With yoga as a way of life for many, it might feel strange to take a break – I mean you don’t take a break from breathing do you? (Well of course you don’t, but we do breathe at different rates, using different breathing techniques and let’s face it, most of the time we breathe unconsciously).
And that’s the thing – while yoga is a very good habit and quickly (or perhaps slowly) becomes a way of life - on and off the mat - taking a break from the physical practice at least can be great. We should always stay conscious of how we practice yoga, and time away can help us stay that way.
I’ve had a bit of a sore knee (I’m blaming sitting in half-lotus to meditate for longer periods as I can’t think of anything else) so I’ve had a forced break from practicing asana, and meditating in half-lotus!
11 days – the longest time I’ve had away from practicing in several years and it felt good. I could have gone back to the mat a few days earlier, but I didn’t want to push my knee and I just felt the need for space.
In that time I taught 3 yoga classes, so it’s not as though I had no yoga in my life, but yoga took a back seat. Here are some benefits of taking a yoga break.
1. You can find other ways to be mindful
Reading a book, taking a walk in nature, watering the plants, cooking a new recipe - away from the yoga mat there are many ways to bring yourself fully into the present moment.
We can rely on yoga for our daily dose of mindfulness when in reality we can find it in many other places, snatched in moments throughout the day.
2. You can explore other ways to exercise
Granted if you have a forced break due to a sore knee or some other physical problem you may have to go easy, but you can get creative with your physical activity if you aren’t already.
With most yoga classes practiced indoors, it is nice to opt for outdoor activities for a change. Perhaps you already regularly integrate different forms of exercise into your routine, but taking yoga out of the equation for a short break might allow you to focus on improving your running time, or adding extra laps in the pool.
3. …Or you can rest
permission to be lazy, for a little while at least. With or without a physical prompt to take a break from yoga asana practice, your muscles, connective tissues and joints might just benefit from a little R&R. Catch up with couch and binge watch a favorite TV program – get it out of your system.
4. You can deepen your ‘off-mat’ yoga experience
So this isn’t taking a yoga break, but re-directing your focus to yoga philosophy and how you are ‘living’ it, to pranayama and meditation. Explore a new breathing or meditation technique, find out more about mantras and mudras or even delve into the yoga Sutras.
5. You come back refreshed and in love again
You never want your yoga practice to be a chore, and while you can always take yoga with you on holidays, having a holiday from yoga can help you fall back in love with yoga, deeper than before.
That first class or home practice back, your muscles will remember and respond, even if you have to be a little gentler in your movements and can’t go quite as deep in a back bend or forward fold.
That’s Ok, because yoga will always be there for you, even when you take little breaks. All in good time.