Starting new things is exciting. There’s so much to learn, there’s so much potential and the possibilities seem endless.
Starting yoga is no different. The initial learning curve in yoga is all about getting the poses right, trying not to hold the breath and figuring out what ‘being present’ actually means.
This phase in our practice is characterised by a steep learning curve and loads of excitement and motivation. Our initial progress is quick and we’re feeling fitter, stronger and more flexible. We have more energy, fewer aches and pains, and generally, we’re sleeping better and feeling calmer.
The first time we nail crow pose is surprisingly satisfying and we may show our friends and family our ‘mad yoga skillz’.
But eventually, we run out of yoga poses to do…
Yoga becomes boring and it’s the same old thing all the time. We’re looking for more challenge and more stimulation but there doesn’t seem to be any more.
I call this the Dip.
It typically happens around the 12-month mark and anyone who’s serious about yoga will have fallen into the Dip.
I’ve been there too.
In the first 12 months of yoga practice, the focus is very much physical and ‘outer’. But as we progress, yoga shifts from the obvious physical layer to the more subtle emotional and mental layers.
The Dip is the turning point from the ‘outer’ yoga to the ‘inner’ yoga.
And in my experience, and what I’ve observed in many of my students, this stage sucks.
We had this idea that yoga would make us feel better, and it did for a while. But then it no longer feels good and so we want to break up with yoga.
I remember when I fell into the Dip. I used to love yoga. Then out of nowhere, I was getting really angry in class, turning into a rage monster wanting to punch something. Or I would be overwhelmed by sadness and start crying in class. It made no sense because I thought I was a happy and chilled out person.
It turns out that I was suppressing much of my anger, disappointment and sadness and that my yoga practice was dredging these feelings to the surface to be felt for the first time in years.
What I didn’t realise at the time was that this is what yoga is designed to do – clear our emotional blocks and bring more presence to our emotional state. This was actually a sign that I was making progress and that yoga was working.
I just thought there was something wrong with me.
Luckily I had a teacher who explained that yoga isn’t always sunshine and rainbows and that a blooming lotus (the symbol of yoga) has its roots in and rises up from the mud. I’d always avoided my emotional crap, but yoga was encouraging me to wade through it.
While this stage in our practice doesn’t last, it’s the point that many people quit and break up with yoga.
There’s no avoiding the mud, we have to go through it to get to the other side. This is where the real work begins. And if we get through it, it may well be the most rewarding work we do.
Things that helped me get through the Yoga Dip were:
- reading and learning about yoga philosophy for perspective
- talking to my teacher about my experiences (which she normalised and gave context to)
- practising with less physical intensity so that I had space to process my emotions
- being compassionate with myself
- staying present with my feelings
So if you’ve found yourself in the Yoga Dip, I offer my words as encouragement to help you move through this critical stage. This stage isn’t permanent and if we keep going we will emerge on the upside of the Dip.