Is your yoga practice getting a little stale? Maybe you’ve been going to the same class at the same time each week for the past year. Or perhaps you use a video — the same video — every day. If you’re finding yourself a tad uninspired to get on your mat, you might be suffering from yoga block. And I don’t mean a yoga block “prop,” although if you’re really in a rut then your practice may need a little propping up!
Invite the muse to visit you to regain your inspiration. Your practice may need a little injection of prana to get you psyched to practice again. As Willy Wonka says, “There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination.”
The biological basis for the rut
Our minds and our bodies actually require novelty in order to continue to grow and remain stimulated. One of the reasons that cross-training is so effective for athletes is that it constantly re-challenges their body’s tissues to negotiate the different stresses from different types of exercises. Your mind and body may literally be deepening into an asana rut that is no longer helping you to remodel neurons, connective tissues, muscles and bones in a way that keeps your interest. It’s possible that your cells have grown “bored” because they are no longer being challenged.
But how can you ignite your creativity when so much of asana is repetitive in its form? Repetition is the nuts and bolts behind asana. You actually do have to keep doing the same poses in order to master them. But many yogis can get stuck in a rut, gravitating toward one approach or one set of poses or a sequence that permits no deviation.
A new approach to asana
So why not cross-train your yoga? This is actually why I created my own two-year video journey in my Yoga Tune Up® At-Home Program. I wanted to create a series that keeps your body guessing every day. I encourage you to pull yourself out of your rut by alternating a totally different approach on different days of the week. Here are some ideas for how to do it.
Video variety. If you do yoga primarily at home, one of the easiest ways to change up your practice is to shuffle around your yoga DVD collection. Don’t just use your newest videos — dust off some old covers and go for variety! One day be a power yoga “flow-ter” with Kathryn Budig, the next day try restorative poses with Barbara Benagh, follow that with a day of only Iyengar standing poses with Gabriella, then take a day to focus exclusively on your knees! How about a morning of Rodney Yee’s core work, followed the next day with an afternoon of pelvic priming hip-centric poses? That’s six days right there! Then take a day off to rest and recover. Whew!
Stay tuned – more tips to come on Friday!
Read about making your posture perfect.
Learn about Yoga Tune Up at home.
Find a Yoga Tune Up class or workshop near you.
[Reprinted with permission from GaiamLife.]
Hi Jill, so true. I was in a big Bikram rut for a long time and have gotten to the point now where I have simply stopped practicing yoga at all. I have gone for more strength training and lots of human movements like crawling squattgin and hanging.
it has been an interesting journey and probably the toughest part has been allowing myself the option of trusting my own process and not thinking that something bad will happen to me if I go off the script.
This makes a lot of sense… Recently I have felt bored, and uninspired within my practice, as well as my teachings. The last two weeks I had a go at a ‘Boot Camp’ run from an instructor who’m I know. These exercises e challenging, and new to my body… I discovered areas which could benefit from strengthening at a different approach. It seems that after time and repetition a practice can become less beneficial, and it is a great idea to switch up your daily practice.
I think that its important for students to know that a block is a tool, not a crutch. I have always been naturally flexible so would never think to grab a block at the beginning of my practice because I don’t need it to reach the floor. But then I began going to classes where the teacher would say at the beginning of class, “everyone get a block” and we would use it in a way that would actually make the pose more challenging; holding it in hand while in a standing warrior sequence to add extra weight, or balancing on the block under one foot. The block can be used to challenge your practice, not just make alignment easier when stiff.
So many people take the same class/style/teacher over and over again. I try to mix it up to keep exploring my boundaries – thank you for the reminder and validation!
The greatest thing is just to go to a totally different cass with a different techer. Just a new voice keeps you alert. i often get a bunch of friends together for self-practice and it works really well. Although we don´t talk or do the same thing, you can get inspired by hearing someone elses breath. I also like to change my sun salutations slightly every time, just if I do upward dog with legs in the ground or lifted. Or vary if my shoulders abduct or flex.
one of my teacers once said: If you really are present and connected in every breath, how can it be boring? Every breath is new. That might be something…
I just have to agree with the fact that it is really wonderful to go to different classes, and definitley to go to different teachers. Before I was very attached to the same teacher and almost got irritaded when I turned up to class and there was another teacher that day. But now I have really realized the benefit of going to different teacher because you so often get a new wiev of how you should improve your asanas.
