Returning to practice: 3 things to consider when coming back to yoga after a break...
So, for those of you who know me you'll know that I have only recently started my yoga practice again after a loooong pause!
There was an MA to finish, depression to recover from, sickness to heal and general lack of vitality or energy and all this together made for a very poor and sporadic yoga practice, to say the least.
If I did step on my mat it was to cry or lie around feeling hopeless and even the slightest attempt at a 'proper' asana practice left me weak, exhausted and sometimes even ill for a few days. My body literally screamed 'STOP NOOOOW OR YOU'LL BE SORRY!!!' and usually I really was!
(If you want to read about the process through this time of utter madness, head on over to www.katesteiner.com and check out my blog there ... it's all documented in horrific detail so if you are one of those peeps who has a kinda morbid curiosity - very much like myself - you'll feel right at home!)
So now, coming back to a (semi) regular practice there are 3 things I have found to be of the utmost importance:
No 1 - RESPECT YOUR LIMITATIONS!
After coming through a period of depression, trauma or illness (or even just after a break) you are not going to be able to do the same workout routine, yoga practice or weight training that you were doing before. Wow, that sounds super obvious doesn't it, but I can't tell you how many times I have attempted to go straight back into a tough Vinyasa class after not practicing for a while. Tip: IT HURTS, IT'S NOT GOOD FOR YA and you will feel like SH1T afterwards!! (Not the point of yoga AT ALL folks!)
Your body has changed and you must adapt and give the poor thing a break! When you feel tired, shaky or even that you have had enough ... JUST STOP! You can hurt yourself really easily when you are in a period of recovery and the need for patience, self love and respect is of the utmost importance at this time.
That also goes for limitations within your practice too. You aren't going to be able to enter into full Hanumanasana after not doing any asanas for a year (unless you are a contortionist, in which case ... leave us and stop making us look bad!) so please don't try! Get to a place where your bod says 'uh ha, yup, I'm good here tks' and then stop, become still and feel what is happening ... noooo pushing, straining or forcing ... simply be with the feeling and realise when you have had enough.
You will find as you cultivate this respect and love for your body, you naturally start to develop a deep respect and love for yourself ... with all of your imperfections! It becomes a journey of deep healing and even deeper discovery into where you are right NOW.
No 2 - KEEP IT SHORT AND SWEET!
Trying to do 1.5 hours of asana practice after a break is going to exhaust you and put you off practicing in the future so I recommend keeping it to a maximum of 30 mins for any kind of movement based yoga practice. 30 mins feels good and you get a great sense of achievement when you can finish your practice with a spring in your step rather than wanting to fall into a dead faint! I would also not try to practice active asanas every day in the beginning. Starting with 2 - 3 times a week and building up slowly (as I feel ready for more) seems to work for me. If you absolutely feel healthy enough to do more then try doing a Yin yoga practice on the other days ... Yin is a wonderful, deeply meditative practice where you hold a few poses for a long time and simply feel what is happening within. It'll link in with the points above about not pushing yourself and building self love!
No 3 - TRY NOT TO WORRY ABOUT IT!
You WILL get your strength back! It hasn't gone for good and with every time you roll out your mat you are dedicating a chunk of time to yourself and your recovery. This in itself is a part of the healing process. You might feel frustrated when you can't bust out 2 hrs of Power Vinyasa like a spring chicken or get your feet behind your head the way you used to (I still can't do that soooo ...... awkward) but try to cultivate the mindset you had when you discovered Yoga for the very first time ... remember that? When you were simply happy to be able to do the Sun Salutations without a mistake? Or you managed to balance for half a second on your hands in crow pose? Keeping a beginners mind in these frustrating moments will allow you to connect more deeply to a sense of patience with yourself and will actually help you to feel more empathy with your beginner students (if you are teaching) or other beginners (if you aren't!). Try to keep a feeling of gratefulness that you are able to practice at all! I mean, you could still be lying in that hospital bed or unable to move so it's all good really!
All in all, the journey from sickness back into health or getting back into shape again can be annoying and frustrating but I invite you to take it as it is, respect yourself and your emotions as they come up and just KNOW deep in your heart that you are on your way back to VIBRANT health!
Now THAT is something to warm the cockles ain't it!!
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