Yoga Hiatus: Returning to your Mat

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By: Danielle Wilson

I’ve had many students walk through the door, lately, expressing that it’s been awhile since they’ve last practiced, and rounding out their thought with a sense of nervousness, hesitation, or even shame for allowing so much time to pass. Each conversation has arrived at a similar consensus about the difficulty of showing up on your mat after a yoga hiatus. I, too, have experienced the mental, physical, and emotional challenges that arise when life gets busy and yoga becomes scarce, and I, too, have suffered through the mind games that can occur when you finally return. I thought it would be helpful to put some of these feelings and thoughts out on the table because if I’ve learned anything throughout my journey with mindfulness and internal knowing, it’s that no one is alone in their experience, and the more vulnerable we are with each other, the better we can understand, guide, and motivate each other on our paths.

First off, it’s important to acknowledge that most of the hesitation or nervousness we may feel towards mustering up the courage to veer back into a consistent practice is a result of our ego, not us—i.e. our true Self. Fear of looking like you don’t know what you’re doing, feeling weaker or less flexible than when you last stepped onto your mat, concern over what others may think of your practice, or even what you may think of your practice: these are all examples of insecurity rooted in our ego’s desire to be accepted, to be the best, or to feel worthy. These thoughts are a very typical human experience, and they occur in arguably every scenario in life. 

The bottom line is, we may not be able to get rid of these anxieties, but we can alter our perspective of them, therefore relinquishing them of their hold over us. Envision your ego as the clothes you wear—they serve as a unique expression of Self, but they are not the Self; we can put them on as necessary, bask in the glory of fulfilling such an external pleasure, but in the end, we take them off, set them aside, and the truest usis revealed. When our clothes get wet or dirty, we remove them, assess them, wash them—we are essentially caring for them—until they are in a state of being helpful and effective in our lives, once again. We must do the same with our ego. When it spirals to a state of guilt, shame, or insecurity, we must set it outside of our Self, acknowledge it, cleanse it, and overall care for it with upmost compassion.

Another issue I see arise is the very real physical soreness that can occur after any fitness intermission. Many yogis have expressed that coming back with consistency is hard because of the physical soreness they experience after the first class—it seems some feel discouraged by it and others just feel too sore to move! For one, accepting the mere reality of this physical state is a must in pushing past the hump of embarking on a consistent practice. If your aching body tends to discourage you, try changing the way you acknowledge the experience! I actually get super excited when my body’s sore—it’s a dancer thing, we’d always brag about who was the sorest and why. That soft burn and tightness of my muscles symbolizes the hard work and dedication I put in and motivates me to do it again! The sensation of soreness is actually caused by micro-torn muscle fibers healing back together, each time stronger than the last (a process called Delayed Onset Muscular Soreness, DOMS). So, if you think about it, the aching you feel is your muscles literally getting stronger and healing themselves—how cool!

There are ways you can avoid an excessive aftermath of soreness. Drink lotsof water before and after your practice to assist your muscles in healing. Focus less on attaining each posture the way you had been when you last took class and place your attention on your breath. Breath is life force energy that enhances healing, light, and space. Blood is also a form of life force energy, and to send circulation through the body that you’ve worked so hard, stay for a few minutes after class to roll out with a lacrosse ball or sit in some light stretches. You could even make your second class back a restorative form of yoga, like Yin Yoga (Julianne teaches some awesome restorative classes on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays), that way you are still committing to your practice, but allowing your body some time to heal. Another option is to take a bath in Epsom salt before you go to bed—this salt is a healing agent that will increase the rate in which your muscle fibers form stronger bonds.

The truth is, if we limit ourselves and our mindset, recommitting to practice can be incredibly challenging, but if we open our eyes to the tools available to us, alter the way we perceive our experience, and set our ego aside, the process not only become easier, it may even be enjoyable! Let us not forget the power of community, as well. Communicate where you’re at with your instructor(s), and maybe even bring some friends along for the journey. Challenges are more bearable when your surrounded by the love and support of others! You’re not alone in your struggle, we’re all here with you. So, take a deep breath, speak to yourself kindly, and show up on your mat excited for the journey ahead!



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