When yoga doesn't feel good

Doing yoga feels pretty good.  Whether it's stretching the tension out of your muscles, or finding deep calm and peace in your meditation; deepening your breathing, moving your body, or lying still in savasana.  You arrive at your mat feeling stressy, tight and hunched and absorbed by your own thoughts and you leave feeling refreshed, stretched out, more generous and content.  All this goodness that we get from our yoga practice is the reason why we keep on coming back to it, day after day, week after week, year after year. 

But there are times when your yoga practice doesn't feel quite so right.  Your body might feel tight, or you might be cranky and no amount of sun salutations seem to shift your mood.  You might be injured and frustrated that your body has 'let you down', so that you are unable to practice some of your favourite poses or in your usual way.  You might be annoyed by your teacher, or bored by your practice.  You might feel like you've hit a brick wall and that you are failing to take your practice deeper, because your body or your mind won't seem to open up any more than it already has.  Or perhaps you feel like you're going backwards!  You used to be able to do this pose in comfort, now it's pulling you about in an uncomfortable way; yesterday's meditation was a smooth journey into yourself, today's is a bumpy ride to nowhere....

It's easy when these things happen to become cross and impatient, perhaps to step away from your practice for a time.  But when you're having a hard time with yoga, take a moment or two to ask yourself what the difficult days might teach you.

They teach you to be resilient and to bear discomfort with good grace.  You don't want to turn away from your yoga practice, so instead you have to learn to endure the hard times with patience and kindliness towards yourself.  So too in life.  Sometimes it's going to be difficult.  If you can learn to endure those times with patience and a good heart, then you will be able to minimise your own pain and distress when the hard times inevitably come.

You may find that it's your expectations that spoil your enjoyment of your practice.  If you come to your practice with a picture in your head about how it's going to be, you have fallen into the trap of using your imagination to project into the future instead of arriving on your mat with a fresh mind, a beginner's attitude and the desire to simply be in the present and experience what is.

And even in the hardest practice, when nothing's going right, or when you are confronting things in yourself that you'd rather not consider, there are glimpses of the sweet gifts of yoga.  However fleeting, they are enough to remind you that it's worth it - being here on your mat, doing your practice in whatever form it takes today.

Working through the challenging times teaches you to trust in the process and to be patient while you wait for things to move on in a more positive way.  Once you've worked through your first difficult time, you realise that on the other side of a troubling set of practices or meditations, lie deeper experiences that you would have missed if you had turned away.  Everything moves along in it's own time.  And your practice deepens according to its own rules, regardless of your personal desires and hopes.  The process carries on, even though it might not feel like it and it is often the biggest blocks that bring the greatest breakthroughs.

I think of yoga practice as an opening of doors.  As you practice, in your own patient and persistent way, doors open for you along the way... your body gets stronger and more flexible; your mind seems to drop more readily into deep focus when you come to your mat; you notice and understand more about yourself.  The doors to self-awareness, peace and contentment just keep on opening.  But sometimes we feel blocked.  The doors stop opening.  In fact it feels as though where there should be a door, there is a brick wall instead.  What to do?  You might end up frustrated; angry; disappointed or cross with yourself or your teacher.  You might back off, or try to push through, or walk away from practice for a short time or forever...  But if you carry on, you realise that what felt like a brick wall was just a very big door with particularly strong hinges and a rusty lock.  As you continue to practice, this big old door eventually bursts open and you cross the threshold with a new perspective or a new understanding of yourself or your practice. 

These are what one of my students calls 'eureka moments' - when a problem or block that you felt was intractable suddenly becomes clear and makes sense.  And each 'eureka moment' is the result of all the steady hard work and perseverance that you have brought to your yoga practice in the preceding weeks, months or years. 

So take heart when your practice feels uncomfortable or wrong - you could be on the verge of something brilliant.


Popular Posts