Just as it is so important to experience different teachers and classes to shake up your yoga practice, it is vital that those teachers introduce variety into their class structure: even the slightest change-up can have such profound effects. The picture of downdog on blocks, for instance: no one expects that. Its introducing variety while staying true to basic concepts and not getting too crazy. Very inspiring.
I definitely experience “yoga block”. I find myself getting stuck in ruts with all the things I do routinely. I really like to mix it up with a kundalini class (since I don’t take them too often). I love that the asanas/kriyas are not as common to me. It always allows me to open my mind up to the wide world of yoga!
I have never, ever taught the same class twice. I teach 10 week series that focus on certain concepts that may be physical historical or spiritual, then introduce appropriate asana. The only thing that is constant is the vinyasa, I think of it as the connective tissue that keeps the body of the practice together. However, after reading this blog I can see how this needs changing up, too.
My students (and I) don’t like to know what is coming next. I believe that the experience is more of a vacation from nagging thoughts when you have to pay attention to know what is coming next.
Great article to really think about what the body wants for a challenge. I do find my reagular ashtanga class quite challenging, even after 5 years of practice, the regular repetition of the poses is a moving mediation, I enjoy knowing what comes next and flowing this with the breath.
I’ve tried a new approach recently in order to keep myself out of a rut or routine: ‘listening to my body’. So silly that it’s not what I do all the time. Instead of my typical classes, teachers, or even style of classes – I’ve been tuning into my body in the morning or after a long day, and listening to what needs attention, release, strengthening, etc. What parts of my body are dying for my attention – whether it be because they’re in pain or because they feel great and are ready to take another step. Then I choose the class, workout, or style that would speak directly to that area of my body.
It’s not really a life-changing concept – but it seems to be transforming the way i feel, and it’s shaking things up and keeping it interesting.
try it out 🙂
Spontaneity–yes! I love that word. I truly believe that I, as a person in general, can get so stuck in routine. I’m lucky enough to practice with teachers who always offer surprises. In developing a personal practice, it’s extra hard to not go for the postures that we know and love. This insight will definitely make me reconsider this and maybe come up with a few extra sequences to mix everything up.
I love going to new teachers or different classes. I always walk away with a new insight of the asana, or maybe hear new ques on how to get into a particular asana. I have also enjoyed the benefits of having a more toned-down, yin style practice to balance the more power, ashtanga practice.
Sometimes I find myself confusing a yoga rut with a routine rut. I’m never sorry I made it to my regular yoga classes… after the fact. What’s challenging is living a hectic, active life (whether that be in business, chasing kids around) and then being inspired to drag myself to the studio after work. It means less time at home, later dinner, no social time. Sure, you can mix up the time of day, but that’s not always a solution. But knowing that about myself, I’ve created systems to ensure that I’m there. For 18 months I had a standing engagement with a dear friend. Because the studio was out of her way, canceling at the last minute was unacceptable. I found that knowing that I’d be able to spend time with a friend afterward made class seem less like a physical obligation and more of a life choice. In lieu of a buddy, I’ll sometimes promise to bring something to some one in the class– a book we’ve talked about, a coffee– anything that creates expectation. Once I’m in class, I’ve found that communication is always the key the engagement. Sometimes that’s communicating with myself, telling myself to try to do the most basic form of the posture instead of the advanced form. (It’s shocking how easily you can lose site of well executed fundamentals!) Other times I communicate with my teachers. Depending on the style of class and teacher, I might suggest something new that the class hasn’t focused on in a while, or offer to bring in a new playlist. Attending the same class week after week and listening to the same music is a recipe for complacency. More times than not the class wants to participate in the direction of the class, especially where there is a regular group.
I love this idea of the block as a innovator and not a crutch or some handicap. I’ve “propped up” my practice by gripping a wooden block between my feet in Prasarita Paduttanasana and Ardha Navasana to get a little inner thigh work while also adding weight. I also grip the block between my thighs while practicing the shoulder shape up movements. It helps me stay focused on the mid-line of my body. I’ve also been practicing with the block in Ustrasana to counter the external rotation of the glutes. As you’ve suggested, it really helps diminish compression in the Sacrum while being able to utilize the glutes in the back bend.
Jill, I loved reading this blog. Many years ago, I had ordered one of your videos on line and what I loved about it was exactly what you described in this blog—a different approach to the asanas that I had been practicing for years. Needless to say I have since ordered all your videos and have enjoyed your creative teaching in all of them( I have also enjoyed taking your workshops and learning even more fun and creative approaches )
I love this idea. I think that’s why I like to take different classes with different teachers. I especially like teachers that don’t do the same Series A, B, C. That’s one of the great things about YTU. Different ways of seeing the world.
