Yoga Crisis: What to Do When You Don’t Feel Like Practicing

By: 
Kathryn Boland, RCYT, R-DMT

It’s probably safe to say that all yogis have experienced this: a day (or days) when you don’t want to get onto your mat. The thought of practicing just isn’t appealing to you at all. Maybe a prior injury has you feeling like you’re in a slump. Maybe you feel like you’ve had enough of what you’ve been practicing, whether it’s a particular school of yoga, style, or type of teaching. Maybe it’s inexplicable.

This is nothing to feel guilty about. Yoga practice teaches us to first just notice the feelings. Even when you’re not technically “doing yoga,” try to practice that approach. Learning and appropriate action often follow.

Most yogis who’ve experienced this glitch in their inspiration get back on their mats eventually, and enjoy a long and fulfilling journey of practice thereafter. But if you’re looking for ways to deal with your lack of enthusiasm right now, read on—and Om Shanti

Address the Root of the Issue

If a prior injury has taken you away from practice, take the time you truly need for your body to heal, rather than being stuck in frustration that you “can’t do what you used to.” In the meantime, try shifting the focus the thought and energy you put into asana into the other seven limbs of yoga. There’s certainly plenty to explore and learn there!

For instance, delve into videos and texts on pranayama, translated roughly as “control of life force [within the body].” Pranayama is primarily a practice of breathing exercises. Many of them are simple and accessible to most people, such as Simhasana (Lion’s Breath), Brahmari Pranayama (Bee Breath), and Nadi Shodhana (Alternate-Nostril Breathing). Iyengar’s Light on Pranayama is one among many great resources where you can learn more. Explore new meditation methods, such as walking meditation or Yoga Nidra. Or research yogic diets (primarily plant-based and with guidance from ayurveda, yoga’s sister science), and then establish a practice of mindful cooking and eating.

Consult a physician to determine when it appears medically safe for you to practice asana again. However, be open to the possibility that when you restart your practice, your body, mind, and spirit might be telling you something different from what your physician recommends. You might need even more time. Most of all, try to let go of attachment to how much you “used to practice” or what your body was able to accomplish then. This is the practice of aparigraha, or “non-attachment.” It is also a form of satya, or truthfulness because you’re being truthful to yourself about your current situation.

If you feel bored with the same teachers, school of yoga, or studio, there are many, many options out there for yoga practice. New studios are popping up on street corners, strip malls, and town squares all the time. Many studios have “newcomer specials,” such as two weeks of unlimited classes for $25. Most gyms also offer yoga nowadays. The options are almost unlimited.

Then there’s the online world. While the trained senses and attention of a certified instructor are not available in online classes and articles, digital yoga offerings can help to mix things up a little. They’re often quite inexpensive, or completely free, and are adjustable to your schedule (versus studio or gym classes).

There might be many other reasons that are keeping you away from your mat. Take a step back, observe the situation, and look for viable solutions. Search the internet, ask friends and acquaintances for guidance, and spend time in reflection. Where there’s a will to find a solution, there’s also a way.

Connect—or Reconnect—with Your Yoga Friends

What you might need is for friends to remind you of why you began to practice in the first place—and why you kept coming back to it. If you have yoga friends with whom you used to practice, give one or two a call and arrange a chat over coffee.

After small talk and catching up, you could describe your current practice challenges. He or she may be able to offer some valuable perspective. They may provide something that you may need even more—to just listen, so you can hear yourself work it all out for yourself through verbalization.

Even if neither happens, you’ll likely enjoy something that practicing in the community offers —authentic connection with like-minded others. If you can’t think of a yoga friend or two to meet with, the digital age can be great for connecting with the larger yoga community. Online “meetups,” social media, blogs, and yoga website forums can be great ways to connect.

Maybe what you need to be inspired to practice is to return to your studio or gym and engage in that community more than you have in the past. Maybe it’s time to go back and introduce yourself to your fellow yogis, chat a bit after class, and maybe catch coffee or a meal after class together. Let the thought of that sink in. It might inspire you to come back to your mat, and keep you coming back to it.

What if You Just Don’t Feel Like It?

Apart from the two prior approaches, there are two different ways you can even more directly address the “I don’t feel like it” feeling. First, you can ignore it and just practice anyway, focusing on the knowledge that yoga practice is good for you and that you generally enjoy it. This can be a struggle, but once you’re in a class, or have a home practice video or webcast going, you may find it easier.

You can even speak directly to the feeling, saying, “Nope. I’m practicing. Too bad for you.” Then just practice, and notice what happens. It’s almost a “tough love” approach. A gentler way to do this is to inquire into the feeling—where is it coming from, or what does it want? This isn’t exactly in line with the yogic way of simply noticing, but it might just be effective for you. More yogic, notice what happens when you take this approach. You may end up addressing something else that arises, and that’s okay!

 Second, at least for the time being, accept the feeling. You may also end up simply not practicing for a time. That’s okay too. Maybe your time away will allow you to focus on something else that lights you up and fills you up. You might come back to your practice with far more focus, dedication, and curiosity.

 For example, a teacher friend recently shared that she had a “yoga crisis” when she decided that she “hated yoga.” Now she’s fully back in the yoga fold. If you’re not practicing now, that doesn’t mean your practice is done forever. Do what you can to re-inspire yourself to practice, but if it’s not working, that’s what it is. Yoga teaches us that process—to try something out, to regard the results with objectivity, and to respond accordingly. Whenever you may be ready, your mat will be there. 

Here's another help you stay on a healthy routine article from YogaUOnline writer, Jennifer Williams-Fields - 10 Yoga Tips for the Holidays.

Kathryn Boland is an RCYT and R-DMT (Registered Dance/Movement Therapist). She is originally from Rhode Island, attended The George Washington University (Washington, DC) for an undergraduate degree in Dance (where she first encountered yoga), and Lesley University for an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Expressive Therapies: Dance/Movement Therapy. She has taught yoga to diverse populations in varied locations. As a dancer, she has always loved to keep moving and flowing in practicing more active Vinyasa-style forms. Her interests have recently evolved to include Yin and therapeutic yoga, and aligning those forms with Laban Movement Analysis to serve the needs of various groups (such as Alzheimer’s Disease patients, children diagnosed with ADHD, PTSD-afflicted veterans - all of which are demographically expanding). She believes in finding the opportunity within every adversity, and doing all that she can to help others live with a bit more breath and flow!