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Taking yoga off the mat

I just got back from my first yoga class in about three months.

I’m tired. Sore. Stretched. Invigorated. Happy again.

It turns out taking a break from yoga was one of the best things I could do. I was away for over three months taking in new opportunities and seeing new places. I carried my travel yoga mat with me but never practised for more than about 20 minutes at a time.

Since I returned from yoga teacher training in December last year, I threw myself into practising and gaining experience teaching. Almost everyday I was at a yoga studio for a class, I was busy building my own business, recording videos, offering classes to friends, critiquing my own practice and training my body to perform like a circus act.

I was so critical of myself. Convinced I wasn’t good enough. I spent too much time comparing myself to others than thinking about the good things I could do. The good person I can be.

I got jealous of the people I trained with, compared our successes, again thought I wasn’t good enough.

Yoga had become a chore for me. Something I had to do. Something that wasn’t enjoyable. I was crying after classes I was participating in and classes I was teaching. My boyfriend was the most consistent participant in my classes. This obviously meant that no one liked me, right? They didn’t come back, I was a horrible teacher and I should just quit now. Doing my teacher training was a waste of time. As if I could ever be as good as other teachers I know. As if anyone would want me to teach them how to downward dog.

There was so much self-doubt clouding my vision that I had forgotten the reason that I’d started practising yoga in the first place – it was my non-judgmental space. Moving my body felt good. Taking the time to myself felt good. It didn’t matter what I could and couldn’t do – I was grateful to have a space of safety and love. To feel strong, stretched and capable after class.

After three and a half months travelling and really taking a chance to take my mind off things, practice my yoga off the mat, I feel so much better about my physical practice.

Yes, I will have to take some time to build up my flexibility and strength again, but I know my body remembers what I can do, I don’t have to try and show off to anyone.

The lesson I learned is that it’s ok to leave something that you love. Maybe not permanently, but for a little while. For however long it takes.

Yoga is a practice. And the idea that yoga doesn’t work unless we do, while it’s partly true, it’s also discouraging. Yoga isn’t about twisting ourselves into different shapes (although that part is fun). Yoga has eight limbs.

Yama. Niyama. Asana. Pranayama. Pratyahara. Dharana. Dyhana. Samadhi.

Just one component is the physical practice of asana. It would do us all well to consider the other seven.