With all the pressure to practice daily, stay present and to keep still during Savasana, modern yoga runs the risk of turning into a dogma full of bold faced DOs and DON’Ts leading to the anxiety associated with the chronic seeking of perfection.
Stop being so hard on yourself, yogi! Isn’t yoga a safe haven to explore freedom and limitations in our own unique way which can change from day to day?
I do not want to become a Type A yogini; some days I just want to live spontaneously in the moment and dance through my yoga flow, while other days I appreciate a grounding sequence rooted in alignment and ancient philosophy. Most of us confront deadlines, and have-to's in all aspects of life and we don't want to find those same stressors on the yoga mat.
Here are five ways to unwind after a stressful week and to stay true to yourself and your yoga practice.
1. Dare to be Different and Make Up Your Own Asana
As a yoga teacher, I love to look out on the sea of students and observe the diversity circulating throughout the room. During each class, I make space for experimental movement and the freedom to explore an uncommon spin on a traditional pose and often students prefer to do this with their eyes closed. Why is that?
I assume that as adults, we are very rarely asked to just get imaginative and embody the moment through movement or play, that we fear judgment or ridicule and can only give ourselves permission to be free when we believe nobody else can see us.
Who is to say we cannot invent our own asana and toss that into the traditional sequence? The ability to naturally tune into the creative side of the brain balances the nervous system from always operating from a repetitive, logical and routine perspective. Shake things UP!
2. Take a Day (or a Week) Off
Look at your schedule. Have you fallen into a rut? I know, it took you a long time to get into that “flow” and now you feel comfortable there and do not want to upset the “contentment” and the security of regularity.
But, if you dig a little deeper, what feels cozy today might just be a little stagnant.
We lose the capacity to learn new things when we settle into the same habits, even healthy habits. Give yourself a break and play hookie just to have a new adventure and evaluate if what you spend most of your time doing truly lights your fire. The only way to make sure you feel passionate about your life is to take a step back every so often and look in with an observer’s perspective. You will return with a renewed sense of wonder and appreciation.
3. Engage Your Critical Mind
Do NOT accept truth blindly. Take notice of what you take for granted as fact and dare to ask questions. I love when a student speaks up after, or even during, class and asks me, “WHY?”
As a teacher, I used to feel confronted by this, but now I embrace these opportunities to delve deeper into the practice.
Often I wind up revealing new and interesting discoveries in my own infinitely evolving yoga to myself, and sometimes to the class, which can feel very vulnerable. I have come to trust the yoga community as a whole as a wonderful platform to redefine myself and continue to actively search the many aspects of the self.
We can never fully see ourselves and it is through questioning ourselves and others we can get some of that much needed mirroring that keeps us honest and authentic.
4. Let Loose and Release Your Inhibitions
For me, I used to be an uptight practitioner. An Ashtangi with a dedicated 6 days a week practice. I noticed that while I never lost that feel-good sensation after a run-through of the sequence, I was able to safely keep my fears at bay.
My no-go zones were protected because many of the postures that intimidated me were not part of the Primary or even Intermediate Series so I just kept doing what I always did. And, guess what, nothing shifted.
I confronted these fears, with some controversy, by having a glass of wine before attempting some of the scary inversions. Now, I knew my limits a little too well, so having the help loosening up helped me break down these walls. Literally, I gained the courage to kick up into handstands WITHOUT the wall and I had a little help getting there.
Everything in moderation, including moderation. ~ Oscar Wilde
While I no longer incorporate a glass of wine before my practice, I do feel thankful for the moments when I can enjoy indulging and revel in watching my inhibitions melt away. I still practice 6 days a week but with greater awareness, and I am no longer blind to the fact that my fears and insecurities still linger somewhere close to the surface.
5. Do Less
Learn to spot the ways in which you overdo and practice just being. When you can surrender fully and really trust the ways of the practice, you will see the lessons just show up.
Yoga doesn’t tell you what to do, it simply reminds you of the opportunities you have to become conscious and make choices.~Judy Rukat
Nobody but you can know if the choices you make are right or wrong. Part of trusting the flow of doing less to receive more, and just let go of trying to achieve perfection.
Notice the places where you have become a little too strict with yourself and go have some fun. Yoga teaches us to slow down and notice the breath, this fleeting life that expands and contracts as long as we inhabit these bodies and these moments pass by too quickly.
If you are holding yourself back, ask yourself if there is any room for you to break free and invite more radiance into your existence. Don’t let your practice become another obligation on a long list of to-dos.
All you have is today, and RIGHT NOW — are you living the life you love?