How To Still Do Yoga Without Actually Doing Yoga
For many of us, the term “yoga” brings to mind images of physical postures that we do in a slightly warmed (or maybe not) room with other, like-minded individuals. This isn’t an incorrect image to have about the practice at all! After all, yoga has become such a common term today; we’re faced with the Instagram pictures and the YouTube videos highlighting the many benefits of the strength and flexibility we get from this practice. I’ll even go so far as to say that the physical side of yoga is what draws many students in.
From there, I happen to believe that other aspects of the practice keep students hanging around for a little while longer, and those aspects tend to weave a little further away from just the physical movements. But what happens when our physical practice becomes unavailable? How do we still do yoga if the very act of doing it is no longer accessible or even enjoyable?
Learning from Experience
Almost one year ago, I developed tendinitis in my right wrist from writing. It wasn’t a yoga injury, but the pain that I felt became an ever-increasing obstacle to doing the practice I loved – nay, the practice I needed! Days kept stacking, until I finally put my mat away for months, settling with my preconceived fact that I wouldn’t be able to practice yoga anymore.
What I realized was that this was some heart-breaking peace I had to make with myself and go on to find another way of moving my body and staying healthy and fit. It wasn’t until I was journaling one day that I stumbled upon a little slice of wisdom that even I had to read a few times to truly digest.
As an aside, I’m perfectly aware that writing with tendinitis is not the best approach to healing, especially if writing is what got you tendinitis-crippled in the first place. However, some passions bear the brunt of painful sacrifice, and if I was going to put my mat away, I sure as hell wasn’t going to put my pen away. I wrote:
“You don’t have to change your mind. You just have to change direction.”
And voila! Such a simple statement lay before me that I literally had to laugh out loud at how simple it actually was. Here I was, banishing my entire practice out of fear and anger that I would never be able to rock another arm balance again without excruciating pain, and not realizing that my yoga had so many other doors through which I hadn’t even contemplated walking.
More so, it was the slow and steady realization – and perhaps even reminder – of what yoga taught me, and it wasn’t how to invert or do Down Dog. If you’re finding yourself in the same boat – injury or something like it – think about the following possibilities and how you can plug them into your yoga practice. Nothing is permanent, as we’re taught in yoga, but with the same mentality, we don’t need to call it quits if one piece of the puzzle doesn’t fit anymore. Just build a new puzzle!
What has Yoga Taught YOU?
Yes, it could be something totally physical and awesome-looking. But if you can’t do that pose anymore or even if that style is no longer your style, start thinking bigger, wider, and more profound. I started yoga because I loved how it made me physically feel. I also loved how my ego got a new makeover! Trust me, that little dude was flying high!
Apart from that, once the poses fell away and I was left in Savasana to my own silent devices, I realized how much I loved learning about myself. Yoga gave me clarity. It gave me peace and quiet, long enough to uncover all of the wisdom I had at my disposal. Most importantly, it gave me courage and self-love to pursue the things I’ve always loved, like writing.
What has your yoga taught you? What has kept you coming back to your mat over and over again? Draw that out into the great, wide open (insert music flashback here!) and start embracing it fully, like a practice all on its own.
If It is Purely a Physical Learning Experience, You can STILL Enjoy It
I get it. In lieu of zen and peace and finding yourself, your practice can still very much be a physical, posture-based practice. If you’re facing an injury, continuing your old, tested and true practice may not be accessible anymore. I’ve gone through a scale of emotions, from sadness to pissed off, knowing that my beaten-in-my-brain Vinyasa flow will not be available to me as it was pre-tendinitis.
That’s simply the cold, hard truth of the matter. I was going to either throw my mat out and never practice again if I couldn’t flow like I used to, or I was going to sit down and create a practice to suit my current needs. That’s what I would do for a student who was experiencing mobility issues, so why couldn’t I do it for myself? Aah, it’s that little ego again.
Again, I get it. Trust me when I say that enjoying your practice can still very much be a sacred, glorious part of your day, even with an injury or a challenge. What we need to come to terms with, however, is detaching from that part of our practice that needs to change. If we can’t do a flowy Vinyasa sequence anymore because we’re in pain at Down Dog #3, it’s time to scale it back a bit. We suggest modifications left and right to students who need it, but do we take that advice when it comes time for us to move? That’s really the million dollar question.
My advice? Think about how you can move the body in different ways that still utilizes the same muscle groups. Remember what I wrote – we don’t have to change our mind with our practice. We just need to change direction. We may end up loving this route more.
And lastly, if you’ve always gone to one teacher for all of your yoga needs and now cannot do that for reasons X, Y, and Z – check out a new teacher. We don’t bite.
Be Open to what Yoga has YET to Teach You
The funny thing about change is that it gives us options we would have never seen otherwise. If you’re a dedicated yogi to only a specific style of yoga, maybe your injury or setback or challenge is Universe’s way of sending you somewhere else.
Thankfully, the kinds of yoga styles in existence today will leave you breathless! Maybe it’s time to try something new, and who knows? Kundalini yoga may become your new alternative to Vinyasa, or maybe you’ll end up taking a Walking Meditation class and vow to settle into a mental practice versus the physical one you’ve adored.
…which brings me to my next point.
Because we’ve packaged yoga to equal physical movement, we often miss out on the meditative side of this practice. In fact, solely meditating can be a practice in and of itself. That could very well turn into your yoga.
After I decided to take a break from the physical postures, I turned to meditation. Moving on my mat gave my body the physical release it needed to settle down in Savasana. In meditation, I was doing the same thing for my mind, and let’s face it – the mind needs a lot more discipline than the body does these days.
What became so relieving and profound was that I stopped giving my yoga a label and a definition. Eventually, anything that caused me to smile or interact with people in compassion and love became my yoga.
…which brings me to my last point.
Love, be Loved, and Do the Things that Make You Joyful!
To me, this is yoga. Plain and simple. Among many things, it’s the act of loving, allowing yourself to be loved, and filling your day with things that make you grateful, joyful, and just happy to be alive. Whatever that is for you, start to pay attention to the simplicity of it, and how easy it is to get to this place of peace. We just have to get out of our own way long enough to let the backbone of yoga – the true light off of the mat – shine through.
With this in mind, you’ll begin to notice that every breath, smile, simple gesture, and intention is an act of yoga. No longer are we defining it on our mats or pulling away from it because we’re hurt or busy or apathetic. Let the yoga you know and love become a part of your life, in every nook and cranny. I am a strong believer that our practice never leaves us, even when we leave it. It waits until we’re ready and willing, and keeps us lifted at our best and reminds us of our best when we’re at our worst.
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