What?!? You’ve practiced yoga for a month, a year, a decade, and you find yourself up against the “wall”. Not the yoga wall! The wall of progress. The wall of no improvement. The flat wall known as a plateau. Ugh!
We can hit a proverbial wall in many aspects of life. Career. Relationships. Parenting. Weight loss. Creativity. And, it’s easy to give up, quit, stop, throw in the towel, when that “wall” shows up. Your friends, maybe even your yoga instructor, will tell you to look at how far you’ve come, to consider how things would be if you didn’t practice yoga. But, you still feel like you’ve failed and there’s no future progression for you.
Guess what! You aren’t alone!
Jessica Stickler, writing for Wanderlust, says, ““How does one overcome plateaus in yoga practice?” I thought to myself, ‘I have no idea.’ The more I thought about the question, the more I doubted my ability to answer it. I have been practicing for a modest amount of time, around eight years or so (and teaching for seven of those!), so I have ducked, dodged, hail-mary’d, ignored, and confronted many a plateau.” She goes on to outline three ways she has overcome the “wall”: the bull (work on it EVERY SINGLE DAY), the fox (find a way around the difficulty and then come back to the initial spot of frustration), and the sloth (Just keep going!).
Plateaus are inevitable. In fact, they are evidence that you ARE practicing yoga! A “wall” or plateau may actually be a nudge to try something new or different or to approach your everyday routine and practice with new eyes/perspective.
Senior Pure Yoga instructor, Sonja Rzepski, and Kay Kay Clivio, head of Pure Yoga’s teacher training program, recommend the following to push through a plateau:
1. Try a different style.
If your usual practice is a sweaty vinyasa, spend some time learning more about the logic of alignment in an Iyengar class, target your connective tissue and deep muscular release with Yin yoga, or try a new energetic approach with Kundalini yoga. Rzepski recommends sticking with it for four to six sessions before returning to your preferred or go-to classes. The idea is to look at your practice through a different lens, one that might trigger insights that will help you move past your plateau.
2. Book private sessions with your favorite teacher.
“Generally group classes are packed and there is no time for the breakdown of poses or to ask questions,” says Clivio. Getting closer to your source of inspiration will only make the fire of determination burn brighter. Three to six one-on-ones should be sufficient, per Rzepski, though you may want to continue them.
3. Explore the mind-body connection.
Asana (the physical practice of yoga) was originally conceived simply as a way to prepare the body for meditation. Try moving beyond the physical and explore the nuances of the breath or meditation (try the Headstrong meditations in the Equinox app). You can also learn more about the chakra system, the sister science of Ayurveda, or stack your nightstand with books on yoga philosophy. (Two Rzepski recommends: Light on Life by B.K.S. Iyengar and Healing Yoga by Loren Fishman.) “Learning more of the science of yoga can improve the depth of any practitioners postures,” says Clivio. “Not just seeing the postures as shapes and forms but a means to balance the energetic body.”
4. Dive deeper.
Move further into any aspect of the practice that inspires or challenges you. If you love inversions, take a workshop. Or, sign up for a retreat. This can give you renewed enthusiasm that will carry you past a plateau. Rzepski also recommends keeping a yoga journal to record and acknowledge your daily impressions and experiences. You may be making more progress than you think.
5. Get off your mat.
Karma yoga (the practice of service to others) is important, but often overlooked. Lose yourself in unselfish action by volunteering or simply look for opportunities for kindness and good deeds.
A plateau or “wall” may be telling you your body needs a break. “Consider taking a few days off from the physical practice of yoga and allow your body to rest. This is a great time to explore the more mental and philosophical aspects of yoga, such as the yamas and niyamas,” says Karen Costa of doyoudoyoga.com. She also recommends “going deeper” . . . “if your yoga practice feels like it’s turned on cruise control, one of the best ways to shift that energy is to deepen your practice. Perhaps this is a sign that you’re ready to transition from being a student to becoming a teacher.”
With the variety of yoga classes offered at Sunrise Yoga, if you find yourself on that plateau, consider trying a different class or a different instructor. Add in some Quieting the Mind classes, or explore Valerie’s Select Your Study classes. Take Karen’s Level 2 Flow class to move your regular yoga class to a more fluid, musically driven practice. Join Bill Smith in his
Sound Immersion workshop. Visit with Valerie and other yoga instructors in the FREE information session and class for the upcoming Enrichment and Teacher Training sessions. Ask Valerie about one-on-one training. Try conquering the “wall” with yoga wall classes.
Your “wall” is a message to you. Be in tune with you. When you stop and let the “wall” speak to you, you will find that the wall was of your making all along.
And, by the way, remember the “wall” you scaled to just get started with yoga? That “wall” was HUGE compared to the “wall” you think is in front of you now!
We are here to help. Send us your thoughts and/or questions to info@SunriseYoga.net.