Sometimes I find myself getting attached to a certain workout or teacher and forget just how refreshing it is to challenge my body in new ways. Once I start mixing up my workout routines both on and off the mat my passion for life and fitness ignites a fire within my soul! When I begin to feel that my yoga practice is becoming forced then I know it is time to shake things up. I find that if I plan out my workouts before the week begins I will avoid my repetitive habits and try something new and rejuvenating. I am looking forward to mixing up my routines for this upcoming week!
I have to say, when I started practicing Yoga, I was initially concerned about the repetitive nature of the practices and that by taking classes with the same teachers week in and week out at my studio, I would either A, get bored, or B, lose focus of why I was going to class. But that view absolutely changed over time.
Initially I came to working out when I was younger, as an athlete devoted to most sports, but then, specifically basketball. However, as a former basketball player, I was always instructed that practice makes perfect. I always was drilled that way to the point that repetition burnt me out as a player. I lost the love, so they say.
But, now studying as a Yoga teacher and as a coach and trainer, I like to instill the mindset that practice makes better, not perfect. It is through switching up the days, music, and experience that repetition, although very much in place, is defintiely altered to the point that you dont get burnt out and dont feel that need for perfection.
I agree with the comments above in all aspects, and like life, Yoga and working out are the same…..you need to switch it up. A lot of that comes from the beats!!!
I am a huge supporter of mixing up workouts and yoga routines. I think one thing people tend to forget is that yoga poses can achieve a variety of benefits outside of flexibility. Using it as a tool each day in a very different way provides the same effect as cross training, and it gives me an excuse to do yoga for my workouts every day.
When I’m in a rut, I often reach for blocks and straps and devote my practice that day to alignment, rather than depth.
Instead of wheel, I’ll do supported bridge poses with the block. I’ll use the strap for shoulder stretching.
Another way I break a rut is by putting my mat in a completely different spot in them. I practice in the same studio, and to be a “front row, left corner” kind of gal. That’s “my spot.” But every now and then I’ll switch it up and move to another spot in room. It’s weird how a different view is enough to change how the poses feel to me.
I completely agree with Chau’s comment and have found repetitive classes truly can cause me injury or worse they can result in bad habit formation if there is continual repetitive out of alignment motion. I know well the feeling of going into autopilot, specifically in a vinyasa style class. Sometimes the most helpful thing for me is to utilize props in spots in poses I may typically feel comfortable in in order to recognize some of my bad habits. For instance, taking a strap and using it around the upper arms in chataranga to ensure I am externally rotating and to ensure I am lowering to a distance where my elbows are bent to 90 degrees and inline with my shoulders is incredibly helpful. And though I’m not a huge fan of the mirrors in classes, sometimes they are incredibly useful to help correct bad habits that unfortunately you can no longer feel but may be able to see.
I definitely found that repetitive classes caused me some injury. Overuse of my shoulders and wrists, for example in too much of a Vinyasa style. Plus, when you get used to one teachers cues, you can definitely ‘tune out’ and go on autopilot, and not be as ‘in-the-moment’.
Great explanation for the ‘boredom’ that we all come to experience at one point or another in our practice. It is nice to be reminded of just how integrated our emotional and physical states can be with the biochemical workings of the body. We hear a lot in training journals and magazines about the importance of cross-training and “shocking” the body to overcome plateaus, but there is not much mention of the how or the wherefore. I would imagine that setting an intention at the start of our yoga practice to focus on working the integrity of a specific body part each time would also help to keep the body guessing?
Yoga on the blocks. I love using props in my yoga practice. My experience with yoga blocks and other props have given me new respect for how the body works and what help from a wall or a block can do to enhance a yoga pose. I find that the use of block help me to not muscle thur my yoga poses. The uses of the block seems to give me more time to feel and breath in the pose. Yoga props yeah!
I was truly in a yoga rut! Same class every week different moves but the same theme work hard sweat and up dog down dog. I was petty bored but hot, tired, sweaty and in lots of pain. The pain was a product of trying to feel something new in my up dog down dog power yoga sweaty experience. So now I have begin to take class from different teachers and also try different forms of yoga. Thank you Jill for confirming the benefit of varieity being the spice of yoga.
[…] Yoga Tune Up® Blog « Experiencing “Yoga Block”? How To Get Out Of That Yoga Rut […]