Free Home Practice Guide! If you didn't already receive my new 16-page Home Yoga Practice Guide, you can DOWNLOAD IT HERE! It’s full of practical tips and suggestions to support your independent practice, and includes a pose syllabus and practice sequences if you have 15, 30 60 minutes or more. I hope you enjoy it!
With all that's going on in our world, I thought I couldn't write about yoga this week. It felt superfluous and even self-indulgent to talk about practice amidst the tragedies we are dealing with these days. However, the truth is that yoga is precisely what allows me to build resilience in the face of struggle. Practice is what restores my inspiration when I'm feeling hopeless and calms my agitation so I can show up for others in a way that is truly helpful. It's actually what I need to do most. So, here's to continuing to think about practice and continuing to practice, even when it feels hard.
6 ways to Overcome Boredom in Practice
One of the big challenges longtime practitioners face is how to keep practice time stimulating and fresh. Of course, you want practice to become ‘routine’ in the sense that it happens regularly. Yet, if you’re always do the same thing day in and day out, eventually practice can begin to feel uninspired and boring. Like any long-term partnership, your relationship with your practice needs attention and thought in order for it to remain a satisfying and meaningful part of your life.
Experimenting with different modes of practice and even exploring other movement modalities can create the variety that helps keep yoga enjoyable and interesting. It’s a crucial part of maintaining your enthusiasm for practice over the long term and maximizing the benefits of your practice time. When you consciously create situations to confront your tendencies your nervous system will be stimulated, proprioception will be enhanced and your mind will become more alert. Here are some ideas on how to do that:
- Challenge Yourself
Finding ways to skillfully and appropriately challenge yourself in asana doesn’t have to mean working toward harder, more "advanced" poses. It definitely doesn’t mean struggling, forcing or pushing your body beyond what’s appropriate. It doesn’t necessarily even mean doing more. Rather, challenge in asana can mean:
Varying the poses you practice by planning the content and focus of your practice to focus on a different class of poses each day or each week.
Regularly practicing poses you don’t prefer. This is one of the benefits of working through a syllabus of poses over time.
Confronting your tendencies by practicing different variations of or using different prop supports for poses you usually practice to challenge your body in a different way.
Changing the speed of your usual way of practicing. Do more, quickly. Do less, slower and deeper.
2. Have a practice buddy
Even if you don’t converse or interact very much, just the presence of another person in the room can shift your usual approach and stimulate a fresh engagement with your practice.
3. Incorporate other modalities
Another way to keep practice interesting and fun and add new challenge is to experiment with other movement and fitness modalities. Pilates, Feldenkrais, Alexander Technique, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, dance, ball work, weight training are just a few of the many valuable mind-body movement disciplines out there. Think about what you are drawn to, try new things out, see what feels good in your body, is helpful for your mind, and nurturing to your spirit and sprinkle it into your practice.
More in-depth study and training in complementary disciplines like Ayurveda or Chinese medicine, or all those other wonderful movement modalities mentioned above can also be a great way to fuel your inspiration by adding depth and insight to your practice.
4. Take breaks, do other things and come back
If you tend to get bored by your practice, or find yourself drawn to moving in a different way, pausing from practice for a time might be useful in helping you to shift perspective and refresh your approach to practice. Of course, you can always bring some yoga into whatever else you do physically. Practicing open-eyed meditation while taking a walk, ujjayi pranayama during a run, or a few asanas before working out can help you stay connected to what you love about yoga even if you are taking a break from more formal practice.
5. Continue to be a student!
Taking classes and workshops can provide new insight and inspiration for your independent practice. Even if you aren’t in a position to study with experienced teachers, there’s a wealth of media freely available to inspire fresh insight, continued learning and expansion in our practice.
6. Embrace the Full Spectrum of Practices
A student in a recent retreat shared the following with me:
It was my first time attending a day dedicated to Yoga and the many forms of practice. Importantly, I understood that asanas are only one part of the Yogic practice. This simple but powerful insight helped me understand that meditation, chanting, breathing, intention and visioning are part of a system.
Though we may chant in class, meditate, practice breathing exercises, it may not be obvious that postural practice is a part of a holistic system that involves and addresses all parts of oneself. If you’ve been attending class for sometime, you might have been doing this more than you think. A student in a recent meditation course shared with me that while the course was helpful to understand how meditation actually worked and provided the motivation and group support to actually do it, she also realized that through her years of practice in classes and retreats, she not only was familiar with many of the techniques we practiced but had already been incorporating them into her life!
Think about what you remember doing in class other than asana. Chanting, meditation, breathing exercises or contemplation of sacred teachings can all be part of what you do as your yoga.
Next Week: How to Combine Different Practices