Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. - Neale Donald Walsch
There are times in the evolution of your yoga practice, just as in life, you will get in a rut. Too much routine can take all the joy out of life! Chances are you have some techniques to get yourself out of a life rut and get back to the joy in life. But what about your yoga practice? What do you do when your yoga practice becomes too routine? I call it a yoga comfort zone. It is a period of time that can make you want to abandon your practice. Outside your comfort zone is a place of empowerment and joy. It reminds you why you practice yoga in the first place.
The biggest reason to get out of a comfort zone, in yoga or in life, is that you cannot grow inside a comfort zone. You can feel that, can't you? You cannot make progress in your practice, learn about yourself and of what you are capable. You cannot reap the ultimate benefits of yoga practice, if you stay in the comfort zone.
If you notice that during your home practice you do the same poses all the time, or you feel bored or uninspired, chances are you are hanging out in your comfort zone. Have you stopped challenging yourself in your practice? Could be a comfort zone. No one is immune, not your favorite teachers, the "celebrity teachers," that student in class who looks like she does all the poses perfectly, and certainly not me. What do you do to break out? You acknowledge it, then take action. Be introspective. Ask yourself what is going on. What you are feeling? Are you bored, frustrated, overwhelmed, tired? Your answers may provide the insight you need to bring the joy back to your yoga mat. If you need some help, here are thirty-three ideas to reclaim your practice.
1. Do your yoga practice with a friend or group. Friends don't let friends miss yoga! Be accountable to one another. If you feel comfortable, set up a schedule for each friend to lead the "class." Or, everyone can do one's own thing.
2. Do a different yoga video.
3. Play some new music, or try practicing without music.
4. Do your practice outside or in a different room in the house. You could even do it in the same room facing a different way.
5. Try a different style of yoga. If you normally do a flow/vinyasa practice, try holding the poses or take a yin or restorative yoga class.
6. If you are trying to be perfect, stop.
7. Learn a new pose.
8. Learn about a new aspect of yoga, such as the eight limbs or anatomy. Read The Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, Bhagavad Gita, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, or any other book on yoga. Find some new inspiration.
9. Be extra mindful in your practice. I like to close my eyes as I hold the poses. Consciously let that mindfulness come off your mat and into your daily life. What does yoga do for your life? You may want to journal about it.
10. Learn a new pranayama technique.
11. Read a book about yoga and try out some of the things in the book.
12. Stop for a short period of time and explore a new hobby. Then come back to your yoga mat with fresh eyes.
13. Make a list of all the ways yoga makes you feel good. Post your list on the wall so you can read it every day.
14. Try going back to the basics; learn the finer points of some of your favorite poses. Back off and use props, to learn Trikonasana (Triangle) in a different way, for example. Spend some time deepening your knowledge of the poses. It is impossible to completely master any pose.
15. Take a workshop or go on a retreat.
16. Deeply explore your breath in the poses.
17. Learn a new chant.
18. Do you need some rest? Take a longer Savasana or do a restorative practice. Sometimes we need more rest, more quiet.
19. Try a class with a different teacher.
20. Look on YouTube for different classes. There are videos with many different styles and sequences.
21. Yoga can be a mindful walk, meditation practice or journaling.
22. Get some index cards and make some "yoga pose cards" by writing or drawing poses on each card. Shuffle them up and pick some to make a sequence. (Poor sequencing can be educational!)
23. Hold each pose for four minutes.
24. Go to a class you think you won't like, it may remind you of what you cherish in your practice, or you may like it.
25. Think of five things in nature, or five different animals. Do your practice from the perspective of that animal or thing. For example, notice the tree in your back yard. Do tree pose from that tree's perspective, not your human mind perspective. How would a squirrel experience locust pose?
26. Add different pranayama sequences, cooling and heating, during your practice. Try pranayama in different postures, such as seated meditation postures, standing poses or in Savasana.
27. Bring a ritual or other object to your practice, such as a candle, feather, or mala. Ask that you be guided in your practice. Be open and receptive. You may wish to journal during this practice.
28. Read, or write, poetry during your practice.
29. Dedicate each pose, or your whole practice, to a friend or family member who needs healing.
30. If you don't have an altar, make one. It doesn't have to be a big deal, just a few things that mean something to you. If you do have an altar, change out a few of the objects for new ones. Feel your altar, feel Spirit, observing your practice, taking it in.
31. Listen to music you think would never go with your yoga practice. I once made a classic rock playlist which included Van Halen and AC/DC. It worked so well I made another one! They are two of my favorite playlists when I choose to listen to music during my practice. (What works so well is that I "dance" in the poses and feel them differently.)
32. Before your practice, read a passage from a book you enjoy. Feel that passage as you practice. (There are many books of "meditations," for example.)
33. Think about your five senses and what would please each one. Touch: Think about your clothes or a shawl wrapped around you in meditation or sitting poses. What fabrics feel good on your body? Taste: Have a nice cup of tea or flavored water with you. Smell: Incense? Candle? Essential Oil? Hearing: Music? No music? Birdsong? Water? Sight: Inside or Outside? Altar or no Altar? A certain picture? Play with your senses and find something different and appealing.
Please comment below. Which of the above are interesting to you? What do you want to try first? Do you have more ideas? What do you do?