How often do you start something, become completely in love and passionate about it, dedicate tons of energy towards it, and then weeks, months, or years later, end up completely bored and burnt out?
When it comes to yoga, this tends to happen to many of us. In the yoga sutras, Patanjali talks about how people need to have tapas to continue the lifelong practice of yoga. Tapas translates to the burning fire within, to the passion and dedication that keeps you going and keeps you committed–this is what we tend to lose when we become bored with something.
For a lot of people, starting yoga is easy, staying with it for awhile is great, but maintaining that practice over long periods of time, over a lifetime, and keeping that tapas can be nearly impossible–but not completely. Here are some tips that have helped me stay in love with yoga and stick with it:
Blog by Studio Bamboo teacher, Courtney Cronis
1. Find your Inspiration:
Nothing keeps you motivated more than being surrounded by inspiration. Inspiring people can come from anywhere–books, social media, blogs, magazines, videos, and the list goes on and on. Find blogs and Instagram accounts. Find YouTube channels and Facebook pages. Find magazines and books and classes and workshops. Discovering people who inspire you and then seeing their presence, even if only online, as often as possible will help keep you motivated and interested.
2. Set your Intention:
Most yoga classes typically involve setting an intention–also known as sankalpa. In sanskrit, sankalpa translates to “a vow set by the heart.” So think about what your heart is craving, what your soul wants. Use that to set your intention for yourself. You never have to tell anyone, and it doesn’t have to make sense to anyone but you. Use your intention to represent your goals, what motivates you, why you want to practice, etc.
***Make your intention in the present tense! Don’t say “I will be strong”, say to yourself “I am strong”. Don’t say “I will stop being afraid of inversions”, say “I am not afraid of inversions.” There is power in the present tense, there is power in your words. Commit yourself to your intention. Mean it, dedicate your practice and your life to it.***
3. Find your Teacher:
You have your inspiration, you have your goals and your intention, now what? You find your teacher! You find that person who will help teach you and guide you towards reaching your intention and goals–some yoga studios even call yoga teachers guides instead.
A great teacher can teach you how to be aware of your body, how to be safe, how to explore, and how to build a strong well-rounded practice. Beyond the physical, a good teacher can offer you words of encouragement and inspiration. They will teach you about philosophy and breath too–and how to go deeper into yoga than just the physical!
When your yoga practice is deeper than just the poses, you become more interested and invested, and you are much more likely to create a lifelong yoga practice, that stays with you, not just a phase of your life.
4. Track your Progress:
As you begin to practice, your body will immediately start progressing and growing! Sometimes the changes are so small and subtle, that over time you don’t even realize how much you’ve improved. Sometimes we feel like we have reached a place where we aren’t improving, because these changes happened so quietly. Track your progress so you can see the change when you feel like you aren’t moving anywhere! Take pictures and videos and let your own progress become your inspiration when you look back on it.
5. Keep Learning:
Despite good teachers and despite seeing so much progress, we still might get bored after awhile–especially if we have slipped into a routine. It might become harder to make it to class or to unroll your mat at all, and you might start feeling burnt out. These are the perfect times to deepen your practice and keep learning!
Go to a workshop, a retreat, a festival, or even just a class you’ve never attended, a teacher you’ve never experienced. Read a new book, study something you don’t really know. Dive deeper, below the surface, and expand what you know about yoga. Again, the more you know and the deeper you know it, the more interested and committed you will become. You will be amazed at how one workshop can spark so much inspiration.
6. Find Balance:
A huge part of practicing yoga, and yoga philosophy, is finding balance–literally and figuratively. In the yoga sutras, Patanjali talks about the balance between sthira and sukha–effort and ease.
If we practice a hardcore, sweaty, flowing practice every single day and constantly put forth effort, we might eventually become burnt out, or even injured. Finding time for rest and taking breaks is important too! Maybe some days try a yin class or a restorative class instead of a power class. You can even try yoga nidra or meditation to mix things up.
The effort is important, sweat is important, but taking some time to rest when the body starts to wear out is also important–equally important. There is much more to yoga than the physical effort, and finding that balance will keep you happy, healthy, and wanting to keep practicing for a lifetime.
7. Be Authentic:
Inspiration and finding a teacher are incredibly important, but don’t try and become them. Let your words and actions come from your own heart. Be the best version of YOU that you can be, not your best imitation of someone else.
Yes, the people you admire and that inspire you are amazing, but you are amazing too. If you try and become them, if you try and have their practice, then you aren’t acknowledging your own strength and potential. If you spend time trying to put energy into becoming someone else–into having their body, or their words, or their life, you will become exhausted!
Dedicate yourself to becoming you. For fully embracing and discovering who you are. Yoga happens when you let yourself bloom into who you are, when you commit to learning about yourself and loving yourself–not becoming somebody else.
My favorite niyama in the yoga sutras is Svadhyaya, which means self study, or studying one’s own spirit. A huge part of svadhyaya is learning about YOU, loving you, becoming you, and being strong and steady in who you are.
When you are becoming confident in yourself and growing into yourself, when you realize how enough you already are, it becomes much easier to stick with yoga and stay in love with it for a lifetime, than it is if you’re working on imitating somebody else.
Remember to stay true to yourself and to the health of your mind and body, but also your spirit. If you follow these tips, it will not only be easier to maintain a long-lived yoga practice, but your yoga will be filled with much more happiness and growth.