Yoga at Home Part II: Why isn’t Yoga working for Me?
No matter what your health and wellness goals are, it seems you can find an article, a blog, a book or a person to tell you how “Yoga” is the answer. In light of all this evidence, more and more people are giving it a try. In fact, according to a recent study, there are thought to be 300 million yoga practitioners worldwide. Between 2012 and 2016 the number of Americans doing yoga grew by 50%. Approximately one in three Americans have tried yoga at least once. The number of over 50s practicing yoga has tripled over the last four years. (all sources listed on GoodBody.com).
So why isn’t Yoga working for you? The are a number a reasons you may get stuck or simply give up. Let’s demystify them so you can get back to reaping the rewards and find out what everyone is talking about. Below are 6 reasons you may be lacking the motivation and stamina to keep coming back to the mat. If you are just starting out with your yoga practice in these times of social isolation, you might want to read Part I to this series for tips on how to start a yoga practice at home.
The most obvious reason for your yoga fail is that you are expecting too much from your yoga practice. While any type of yoga can be better than sitting on the couch for one more Netflix binge, yoga alone cannot meet all your fitness goals. I find it very helpful to look at Yoga as medicine rather than exercise. In this way, Yoga can give you the energy and the resilience you need to participate in all other activities – including other forms of exercise. Pushing too hard into a yoga practice will lead, at best, to burn out and, at worst, to injury. Look to your breath for guidance. If you are holding your breath while practicing, you are not practicing Yoga, you are simply doing an exercise.
Once you apply this framework, you will see that Yoga, like medicine, is not likely to be effective when practiced irregularly or inconsistently. Consistent, daily practice for even 15-20 minutes will create incremental change over time and leave you feeling much more satisfied than “over-dosing” one or two days per week. This is why having a home practice is so important. Each time you come to your mat, you should leave feeling better than when you started. If your yoga practice leaves you feeling depleted, it is not serving you and you will not maintain motivation for your practice.
Inconsistency can also be seen in the type of yoga practice you choose. As demand for Yoga grows, one is able to find an almost endless variety of yoga classes and poses. If you are, like me, someone who loves variety, persistent “sampling” can dilute the effects of your yoga practice and leave you locked into the revolving door of stimulating mental practice without the physical and energetic carryover. If you find a teacher and a practice which challenges you appropriately and from which you feel you receive noticeable benefit – stick with it for at least 30-40 days before changing your practice.
Finding a teacher, a practice and an environment that works for you is not simple; however, with a little preparation, you do not have to go about it blindly. Spend some time thinking about how you manifest when you are the best version of yourself. Even if it has been a long time since you felt you were at your best, you have a unique and special quality that when stressed, you lose track of. When you are at your best, is your mind clear and creative or are you calm and carefree? Are you passionate and full of energy or relaxed and happy? Are you compassionate and giving or are you the one who is driven to march for the cause? What practices and people make you feel more of this quality? Some practices might chill you out or feel good but if your goal was to get off the couch with energy and vitality, you are moving in the wrong direction. Or, you worked up a good sweat in that power yoga class but then came home and screamed at your kids or couldn’t sleep.
A similar mistake is not allowing your yoga practice to change as your needs change. The practice you had at 25 years of age is not going to be the same as when you are 50 and your practice in the hot days of summer should not be the same as in the dead of winter. If you do not change your practice, you won’t be able to stick with it or you will begin to feel worse for the effort. That doesn’t mean you have to stop. Stay in tune with yourself and changes within and around you. Trust and accommodate to your needs over time. This is particularly true of injury and illness. Invest the time, and possibly the money (for yoga therapy), to learn how to modify your practice to meet your current condition. Getting injured in yoga doesn’t mean that yoga will not work for you, it simply means that your current practice is not working for you right now.
Finally, the simplest reason your yoga practice might not be working for you is that you are consistently skipping Savasana. Savasana is an essential part of every practice. Savasana is the time and place and shape where the efforts and rewards of the practice are assimilated, dispersed and absorbed. Without Savasana, the effects of even the most carefully curated practice will dissolve quickly.