Stuck in a yoga rut? Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us.
With 13 years and counting of a regular yoga practice, I know the feeling from personal experience. I’ve gone through phases where I just can not get enough of yoga: daily classes, double classes, yoga books, yogi friends…
In essence, a yoga addiction.
I’ve gone through times when asanas were so much a part of my daily life that I wouldn’t dare not practice. It was simply what I did, part of my identity.
And alas, every now and then I’ve gone through a phase where I can’t bear the thought of unrolling my mat. A total loss of yoga mojo.
I hear from my students that this is the case for many yoga practitioners.
Sometimes we just don’t feel like practicing yoga. (And when I say “yoga” I’m specifically referring to asana practice.)
So how do we get out of this yoga rut? What do we do when we lose our motivation to practice yoga?
There is a time and place for taking a break from the physical practice of yoga. But on the flip side, dips in our motivation are a test on the spiritual path. So there’s a balance to be struck between detachment to our practice and the will to continue.
Sometimes lack of motivation means it’s time to take a rest, and sometimes it means it’s time to spice things up to keep us moving forward on the yogic path.
A Few Reasons It Might Be Time For You To Take A Rest
There are some valid reasons to heed to your lack of yoga motivation. Let’s look at the big 4 to know when it’s time to take a break.
Reason 1: You’ve Overdone It
It is possible to do too much yoga. An intensive daily practice has a shelf life (for most body types, that is). It will feel good for some time, but only until the body finally revolts and demands rest!
Yoga can definitely be practiced every day. And it’s definitely healthy to practice yoga every day. However, this is all dependent on how we’re practicing every day. Are we junkies for hot, sweaty, power yoga class? Or quick-moving, high energy yoga classes? Classes where we leave the studio with jelly legs and soaked with sweat?
Are we junkies for hot, sweaty, power yoga class? Or quick-moving, high energy yoga classes? Classes where we leave the studio with jelly legs and soaked with sweat?
These classes are great for every-now-and-then, but they’re a little too much on a daily basis. The body will eventually plea for rest in some form or another, whether it be lack of motivation, tiredness, or even worse: injury.
Yoga’s sister science of Ayurveda recommends daily exercise but only to 50% of our total capacity. This means stopping when we have to breathe heavily or wipe sweat from our brow.
This means stopping when we have to breathe heavily or wipe sweat from our brow.
Does your yoga practice often exceed this recommendation? If so, your lack of motivation might be a message from your body to ease off the hard-core yoga.
Reason 2: (If You’re A Woman) You’re On Your Cycle
If your lack of motivation is aligned with the onset of your menstrual cycle, there’s good reason to take rest.
Again Ayurveda teaches us a thing or two about exercise: the menstrual cycle is a time of purification when a woman’s body naturally undergoes a certain level of stress.
Ayurveda recommends that rather than adding stress on top of stress, women rest during their cycle and allow their bodies to focus on the menstruation process.
Lack of motivation may be the body’s calling for some down time. If we heed its request–spending these few days going inward rather than expending our energy through physical exercise–the body thanks us in return with smoother, less painful cycles.
Reason 3: You’re Under The Weather
The third big reason to respect a lack of motivation is illness.
During acute sickness, like a bad cold, fever, or flu, we should absolutely take a break from our physical yoga practice. Exercise isn’t usually helpful in these times, as what the body really needs is rest.
And even without very obvious symptoms, like a stuffy nose or a fever, a tuned-in person knows when something’s not right. Mild signs, like body aches, sluggishness, a sore throat, or heaviness might be a cue to hold off for a few days and let the body bring itself back to balance.
Reason 4: You Need A Lesson On Detachment
If our yoga practice becomes such an obsession that we chastise ourselves for missing even just one day, we need a lesson in detachment. In this case, lack of motivation becomes a spiritual test.
Yoga encourages us to learn the art of detached attachment.
While we can still enjoy the pleasures of life like our favorite foods and our beloved asana practice, we have to train our minds to release external dependencies. Identifying ourselves with our asana practice is a misunderstanding of the true self.
We are not our yoga practice, and we have to detach enough that we can take a break without feeling guilty. A true yogi will have mastered this detached attachment. Learn to identify a healthy yoga practice and an unhealthy yoga obsession to know when lack of motivation will help you to be more of a yogi.
5 Ways To Get Back On Your Yoga Mat
Sometimes your lack of motivation to get back to your yoga mat means you need more yoga.
If we’re feeling blase about our yoga practice and it’s not because we’ve overdone it, are on our cycle, are sick, or need a lesson in detachment, our lack of motivation probably means that we need to spice things up.
