Roll up the Mat! 3 Reasons to Take a Break from Your Yoga Practice

Shannon Brady
Roll up the Mat! 3 Reasons to Take a Break from Your Yoga Practice

I practice yoga. Teach yoga. Talk about yoga. Think about yoga. All. The. Time. So, when my husband pleaded with me to put all that on hold for a weekend trip to Boston recently, I winced.

I knew I could park the practice and teaching, and could probably catch myself before a "Honey, I bet that hardcore Boston marathoner over there could benefit from Half Pigeon Pose…" remark could escape my lips.

But not thinking about yoga? Heck, I dream about sequence ideas. I ponder what pose will cure a forthcoming tummy ache from the extra pint of Harp I’m about to imbibe. I stew over yesterday’s class—did I cue that transition clearly? Or did I confuse the yogis in the back row?

This is precisely why I needed to take my husband’s advice and give my yoga a break already. I did, and by the time I returned home, I felt a sense of clarity and joy that, crazy as it sounds, my yoga was keeping me from experiencing.

If you're tangled up in mala beads, receiving strange stares in the Starbucks line from not being able to shut off your ujjayi breath, and obsessing over nailing Handstand, it's time to roll up your mat. Here are three reasons to take a break from your yoga practice.

1. That painful twinge in your right shoulder will get a chance to heal.

Ditch your practice for at least a few days and the wear and tear accumulated from too many Chaturangas can finally begin to heal. Even with textbook-perfect form, many of the poses we go through daily place considerable demand on our muscles, joints, and our brains!

For years, I was that yogi, runner, and never-take-a-single-day-off athlete who had to keep the workout streak going at all costs. Torn muscles, pneumonia, snapping at everyone within earshot were the result.

Refusing to take periodic breaks throughout the year can lead to mindlessness and burnout—the exact opposite of what yoga is all about. Professional athletes know this, and use their off-seasons to rest, recharge, and bring their A-game once they’ve fully regrouped.

2. Your non-yogi friends’ eyes will stop glazing over.

It’s hard, I know. We’re excited when we nail a new pose or wake up full of energy after last night’s practice. We want to share it! But too much time at the yoga pulpit will bore, or worse, irritate the shit out of your non-yogi pals after a while. I’ve learned this the hard way.

But here’s the cool thing—once I stopped yammering on and on to my Mama in Sanskrit, I learned how to listen. I discovered her passion for tennis and what she needed to up her game, not from me talking, but from her sharing.

As a result, my Mama now rolls out her mat and goes through Sun Salutations and other poses that support her game on a weekly basis. Stop speaking yoga 24/7 and try listening first. Your non-yogi pals just might reach out for advice—as my mama did—when you least expect it.

3. Get ready for a sweet reunion!

Settling into Child’s Pose the Monday morning after my weekend in Boston felt like a fast track into utopia: brand new, yet deliciously familiar. Each breath, Salutation, Warrior, even Chaturanga, delivered a host of in-the-moment joys: increased energy, focus, release, and gratitude.

Instead of going through the motions, looking at the clock, or having to modify every pose to safeguard an over-fatigued body, I flowed with joy. And fell back in love with this practice I’m so crazy about.

So the next time you’re having an off-day, try filling your mat time with a pleasurable activity that requires you to be just as present instead, and observe how your body and mind respond when you give yourself time to recover!