{the lessons} On the Yoga Hiatus, Motivation, and Vanquishing an Emotional Uprising

by Rachel on April 5, 2012

rachel yoga bagI knew it had been a while since I had gone to a yoga class but I didn’t realize it had been a full month until I was limping out of class — wondering WTF? — and I checked my calendar. My last class was a month ago. And my last regular week of classes was in February.

Unsurprisingly, last night’s class was not my best.

I almost didn’t go to yoga at all last night. I knew it was going to be hard since it had been a while, and I was really tired. But then I told myself to just suck it up and get it over with. The sooner I just ended my yoga hiatus, the better I’d feel. It was my favorite class, my favorite instructor…I would be fine, right?

Ugh, I was so not fine. I kept having to take breaks during poses that I’ve been comfortable in for several months now. I expected some of that, but not that much. During Warrior 1, my instructor came over and asked me if I had an injury because I was holding back so much. No, no injury. Just hips that were tight as hell and refusing to square off without causing an injury.

I’m not sure if the workout hiatus is completely to blame; I’ve taken plenty of long breaks from working out in the past and haven’t felt like such a wreck when I started up again. My level of tiredness yesterday may have had something to do with it. I’ve been running up a huge sleep deficit over the past two weeks and last night I was at that point when I just wanted my mom to tell everyone around me, “She’s overtired,” like parents say about a toddler who is on the brink of a meltdown. Normally I don’t get that frustrated when I can’t do things, especially in yoga, so I’m pretty sure I was just acting like a baby in desperate need of a nap.

I also know that perhaps all the frustration and emotion I was feeling last night in class was the result of not taking the time to feel a lot of frustration and emotion over the past four weeks. Between SXSW, losing a friend, and planning to get engaged, I was repeatedly reminded of the line in “Mean Girls” when the girl who doesn’t even go there says, “I just…have a lot of feelings.” The problem was that even though I knew I had a lot of feelings, I didn’t know quite what they were and I didn’t have much time to figure it out. So sure, yesterday could have been all the result of being out of shape physically, but I felt like it was probably the fact that my emotions — which most yoga instructors say are stored in our hips — were suddenly like, “Guys! Guys! Wake up! Get up! SHE’S OPENING HER HIPS! SHE’S OPENING HER HIPS! CHARRRRRRRRRRGE!!!!!” Then they stormed the castle and overtook me.

Today, I’m less tired (12 hours of sleep certainly helped!) and less emotional (again…12 hours of sleep!) but, as I expected, I’m incredibly sore. And annoyed. Of course I was going to struggle in that class. What did I expect? And now I’m looking back over the past month and, Was that really necessary? Could I really have not gone to a yoga  class even once? Never? Not even a little bit?

The answer is, of course, no.

Today’s lesson: If I want to stick with yoga long-term (and I do), then I need to take at least one class a week, even when my schedule is full. I often slip into the “if I can’t do something as fully as I want to do it, why bother?” mindset. It’s even easier to use that excuse with yoga because the price of classes and memberships make it a good question to ask from an economic point of view. But the reason I should bother is because unless I’m planning on giving it up completely, I’m going to regret not going when I do eventually go again. And despite what I tell myself, there are enough free classes on weekends that there should never be a reason that I can’t make this happen.

On top of that, I need to aim for doing three poses a week, even if I can’t do more than that. I’m still struggling to accept the idea that I can just do one yoga pose and have that “count” as practicing. (And calling it “practicing” and “my practice” is another thing I struggle to accept. I don’t mind when other people say it, but I feel like a pretentious poser when I do it. Anyone else?) I can’t do a lot at home — my apartment is 97 percent carpet and practicing on soft carpet can be difficult, especially if you have bad wrists, which I do — but I can do some poses at home. I know that if I had been doing pigeon pose, forward fold, and a few twists regularly, I would have been in much better shape last night.

And now that I know what I need to do, I’m asking myself, “What’s my motivation?” to make sure I actually do it. For me, knowing why I am aiming for something is as important as knowing what my goal is. But my motivation this time is simple, and is coming right out of last night’s class: continued improvement in my flexibility and strength, and emotions that don’t storm the castle.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Allison April 5, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Rachel, have you looked into Yogaglo.com? It’s a yoga studio in Santa Monica, and they record all their classes and put them online. For $18 a month, you get unlimited classes. I LOVE this – I do almost all my yoga with it and supplement once a week with a live class at my local yoga place. They do a 15 day free trial, so you could easily test it out and see if there are any that would work for you. If you can’t afford an unlimited pass at a studio, this is really a economical solution!

If you can’t do a lot because of the carpet , you could do one of their low key restorative classes or something. (I’ve never heard the carpet thing before – I’m assuming you’re using a mat so you don’t slip around?) I’ve definitely done some evening-style classes that had a ton of hip openers with minimal down-dogging. You could always modify!

If you do check it out, I recommend taking any of the classes by Kathryn Budig! She’s awesome.

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2 Rachel April 5, 2012 at 1:20 pm

I’ve used YogaVibes.com which is a similar concept. I love the idea, and it’s WAY cheaper, but the carpet thing is still problematic. I will definitely look into it for the minimal down-dog classes you recommended though! Thanks!

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3 Liz April 5, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Warning – awkward reader lovefest coming: I wish you lived in SF because a) we could wedding plan together in a non dramatic way and b) we could go to yoga together and c) we could talk about all the things you talked about above and I wouldn’t feel like a crazy person.

Every time I read your blog, the first thought in my head is always, “YES!” Even in the case of our engagements, which were so markedly different, I still could totally relate to everything you shared and appreciate you so much for sharing it!