Getting out of our comfort zone helps us to get out of our yoga rut and continue along our yogic path.
#1 Try A New Style Of Yoga
Are you all about vinyasa or gung-ho yin? It might be time to step outside of your yoga comfort zone. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with loving and favoring one style of yoga, but switching it up every now and then can be enough to banish the blah-about-yoga-blues.
Take a class that’s the complete opposite of your normal yoga rhythm.
Ever-moving vinyasa yogis can head to stay-still yin, and vice versa. Rigid Ashtanga and Bikram yogis can flow through something a little more out of the box like aerial yoga or laughing yoga.
You get the idea. Opposites can sometimes be the way to go.
You might fall in love with a style of yoga that you’d never thought you’d like. You might fall in love for now and be over it in 2 weeks time. Or you might hate it all together. Either way, you’ll re-spark your love for yoga — either for a new style or your normal yoga groove.
#2 Practice Yoga At Home
If going to yoga classes is getting old, your lack of motivation might signal that it’s time to go solo. Practicing on your own at home may be intimidating but it could be just what you need.
A home practice allows you to deepen your yoga practice. It teaches you to identify what your body craves in each and every moment. It gives you the control to chose each asana according to what your body needs. And it both requires and develops self-discipline and focus.
If you’re unsure where to start, check out Zenward for a few months, which you can access on your mobile or desktop (and soon on Apple TV) so you can practice anywhere at any time.
Another alternative is to follow a favorite yoga youtube video. These options, especially Zenward, gives you the comfort of a teacher with the ability to pause or skip when needed.
With time, you’ll come to learn mini-sequences that you can piece together for a full yoga practice. If this means sun salutation series and savasana pose only, it’s enough. Just get comfortable making choices without a teacher’s instruction. Find your inner guru, the one who will always be there to teach you.
#3 Work With A Private Yoga Teacher
Your lack of motivation can be zapped away by the guidance of a private yoga teacher.
Group yoga classes have many benefits like their invigorating collective energy, sense of community, and affordability. But they’re not personalized enough to give your body exactly what it needs.
Individualized yoga sessions will show you where you can improve and what to work on at home. If this option is financially feasible, it will definitely help you to get out of your yoga rut.
#4 Teach Someone Else
They say that while we teach, we learn. So if you’re unmotivated by your own yoga practice, help someone else with theirs.
Teaching yoga is not easy, but it demands articulation that you may not otherwise ever come to have.
You learn about our own yoga practice by teaching others. You gain clarity on individual yoga poses, alignment, and what yoga really means to you.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to go through yoga teacher training (although it’s an excellent idea for anyone who’d like to deepen their yoga practice). If you’ve been practicing for a couple of years, you know enough to share a few basic poses with others.
Guide a friend through 10 minutes of cat-cow, child’s pose, and a gentle twist. Or teach someone the sun salutation. Channel the voice of your own yoga teacher to guide you as you teach another. You can do it. Get out of your comfort zone, and you’ll again regain your passion for your own practice.
#5 Take The Next Step On The Yogic Path
According to the sage, Patanjali, there are 8 steps on the yogic path toward enlightenment.
Jumping from being undisciplined, non-meditating beings to our fully-realized selves is not likely. This is why Patanjali laid out the eightfold path called ashtanga yoga. The steps are meant to systematically guide us on our spiritual journey.
The first 2 steps are the yamas and niyamas, the “dos” and “don’ts” of moral conduct.
And then comes asana at step 3. With 5 more steps to follow, asana is pretty low on the list! It’s not the be-all and end-all of the yogic journey. It’s just one little blip on the evolutionary path toward spiritual development.
If you’ve been practicing asana (poses) for a while and feel like you’re stuck in a rut, it might be time for you to take the next step on the ashtanga path: pranayama.
Pranayama means “breath expansion” or “breath control.” It gives mastery over the body as well as control over the wandering mind. Both of these are imperative for concentration–the next step on the yogic path.
Strangely, pranayama is so often left out of studio yoga classes. You’ll wonder why once you really delve into this facet of yoga because pranayama will change your practice forever. It allows you to access the subconscious and clear old patterns that no longer serve you. It teaches you to focus your thoughts so that you have a fruitful meditation practice.
Pranayama is meant to be learned from a teacher. The breath should not be manipulated without care. If you’re ready for this next step on the yogic path, seek out a course in pranayama or a teacher who regularly includes breathwork in their classes. Your love for yoga will surely be reinvigorated as you’re introduced to a whole new meaning of the practice.