Recently I’ve been going through what I can only describe as a yoga burnout. It started with a couple of nagging injuries, and then progressed when I found myself driving an hour and a half through traffic to get to a yoga class (“why do I do this to myself?”), Ask the Yogis was a MAJOR flop, and I’ve had lingering annoyances with half of the yoga classes I’ve attended in the past month.
Then my website crashed. Was all of this a sign? Were the yoga gods telling me that it was time to roll up my mat forever? That I’m a HUGE sham for even thinking I could have a shred of opinion on yoga, worthy of being listened to by ANYONE??
I figured I needed a massive change, perhaps to get some perspective. A change of attitude. A different way of seeing my yoga practice. So I battened down the hatches, went into hiding both digitally and physically, switched yoga studios, started meditating at home and in my office, and waited to see the changes.
I hoped for a really grand enlightenment where everything stopped annoying me and I re-found my undying, passionate love of yoga.
But then I found myself in a particularly sweaty power yoga class, where at some point there was fluid running from my eyes, nose and brow simultaneously. Yes, I was crying. Not because I had some life changing breakthrough. Quite the contrary! I was just overly frustrated of doing so many downward facing dogs. “Come on, does this pose have to be the transition pose for everything??” And then I was frustrated that something so simple bothered me. “Where’s my emotional and spiritual center? Why am I so attached to this one pose? Why can’t I just ‘let go’? Isn’t that the point of yoga. And then the tears came. Because I couldn’t let go.
It felt better to be holding on to this frustration and letting it out via tears rather than applying the meditation principles yoga teaches.
Stupid yoga and all of its downward facing dogs. And my wildly apparent immaturities.
While I still haven’t had my moment of clarity about why I’m so irked by my relationship with yoga now, I did realize:
I am a spiritual teenager.
I’ve enjoyed the past three years of my yoga practice as an exploratory exercise, constantly learning new poses, breathing techniques and philosophies. It’s as if I’ve been in yoga elementary school where the lessons are supposed to make you feel accomplished and excited. Class has just been a matter of showing up to get some powerful benefit and feel great.
My current state, however, is that I’ve walked into yoga high school, a know-it-all, a pimply in-betweener. “I’ve done this pose a million times.” “Breathe like that? Done.” “Meditate? I can do that shit on cue!” And when we do downward facing dog more times than I like, I get moody and pitch a fit. Or cry. Depending on how sweaty I am.
I am a spiritual teenager.
I’ve approached a new part of my yogic journey, and it’s not as easy and fun as the first part. It’s going to be more growing. More detachment. More meditation. More deep exploration of my very flawed self. More suppression of the ego.
I guess, that in order to really come out on the other side, I just need to keep going to class, keep growing, be aware of my immature little yoga moments and give myself a break. Teenagers don’t become adults in a day. But I’m working on it.
And taking advice like it’s going out of style. Thoughts?
Your honesty is refreshing. The yoga ‘fad’ is ridiculous. Not sure your transition is the same as mine was, but after I practiced for about 3 years in that early ‘fun’ phase you’re talking about I think all of these powerful poses stimulated what they’re supposed to stimulate–I became much less loud about everything I did, I completely lost my desire to eat meat or drink alcohol, I became very aware of the struggles of life around me, much of the activity of society began to look really surface and disinteresting, and I developed a deep thirst to go within. For the first time I picked up Yogananda’s book, Krishnamurthi, Osho, Vivekananda… I began to read the Indian and Tibetan masters and dabbling in meditation. I ended up traveling to India and going on Dhyanyatra to the Himalayas with Sadhguru. That was in 2005 and my whole practice changed forever after that first trip to India. Now I still practice a certain set of hatha yoga asanas regularly, which I have a deep appreciation for, but my interest and intent has shifted to living meditatively. It has taken immense effort and hours of meditation to shed the layers of ‘gunk’ i did not even know where there, but I can’t even believe the way I live my life now. I would wish this freedom to everyone.
I loved your post and appreciate your authentic reflections.
My advice is to go on a quest to find a teacher that you really trust and connect with so you can dive deeply into the yoga style that moves you.
