Why You Should Break All the Rules of Yoga to Elevate Your Practice

Kaisa Kapanen
Why You Should Break All the Rules of Yoga to Elevate Your Practice

In order to elevate our practice, we don’t always need to push harder. Sometimes it’s better to take a different route, to step off the mat and take a break from our regular practice. There are many rules we follow in yoga, whether conscious or unconscious, but every now and then it’s nice to let loose and to get a  fresh reminder of what we love about yoga, and what inspires us.

Forget Your Mat

Image credit: Drinie Aguilar

When I was teaching yoga in the Philippines, one of my favorite things was to teach a flow on the beach during sunset. Even more beautiful than the scenery was the change students went through to get comfortable with what we were doing. It was far from the regular yoga class! The classes always started with hesitation and confusion because there were no familiar rules to hang onto.

We are so conditioned to doing yoga indoors, on our little yoga mat, in a certain order, in a certain way. As a yogi you pretty much know what poses to expect. They may come in different orders depending on the teacher, but the poses are familiar and we can remain in our box.

During the beach flow, none of the movements were familiar. We would stand with our bare feet on the warm sand (or sometimes on the grass near a waterfall), and move slowly and deliberately. Sometimes the village kids would join us and we would get distracted by their cuteness. Sometimes a water buffalo would go by and we would have to pause.

Even if we practiced in our little outdoor studio, the world was never shut out. There were mosquitoes during Savasana, sounds of nature and the village life during meditation, and endless puddles of sweat during practice. But that’s life: there will never be perfect conditions for us to find our peace, and that’s not the point either. We need to find our inner peace and balance in our daily lives despite the irritations and the noise.

Let Nature Teach You

Image credit: Drinie Aguilar

Doing things differently and breaking the rules are what shake you out of your yogic comfort zone, and challenge your idea of yoga. Who says yoga happens indoors, on your mat only? Yoga is everywhere, it’s the connection we feel with ourselves, with the nature around us, and the mindset we cultivate by focusing on the present moment.

In the middle of the beach flow, there was usually a turning point. While the first movements were done with serious faces, in the middle of the sequence there was a surprisingly difficult movement. It called for a total coordination of the arms and the mind, and mostly it was too challenging to get right on the first try.

That was where the egos shattered, we would burst out laughing and then we would concentrate some more. I would tell the students that it didn’t matter how we did it, as long as we tried. As long as we were moving our bodies, as long as we were enjoying ourselves, what else mattered?  “This, too, is yoga,” I would remind them.

Allow Yourself to be Lighter

Image credit: Drinie Aguilar

The end of the class was always lighter. Students were not trying to get it right anymore, they were liberated to just enjoy themselves. There was a connection with everyone in the class, the sun was setting and the beautiful natural elements were surrounding us.

Many times students would come to me after the class saying how much they enjoyed it. Sometimes the outdoor adventures reminded them what they loved about yoga, or why they started practicing in the first place. Because the reason we practice is not the Lululemons or the correct movements. It’s because we want to find something, we want to connect, we want to dig deeper, we want to feel love and wholeness on a level we haven’t felt before.

So elevate your practice, practice differently, move differently, shake it all up and challenge your yoga. You might land on a lovely spot of lightness and laughter that feels more like yoga than anything else.

Image credit: Tie Simpson