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7 Ways to Get Back on the Yoga Mat

Yoga | Yoga for Beginners

Our intentions were so good. We bought the 30-day all-you-can-yoga deal, upgraded from a Slip N’ Slide to a Manduka mat, and penciled in a thrice-weekly ‘Get to class or go bust’ reminder on our calendar.

Then, life got in the way—a nasty head cold from the sniffling co-worker one cubicle over, extra work hours to get a project in on time, too many lattes and too little sleep. The tights have gotten too damn tight. Before long, Happy Hour starts sounding better than Power Hour.

Alas, we’ve passed the yoga point of no return.

Not to worry, dear yogis! It happens to all of us, even teachers. I recently covered a string of 18 classes in 13 days straight (this may be a breeze to a few turbo teachers I know, but it’s seriously high on my energy scale). Not surprisingly, my own practice took a back seat.

My reunion with the mat was far from pretty, but I made it back on the yoga wagon, and you can too. Here are seven ways to get back on the yoga mat.

1. Practice ahimsa.

It’s been a little while, so take it easy already, even if that means half the class in Child’s Pose. Professional athletes take an off-season, and are wise enough to know they must work their way gradually back toward peak performance to minimize the risk of a season-blowing injury.

Take a similar approach toward returning to your yoga practice. What’s more, your practice is just that—a practice—not a performance. In other words, you do NOT have to entertain a stadium full of rabid fans placing bets on your at-bats.

2. Think Tortoise over Rabbit Pose.

I know you want to get that painful, first practice back over with, but please don’t rush it. Keep it slow—as in, slow, deep breathing, mindful transitions, and an extra breath or two in each pose to allow your body to recall what it has been missing during your hiatus.

Forget about keeping up with the yogi-Joneses. Take this approach and who knows, you might just ease your way into an awesome Tortoise Pose.

3. Broadcast your intention.

Rally a yogi buddy or two to keep you on track. A buddy that, if left waiting at the studio entrance, will hunt your ass-ana down at every Happy Hour in town until you get off the stool and onto your mat. Sometimes it takes more than your single intention to get thee to class.

4. Spice things up.

I’m not suggesting you add cayenne pepper to your water bottle, but add some spice to your routine by trying a new class, or choosing a ‘pose of the month’ to focus on, for example. More tips to keep you motivated here.

5. Drop the expectations.

I personally struggle more with comparing my practice to my own former self than I do with anyone else. Handstands keep turning into cartwheels? My mind immediately races back to how easy they were a few years ago.

Don’t do this! Remember to follow the wise words of Arthur Ashe: “Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.”

6. Trip over your mat.

Place your mat, tights, headband, towel, block, and additional gear at the foot of your bed. A little post-it with the message “Don’t leave home without me!” on top of it all oughta seal the “I WILL practice today” deal you made with yourself.

7. Get it in writing.

Slip a little moleskin and pen into your yogi-bag and take a few minutes after each practice to record how you feel—before, during, and after practice. Then flip through the pages every week or so and savor your growth.

Remember, we all fall off the wagon from time to time. It’s OK. Just hug your knees to your belly, give yourself a little love, and get back on the mat. The yogi wagon will always be waiting curbside, for as long as it takes for you to climb aboard.

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