Then you are on your way to adult spirituality.
From there, balance that out with your love of connecting to other styles, studios and teachers.
Find the ratio that works for you. Perhaps 3 classes a week with your Teacher and 1-2 classes a week at a different studio.
That’s really great advice Cheryl! I actually started moving toward that, so perhaps I’ll dive in the “deep end” and focus in on a teacher and style for a while.
Thanks so much!
Thank you for all that you do for our yogi community Leah — you are an inspriation and a beautiful person. We all get burned out sometimes, and the fact you were able to let out a release is a step in the right direction. That blocked energy in your body was building up and it needed to come out. That is not to say everything will be roses here on out, but sometimes a big part in our journeys is realizing it IS a journey.
Just had to comment on this post because I think EVERY dedicated yoga practitioner has experienced this once if not many, many times! I know I have…
Loved your writing here and I know you will have a wonderful breakthrough moment in your practice as you continue. In the meantime, your yoga community supports your practice (whatever it may be) as you slog through this tough spot.
First and foremost, let me offer up a profound and grateful thank you for all the work you do on your website, newsletter and facebook page. Your Atlanta Yoga Scene is one of the best resources I found when I was considering moving to Atlanta to pursue yoga.
As for advice, After 16 years of practicing and studying, here’s the best summary I can give you:
Yoga is a journey up a mountain. A great big, rocky mountain with steep sections that require you to crawl, crazy switchbacks that appear as if you’re going backwards, scary precipices that make you inch along clutching the rock and praying you don’t tumble off, and then easy, wide open sections of easy going walking through the afternoon sun, totally at peace with everything and amazed by the view. And it changes day by day. And each day, you discover something new about the path. On some days, you even discover you’re a bit sick of the path and just wanna lie down on the grass, stay in one spot and stare at the clouds all day. And ALL of it is perfectly fine because it is ALL part of the journey. For everyone. So take a yoga vacation, I did. And I found my practice to be stronger when I came back to the mat. And if you don’t want to do Downward Dog one more freakin’ time. Don’t. Drop into Child’s Pose and rest. Or Uttanasana, or any asana your body tells you to do at that moment. One of my teachers calls child’s pose “Wisdom Pose” because it means you are listening to your body’s needs. And another one of my teachers tells us the ultimate goal of yoga is freedom of movement for the body.
Compassion for ourselves is perhaps the hardest skill to learn. Be compassionate towards yourself, treat “you” as if you were your best friend and be kind to your own heart.
Attached is a link to an article from the buddhist tradition about the 5 hindrances. These practices have helped me deal with my fears and issues over the years and they dovetail nicely to my yoga practice and perhaps will help you with yours.
Thanks so much for your perspective. I guess like any lifelong practice you’ve got a continuous uphill journey. Not “battle” but definitely a journey!
I really appreciate your blog, so I hope you’ll keep writing it 🙂
I wanted to leave a reply because I’ve been through what you are talking about, and I felt the same! Sometimes I feel that instructors have a certain “style” and it’s too predictable, I need more new things in my yoga practice, and there are like a million yoga poses!
I was in a yoga class once, and I think we did like 100 lunges and I got really frustrated, and almost started to cry. And I totally agree with you, I think you should just let your frustrations out, whatever they may be, and not try to oppress them. I see yoga as a way to get to know and accept yourself, and if crying makes you more peaceful, then you should embrace it. Once you’ve let it out you can get over it.
I definitely recommend yogaglo.com, to spice up your practice, and get inspired!
This happened to me a few years ago, but it is still happens from time to time. I am very picky about my yoga practice, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.
I’m sending some good energy your way!
You’re probably right in that I don’t have to like every teacher and class that I go to. I often feel like I have to like it or else I’m a bad yogi, but perhaps I am allowed to be picky 🙂
Thanks so much for leaving me this comment!
No advice, but I’m right there with ya. Thanks to this post, though, I realized I miss yoga–it was the only real “me” time I gave myself. My two month-long yoga hiatus has come to an end. Thanks!