Yoga withdrawals, have you experienced them? It goes something like this…
You practice yoga regularly, you’re really getting into it and your body feels great. You look forward to your yoga class, you soak up every breath and leave the yoga studio feeling serene. Your body gets stronger and more supple and you love the fact that your practice has improved and you can do some of the more challenging yoga poses.
Then something happens and all of a sudden you can’t come to class as often or maybe even at all. Maybe your job or family life is really busy or maybe you’re sick or have injured yourself. And your yoga practice that you’ve built up comes to a crash. You’ll start to miss your yoga practice and feel like you need a really good stretch. You’ll notice that you don’t sleep as well and you may find yourself easily irritated. Small things annoy you, your body begins to ache and you feel sluggish, lethargic and cranky. This is you when you don’t do yoga!
Whether your practice has stopped because of your busy life or for health reasons, there are some simple things you can do to get your yoga ‘hit’ until you’re able to return to classes. This is the time where we can really practice yoga ‘off the mat’ and apply it to our life.
1. Breathe – remember, yoga isn’t just the physical poses, so if your body won’t let you or you don’t have the time for class, you can still breathe. You’re doing it anyway so you may as well do it properly. Whether you’re on a double shift, in back to back meetings or stuck in bed you can still practice your deep yogic breathing. Try it now while reading this. Then try to do it as often as you remember.
2. Twist – if you’re able, do a twist. You can do it in bed, at the office, in the car or while waiting in line. Feeling stuck or tense in the spine can be resolved easily with a twist and it will also boost your mood.
3. Get some exercise. If you can’t make it to a class, try to incorporate more movement into your day. Take the stairs, walk around the block, leave the office on your lunch break, move. Don’t have time for 5 minutes of movement? Then make time for feeling like crap. Movement helps the flow of prana in the body and if you can combine your movement with conscious breathing, you’re on a winner.
4. Meditate – I know you will groan at this, but it’s true. Try it. Just 2 minutes. Don’t cheat yourself out of one of life’s simplest pleasures because you think its too hard. You’re worth the effort.
These four things will help to tide you over until you can return to a yoga class. Just remember it will take a while to rebuild your strength and flexibility.
The other cause of not being able to get on the mat is far worse, it’s our own resistance. This is when we have the time for yoga, we’re free from injury, we know a yoga class will do us good, but the voice in our head tells us not to. Here I will speak from my experience. My yoga practice is like a relationship, my mat is a good friend of mine. Sometimes we can’t get enough of each other and other days we go cold. Sometimes, just a glance at the mat, rolled up in the corner of the room, is enough to irritate me. Like a reminder. “You should be doing this”. You may find this strange coming from a yoga teacher, but I don’t know many teachers who at some point in their lives haven’t resisted the mat. There are numerous reasons why we avoid things in our life, but avoiding my yoga practice is a way of avoiding what’s going on with me.
As your yoga practice deepens, this will inevitably happen to you. One day your practice will be too confronting. Some days you don’t want to see your flaws. Some days you will want to hide. Don’t be so hard on yourself or criticise yourself for not practicing. If your relationship is good, your mat will welcome you back when you’re ready and just like a good friend you haven’t seen in a while, it will be like you never left.