Once you start practicing yoga, you may find it’s something that ebbs and flows in terms of how often you do it. One of the wonderful things about yoga is that it’s generally so accessible (of course, depending on the poses you pick) that you can get back into your practice with relative ease. One of the best things is that you only need a mat in order to practice, so getting back into it doesn’t require any complex equipment or clothing. However, there are some concerns you might have about how to approach your return to the mat. With that in mind, here are five tips to consider:
Go into your return to practice with little in the way of expectations. While you may have the eventual goal of taking class 3-4 times a week and feeling stretchy and light in your body, this won’t come back right away. Go into the first few weeks of your practice without expectation. Focus on taking deep, rhythmic breaths, keep your gaze point in every pose soft and focused and remembering to be kind to your body. This might mean skipping poses or variations that might be a bit too strenuous at the start. Things that come to mind that may be helpful are dropping the knees when moving to Low Push Up or dropping a knee in Crescent Lunge or Side Plank.
Find a class that is right for you. While you might want to get back to that heated power yoga practice in that sweaty studio, that might not be the right place to begin your re-entry into practice. That doesn’t mean don’t go, but it might mean choosing a 1 hour class over a 90 minute practice. It could also mean you select a beginner’s class or one where you know the teacher and feel comfortable that you’ll know what to expect.
Rest as you need to rest. How many times have you heard this in yoga class and thought, “If I rest, I’ll feel like I’m giving up.” It’s natural to feel this way but it’s important that we put the skill of learning how to listen to our bodies ahead of that competitive voice that might make you keep pushing yourself when you don’t feel all that great. Resting a few times in class is a natural way to rejuvenate yourself so you can proceed with less stress and greater effectiveness.
Use props. Take two blocks, a strap and a blanket. These are great for anyone but especially as you’re returning to practice, they’re key in helping you create a steady base. Steadiness will help you experience the pose more fully. Take a cork block over foam and if those are not available, take two foam blocks. You want to give yourself the option of greater height off the floor and one foam block might not do it. Straps are great for giving your arms extra length so you can really stretch your shoulders when interlacing the fingers. Blankets can provide a good resting place for hips in forward folds or Pigeon Pose.
Recognize the changes that happen immediately and give yourself credit for your return to your practice. One of the greatest things about yoga is that the deep breathing alone will have an immediate impact on your overall feeling in your body. It will make your feel lighter, clearer and more relaxed. This will be the case, in most cases, regardless of the class you take or the poses you do, as long as you stay committed to taking slow, rhythmic breaths. The other changes you will see and feel will come over time, but the immediate changes in your overall feeling in the body are right there, in the immediate.
Give yourself credit for returning to the mat. Reward yourself with a nice cup of tea after a late night class or enjoy a healthy breakfast after you got up early for that 7 am practice. Your yoga practice is always there for you; you just need to show up.