A couple of days ago DoYouYoga.com published an article on The Cycles of Yoga Practice. The author talked about three recurring stages of yoga practice – the falling in love, the consistency, and the falling out of love.
Recently, I think I’ve been falling out of love with yoga.
I started practicing yoga consistently(ish) almost two years ago in my third year of university. Prior to then I’d dabbled once every few months or so, but for my 21st birthday I received my first ever smart phone, and a whole new world of apps was opened to me. I went on a bit of a “apps that could help me improve my life” binge, and quickly installed an app called Daily Yoga. From there I quickly got into the habit of practicing almost-daily, even if only for 5-10 minutes (which was more often than not).
Despite starting off with only very short sessions, I loved yoga. I was extremely unfit and had virtually no upper body strength, so five minutes including a minute and a half of downward dog was pretty much all I was able to do without my arms giving up. When doing the single run-through of a sun salutation using the app, you do two downward facing dogs. The first is held for thirty seconds, the second for a minute. At first, just fifteen or so seconds into the second DD my arms would be shaking, and I’d collapse soon after.
However, with commitment to practice, I gradually increased the length of time it took for me to collapse, until I was able to hold the second pose for the full minute. And I was then able to do a third, upon moving to the longer sun salutation session. When I did do a longer practice, it could easily last anywhere between forty-five minutes to an hour. These were rarer, but they did happen. I just loved what I was doing and loved feeling myself improve.
But life moves on and circumstances change, and I occasionally found myself not having practised any yoga for several weeks. Boy, could I feel it. I don’t know whether I hadn’t realised how much I was aching on a daily basis prior to yoga, or whether the pain was a new thing, but my body was not happy with me putting a stop to the practice. I was usually fairly quick to get back into practice as soon as I could.
Eight months ago I started my first full-time job, and five months ago I started working in a city two hours away from where I live. Initially I stayed in a hotel during the week, but for the last couple of months I’ve been commuting. This upheaval and change in circumstances pretty much brought my practice to a standstill, and whilst I’ve been trying recently to get back into a routine, I’ve hit a couple of snags.
Because of how infrequently I’ve been practicing yoga over the last year, in some ways I’m back to square one. I don’t maintain the flexibility I used to, and I no longer have the stamina for certain routines and poses. Having not touched the yoga app in about a year, having preferred youtube videos recently , a few days ago I went back to the five minute sun salutation. Roughly fifteen seconds into the second downward facing dog, my arms gave out.
Frustrating isn’t the word. If it weren’t for the fact that I know I love yoga, and it makes me feel better and it is immensely good for me, I’d have been tempted to give up. I certainly wasn’t tempted back on the mat. I felt like I should have been better than this, that I should be on more advanced poses, I mean, I’d been doing it for nearly two years now and…
At some point, I managed to tell my ego to shut the hell up. Yoga isn’t about how advanced the poses you can do are, it’s not about looking flawless whilst practicing, it’s about showing up on the mat. And I don’t do that. It can’t be surprising that I’m practically back to square one when it took weeks of consistently getting on the mat every single day in order to move away from that and see some “results” – whatever that means. Whilst it’s great to notice yourself improve, I also need to keep in mind that no matter what I’m doing on the mat, the very fact that I’m there makes me feel better mentally, and keeps me healthier physically.
I’d been falling out of love with yoga not because I’d been having any problems with yoga, but because I’d been having problems with myself. I need to stop caring about what I “should” be able to do, and rather than even focus on what I can do, I need to concentrate on what I am doing. With this in mind, I did a 25 minute session yesterday – another from the yoga app. I wobbled a lot. I fell over a few times. I had to keep bringing my mind back to the moment, rather than getting frustrated over myself. But I got through it, my mind settled and I felt miles better at the end of it than I had done in weeks.
The fact that I need to bring consistency into my practice is one of the reasons I decided to make yoga one of the things I regularly talk about here. Keeping you updated on my practice will help to keep me accountable, and hopefully you can take something from my practice – successes and failures both – that will help or inspire you in yours.