The honeymoon phase of a relationship is a wonderful and curious thing. You never know how long it will last and how powerfully your life will be pitched about in the tempest of infatuation. Intoxicating newness can take over your thoughts and make your body burn with passion. But what happens when the buzz wears off?
Yogis are people who have fallen in love with yoga. If you are reading this you are probably a yogi. You may have fond memories of your first few yoga classes, or even your first few years of practice—when it was fresh and new. You were excited to learn more. You devoured yoga books, searched for yoga blogs, made yoga friends, talked yoga talk, and thought yoga thoughts. Yoga made you a little weak in the knees.
For some of you that feeling has never disappeared. You continue to fall in love with yoga over and over again.
But for some of you, not so much. Maybe life got in the way. Whether it was a growing family, a new job, a sickness or injury, or moving away from your favorite yoga studio, the excitement faded and your relationship with yoga became a little less “whoa” and a little more “meh.”
Do you wish you could rekindle the fires of your passion for yoga?
Are you ready to rediscover yoga?
Rediscovering “whoa” might seem like a tall order. But really, there are a few simple things you can do to keep your yoga feeling fresh and new. Below are three secrets I’ve found work magic in rediscovering one’s romance with yoga.
Secret #1: You rediscover yoga every time you practice. You may imagine that you are practicing the same postures over and over again, but the postures do not exist without you. And you are constantly changing. Your body, your thoughts and emotions, your physical sensations are always in flux.
Just like when you're in love with a person, you and your partner are changing all the time. Couples run into trouble when they grow apart. The key is not to hold on to some romantic notion of the way things used to be but to grow and evolve together.
Yoga today is not the same as yoga 20 years ago. Yoga is much more injury-conscious, trauma-sensitive, and inclusive than it was when I first fell in love with it. It is also radically different than it was 100 years ago at the Mysore Palace, where Krishnamacharya was teaching B.K.S. Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois. And that yoga is a world apart from the kriyas and mudras of medieval hatha yoga, which hardly resemble the devotional practices of the bhakti yogis.
I am astounded when I hear someone say they find yoga boring. There is no yoga per se. There are hundreds of yogas. Maybe millions. There are as many yogas as there are yogis.
Which means that no matter how many years you have been practicing, you have but scratched the surface of yoga. At least in the interest of humility, please never say you are bored with yoga.
Secret #2: You are creating the yoga you practice. Yoga doesn’t exist as an object out there somewhere in the universe. As one of my teachers said, “Yoga exists in the bodies of its practitioners.” That means you are making it. You are not in yoga. Yoga is in you.
If you are getting bored with yoga, change it. You have the power.
Lineages of yoga are like safe deposit boxes. They are repositories of tools, techniques, legends, and philosophies—all of which are invaluable resources for a yogi, but they do not contain the yoga. Yoga takes place in yogis, not in lineages or schools.
Don’t tie yourself to a particular technique or tradition if it no longer serves you. That doesn’t mean you should walk around being outwardly hostile to yoga traditions. It just means recognizing when it is time to try something new.
You are driving this train.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are driving anyone else’s train though. It is hard enough to prevent your own train from being derailed. Just because you are creating the yoga you practice does not mean you have the power to create someone else’s yoga for them. Be powerful, but stay humble.
Secret #3: As your study of yoga deepens, it seems to grow more and more complex. But remember that the best things are always the simplest. Yoga can end up seeming like a fashion show with designers sending out models in outrageous costumes, pushing the envelope and challenging the limits of what is possible. But no matter what styles end up on the runway, there is nothing like a comfy pair of jeans and a crisp, clean T-shirt.
The best value in yoga lies in the basics. There is much adventure to be had in complex inversions, backbends, and arm balances. But it is expensive. It requires a huge investment of time and energy. And the return on your investment? Challenging postures look really cool. Beyond the aesthetic/performative element, these postures can also present you with obstacles to be overcome. In many ways complex and impressive postures are like Mount Everest. Why do them? Because they are there. But you certainly do not need to scale Everest, with all its associated dangers, in order to enjoy the simple beauty of going for a hike.
Think back to your first few yoga classes. Think back to when you first fell in love with yoga. What was it that captured your heart? Most likely, it was something simple. You felt energized or relaxed, or maybe you slept better. You moved more easily, you stressed less, or you simply felt playful and content in your body.
Think back to when you first fell in love with yoga. What was it that captured your heart? Most likely, it was something simple.
Focus on the basics. Attend to the things that make you feel good. By stripping your yoga down, away from ever more complex alignments, vinyasas, or philosophies, you can re-engage with the feelings that made you fall in love in the first place.
You can fall in love again.
Take my word for it. I fell in love with yoga when I read Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras in my second year of university. I fell in love again when I met a brilliant teacher in Calgary, Alberta. I fell in love again when I started teaching a class for seniors at a community center. I fell in love anew when my wife and I opened our yoga studio in Regina, Saskatchewan, and again by watching my students become teachers.
I fall in love with yoga when I find a new teacher, read a new book, take a new class, or learn a complementary modality. I fall in love whenever I am forced to relearn something I thought I knew. The one thing that all my favorite teachers have in common is that they pull the rug out from underneath me. They challenge my assumptions, reveal my blind spots, and make me reconsider things I thought I knew.
Whenever the rug is pulled out from under you, you have an opportunity to be swept off your feet.
This is all about you and your relationship with yoga. Maybe you never fell out of love. Maybe you broke up with yoga and married CrossFit. That’s okay. But if you and your practice are having a lover’s spat or worse and you want to reconnect and rediscover your passion, you need to take risks.
Be bold and daring. Open yourself to new projects and possibilities. Unlearn, relearn, and unlearn again. Because rediscovering yoga is all about embracing beginner’s mind.