Before the pandemic, I found it easy to roll out my mat daily, however, during the many lockdowns I experienced in the UK my practice ebbed and flowed. Some days I practised for ten minutes, other days I did nothing at all. Like me, and many other yoga students and teachers, your yoga practice may have slowed down or stopped completely as you’ve dealt with this uncertain situation. It’s taken me some time to find a routine and the joy of rolling out my mat each day again, but coming back to the practice has helped me navigate the ongoing pandemic. Once again, yoga has helped me face each day and get the most out of it.
If you’ve found that your practice has paused, or slipped a little during this time, I have a few tips to help you get back to the magic and the power of yoga.
There are a few practical tips I used even before I was a teacher, which has helped me now when it comes to getting up and doing yoga. Simple things such as laying out your clothes the night before, clearing a space to practice in and setting your mat up, are all little tricks to help encourage you. Making time for yourself to practice is also important. Work out some time in your day or week to get on your mat, starting with a shorter amount of time. Set yourself a timer and an intention and get used to moving through a few poses. As your routine may have changed, find out when you can incorporate your yoga practice into your life, but try not to put too much pressure on yourself either.
Many of us now are working from home and there isn’t always a lot of space to work with. However, do what you can. If the area you have is small think about standing poses that will work with the space you have or look up seated postures that you can adapt and still gain the benefits from. If you can, practice outside in nature or head to a local park. Take a friend with you that has practised yoga before and get used to moving through a few simple postures.
Although you may want to, try not to dive straight back into postures that have taken you a while to achieve. Going over foundational postures such as Mountain Pose, Triangle Pose, Warrior 2, Downward Facing Dog and Cobra Pose, are all key poses to build upon before going onto other postures. Or flowing through a few Sun Salutations will also help you move your body, warm-up effectively and prepare you for other poses. Remember, you can’t build a solid house from a shaky foundation! It is just the same with your practice. Be mindful of forcing anything in any poses, and notice how different muscles and areas of your body feel as you move. The last thing you want to do is to push too soon and to give yourself an injury.
A fellow teacher said to me a few weeks ago that their practice has completely paused, that they feel as though everyone has been spending so much time practicing yoga during the lockdowns, and this simply isn’t the case! Yoga is a practice that can and will be with you throughout your journey in life if you allow it. Naturally, as we age and go through different periods in life our practices may change too. You may find that over your lifetime your practice pauses a few times, and you need to encourage yourself to come back to it again and again.
The goal of yoga is never achieving what seems to be an advanced posture, however, you may want to build back up slowly to poses that took you a while to learn and that’s ok. Just be gentle with your body and yourself, and enjoy the process.
Throw a big dose of gratitude your way for surviving this pandemic and for getting through it as best you could. Maybe your situation changed and you weren’t able to practice, or maybe your body feels different or has also changed. But still, show your body some love for getting you to this point. Love it for all it has done before and all it will do in the future.
Yoga isn’t solely about the postures, or what you can do physically. It is a practice that incorporates mind, body and spirit and connects you to everything around you. Sometimes pausing your physical practice and instead focusing on meditation or breathing practices can feel better than forcing anything physical. Meditation and pranayama are both key practices woven into the 8 limbed path of yoga. No matter what postures you do, move with intention, compassion and care. Remind yourself that your practice is just that, yours, just as your body is also yours.
Revisiting why you fell in love with yoga originally is a really simple way of reminding yourself why you took up this practice and why you continued doing it. What was it that pulled you towards the practice, and what kept you coming back? For me, it was how fantastic my body felt afterwards and calm my mind was. I had no idea how yoga made me feel so great but it was something I certainly wasn’t going to give up. Maybe you had a friend recommend giving yoga a try, or maybe you felt inspired by seeing someone practicing a posture. Or maybe like me, you took one class and were immediately hooked. Whatever inspired you in the first place, can inspire you again.
Try viewing the practice with a beginners mind, as you have done once before, and try to approach it as a new adventure. When we greet new things or experiences as a beginner we are open-minded and happy to learn. We accept that we probably aren’t going to instantly be the best at something and are content with just giving it a go. Apply this same principle when getting back on your mat and you’ll learn more about how different postures feel, how your breathing changes, and how present you are as you move.
Another great way of coming back to the practice is by trying a new style of yoga. Maybe before you spent most of your time practising Yin, Vinyasa Flow or Ashtanga Vinyasa. Why not try Iyengar, Rocket or Restorative yoga? There are so many styles of yoga and different types can help you understand your body or different postures better. All different forms of yoga compliment each other and you may find as you move through other stages of life, that changing to a new style of yoga may suit you better for that period of time. If where you are in the world is currently allowing in-person yoga classes, see if you can find a new class to go to. If you aren’t able to attend in-person classes, book an online class or find a class on YouTube, or another online yoga platform.
You may also find it beneficial to try a beginners class in a different style of yoga. Particularly if before the pandemic you were used to slower and mindful Hatha classes and you are now trying an energetic Vinyasa Flow class.
Online teaching has expanded the yoga community and has connected teachers from around the world with students they may not have had the chance of connecting with previously. With so many countries going into lockdowns and shutting studios, yoga teachers have been staying in contact with their students by teaching online. There are many established online yoga teachers, why not think about taking an online yoga class or workshop with a teacher you have always wanted to practice with? You may learn something you’ve always wanted to, or they may give you a little wisdom that inspires and encourages you and your practice.
Sometimes going to a new teacher and seeing their interpretation of yoga and its philosophy can help you gain a deeper understanding of different topics under the umbrella of yoga.
Something that really helped me, was going over my notes from a course I did with a teacher in Mysore. Re-reading the wisdom and philosophy that was taught made me remember what matters in life and in my practice. With all the anxiety and nervousness I was experiencing, I’d gotten lost and needed to recenter myself. Revisiting the Yamas and the Niyamas was a great way of reminding myself to apply yogic principles to modern life and the challenges we’ve been facing collectively.
If you haven’t read any yoga philosophy before, try reading through Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, as commentated by Sri Swami Satchidananda. Or reading a translation and a commentary of the Bhagavad Gita. Search online for workshops or classes by yoga teachers offering lectures about yoga philosophy and how to apply it to modern life. With the pandemic not yet over the advice and wisdom embedded in the practice can assist us in working through the ever-changing situation with a calm and centred mind.
And when you are feeling ready, think about booking onto a Yoga Teacher Training. An intensive training course is an excellent way to reconnect and immerse yourself in the practice, even if you do not plan to teach in the future. You’ll also be with other like-minded people that also love the practice and by sharing your journey with others you’ll inspire each other.
If you have already done a course previously, doing another one and learning from different teachers can strengthen your knowledge of yoga and your personal practice. Not to mention it’ll help grow your skills as a teacher for the future.