Before the article, a quick plug for an upcoming program focused on teachers that need to renew and revitalize themselves: The first two Teacher Renewal Programs of 2017 (London and Seattle) are sold out. Please check out my schedule to join me this year for these unique programs in New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles.
We all get stuck in a rut from time to time—even yoga teachers. In fact, the question that comes up most frequently in the group of teachers that I mentor is, “How do I keep my practice and teaching fresh?” After all, it’s hard to inspire and connect with your students when you’re feeling stale. The first thing to remember is this: All relationships, vocations, and passions go through different phases. If things feel a little lackluster from time to time it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you or your relationship to yoga. Try not to go crazy if your practice and teaching feel stagnant. Acknowledge and allow the feelings. And when you feel ready try these simple tips for getting back to what matters most.
1. Change Your Practice Pace
Most of us feel compelled to practice at more or less the same pace all of the time. If you prefer a slow, quiet practice, you probably always do a slow, quiet practice. If you like a nice strong flow, you probably always do a nice strong flow. If you’re feeling stale, changing up the pace of your practice is one of the best ways to find new inspiration. When you change the pace, the rhythm of your breathing and the overall feeling of your experience also shift.
2. Take a Break From Your Staples
There are days when I’d rather stab myself in the eye than do Chaturanga and Upward-Facing Dog. As a vinyasa-based instructor this can be difficult. Fortunately, I’m completely averse to losing an eye so I take a break from these postures—my staples—from time to time. I change my routine to exclude these postures and include different things like longer-held Planks, Locust variations and Cobra. I’m always a little fearful to drop my staples, but leaving these poses off the menu for a few days varies my sequencing and always leads to something interesting that I haven’t explored in a while. It also tends to re-engage my students who are just as happy to have the occasional change of pace.
3. Get Messy, Get Lost
To me, modern yoga can feel very precious and produced at times. Flow classes are perfectly choreographed to the perfect playlist and everyone feels like they have to wear the newest leggings and take photos that they post at just the right time. I’m not being a hater here. I get it. But, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves and it’s important to let it go sometimes. If this sounds like you, let go of the pressure to perform and work on a handful of poses that feel sloppy, dirty, and ugly. Seriously. Pick up your worn and torn copy of Light on Yoga (wow, I just dated myself), flip around until you find a pose or two that you haven’t tried in a few years (if ever), and experiment with it. Play around with poses that feel out of your reach, make a mess, and have good time.
4. Explore a Different Physical Discipline
Aside from my family, my first priority is tending to my yoga practice. My passion for practicing has ebbed and flowed over the years, but it’s been the most consistent thread in my life for 20 years. I can’t imagine my life without it. And, I also explore other physical modalities these days. Like me, you may find that doing other physical practices—from running or spinning, to Pilates or martial arts—rekindles your love for yoga. I’m not suggesting that you need to incorporate a different physical discipline to be well and feel whole. But, I’ve found that including other physical disciplines in my life makes me crave my yoga practice even more.
5. Reconnect to the Heart of Your Practice
Perhaps my most obvious yet essential suggestion is to reconnect with your practice by getting back on your mat. If your practice is lackluster—or you’ve been disinclined to practice at all—you need to reconnect to the heart of your practice by making peace with the fact that your passion may ebb and flow. Then, make the permanent decision that your practice is your practice. It’s your free time to do what you want, and enjoy yourself. Maybe this means taking a different class, doing a different home practice at a different time, or exploring meditation and pranayama. Maybe it is as easy as this: Your practice is right there waiting for you. Go enjoy it.