing Bryan Kest’s Power Yoga VHS tape (still one of my favorites, though now I have the DVD). The verbal cues had been there the whole time, they didn’t magically change, but someone as he guided, “Right arm pushes, and left arm pulls,” I had been doing a mental nod, “Yeah, yeah, I got it,” but had been failing to push and pull respectively… until that day. As I started incorporating all the subtler movements (or rather, directional pulls and muscular engagements), yoga started unfolding for me. The entire practice changed; I had acquired the taste. 

For me, this is a crucial breakthrough, and one I try to transmit to my own students to help them get the most out of their practices. The best way to try to explain this process is dynamic tension. There is a gargantuan
difference in every yoga position and transition when the practitioner is actively engaging, reaching, lifting, expanding and opening (or sometimes completely relaxing), compared to just going through the motions. It makes the practice more interesting, more challenging, and more rewarding.

If it doesn’t make sense right now, that’s okay. It didn’t for me either, and I still have TONS to learn. It’s one of those things that won’t make sense until you, um… get it. Got it?

So, here are five pointers to help any yoga newbies or returning practitioners to get in a productive groove:

1. Don't take yourself too seriously; it doesn't have to be perfect, and this should be a fun process. Accept and be open minded to the idea that you may be trying to do something that is unfamiliar, and there is no expectation that you should be "good" at it right off the bat. If you're feeling good things and breathing deeply, then you are doing it right and that's good enough!
 
2.  Make consistent efforts to incorporate the verbal cues for body adjustments that your yoga guide makes. Remember that it takes practice and be patient with yourself. Even if you're not sure exactly what the responses to cues feel like, just work in that general direction, whatever it may be. Even when you’re doing it "right", there may not even be any dramatically visible changes to your positioning, it’s all about the sensations in your body.
 
3.  Listen to and honor your body. Try to work right up to and at the brink of your edge (not your mat neighbor’s, instructor’s, or anyone else’s), but don’t force past it. As you continue to consistently approach it, the edge will gradually move farther and farther away; that is your progress. You never reach the edge because it keeps moving. Ignoring this and trying to force past it often results in injury and causes set-backs, the opposite of the desired outcome. 

4.   Make the breath a priority. Without the breath you are short-changing yourself and your practice. If you feel like you can’t catch your breath, or notice you are holding your breath, back out your intensity to the extent that you can maintain deep, full-cycle (inhale all the way in, exhale all the way out) breathing. 

5.   Let go. This may mean letting go of your expectations for the class, or your performance in it. Let it be what it is, understanding it will vary day to day. Also, let your yoga practice time be a time to let go of everything else in your life. It will still be there when you are done. As distractions occur (thoughts about
what you have to do later, what you’re going to eat for dinner, what Johnny said about Marta, that weird clicking from the fan) simply acknowledge them, then get back to your breath! Finally, make sure you allow time for your final relaxation, even if you only have a few precious minutes. This is your ultimate challenge and opportunity to relax completely, letting go of your muscles and your thoughts!

 


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