End awkward lovefest

To echo Allison above, YogaToday.com also has some great classes and their subscription fees aren’t very high. Or YogaDownload.com has great 20 minute practices that can be good when you don’t have a ton of time!

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4 Emily Susan April 5, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Right now I am doing yoga at home, in an apartment which is all carpeted, I use a mat, but my wrists seem to be hurting all the time. I am just starting to do yoga regularly and recently researched this. I found this site: http://www.myyogaonline.com/community/blog/doing-yoga-on-a-carpet-concerns-and-modifcations, to be helpful, but I am seriously thinking of getting a huge piece of plywood to put down in my living room…thats is how badly my wrists are hurting!

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5 Rachel April 5, 2012 at 1:19 pm

I’ve looked into building something that I can put my mat on top of! I think it would definitely be worth it. Keep me posted if you do buy it and let me know how it works out!

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6 Emily Susan April 5, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Also, one of the best things about your blog is that you share things like this, small hiccups and problems that occur in your life. Rather than pretending you have it all together all of the time, you are honest. I think you are a hardworking, put together, ambitious woman and knowing that I am not the only one to have fallen off the horse a few times is comforting and inspiring.

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7 Caity @ Moi Contre La Vie April 5, 2012 at 1:23 pm

This is a great reminder to find that internal movitation to keep up with your exercise loves – whether its running, yoga, or pilates – it’s all about harnessing your drive and desire to push yourself. I frequently fall into the “well its been so long that I’ll do poorly so I might as well skip it again…” mindset, which is AWFUL and counterproductive. Everything counts so get out there and do it!!! :)

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8 Mindy April 5, 2012 at 1:29 pm

almost exactly what I was going to say – podcasts! I subscribe to 5 or 6 Baptiste style yoga podcasts (all free). I prefer going to a class, of course – but Kyle really likes the podcasts so we do them together as often as we can. I went through a phase where I didn’t go to a single class for MONTHS, for a multitude of reasons… but the podcasts were just enough to keep me rolling. Good luck going forward, you will get back to your happy place soon enough! :)

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9 RAIN April 5, 2012 at 1:59 pm

I hope you start going again…it will help with all that emotional stuff for sure!
Isn’t it odd that they say we store our emotions in our hips? I never feel really emotional when I open them up, I do feel the tightness though so maybe I am not REALLY opening up.

And I never say yoga “practice”…I don’t do it enough to consider myself a practitioner :) I sure would like to though.

Oh and about the carpet…this may sound weird, but what about your bathroom or kitchen floor? Large enough for a pose or two?

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10 Rachel April 5, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Ha it does sound weird but I have actually considered both! Kitchen isn’t but bathroom probably is big enough a pose or two, though I’m not sure I could do a full class in there. Definitely worth trying though!

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11 Mel April 5, 2012 at 2:37 pm

The storing emotions in our hips thing just blew my mind.
I was thinking recently that as I’m getting older – more than just becoming an “old lady” with random aches and pains – I’m becoming that much more in tune with every aspect of my body. I’m finding a great kinship in the mind-body connection because it’s making me appreciate everything my body can do. It seems like this is one of your strengths too and I just really dig how this post is in touch with mind, body, spirit, whatev all at once.

That being said, what’s important about this post is that you did it; you went back. So good for you! Your body will bounce bag soon enough and until then, you get to keep rocking that realllly cute yoga bag!!!

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12 Rachel April 5, 2012 at 4:19 pm

I’ve been doing yoga at home (mostly because I’m too poor to shell out for classes at the moment). I try and do 15 minutes a day, switching it up and including various Pilates moves as well to work on my core. I’m actually surprised how sore I can get from just doing that – it’s true, every little bit helps!

My biggest issue, though, is that my dog cannot fathom WHY i would lay on the floor if I wasn’t hoping for a big makeout sesh with him. Do you have that problem with the pups?

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13 Laura April 5, 2012 at 5:41 pm

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my year of “healthy living” it’s that you need to make time for yourself because no one will do it for you. “Me time” can be anything from running errands to going to yoga. Put yourself first and the rest will fall into place.

Also, I haven’t summoned the courage to “practice” at home yet, but it’s something I’m interested in… I’m just not sure where’d I’d start?

namaste! ;)

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14 Rachel April 6, 2012 at 9:13 am

I love “you need to make time for yourself because no one will do it for you.” So simple, yet so true!

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15 Emilia April 5, 2012 at 7:20 pm

I completely understand what you mean about having difficulty getting back into things after a break, I’m experiencing that with running right now, though I think yoga is especially difficult. Practicing yoga routinely feels great, but unfortunately takes some time. One of my favorite yoga “quick” fixes are Tara Stile’s videos on youtube. They range in time, but none last more than ten minutes.
Good luck with your yoga goals, I’m sure you’ll be able to work through the tough patch and stick with them :)

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16 Alicia at Poise in Parma April 5, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Your recent session reminds me of a class I took in early March. It was right before teacher training started, but my teacher was already giving me a sneak peek by being uber picky about my alignment in the regularly scheduled classes I would take with her. That particular evening, there were only four of us in class: one was injured, one was doing his thing, another was crazy strong her her flow, and I was getting the tough love. It got to me so much that I broke down on my mat i the middle of class. And interesting enough, I had a similar reaction to yours of “what’s my motivation”. As I found myself back to calm, I stepped back and recognized what was coming up and what I could do with those emotions. Not only did I end that class stronger, I’ve taken that lesson on with me and try to especially remember it when I’m having a rough class. And especially in those damn hip openers…

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17 melissanibbles April 6, 2012 at 4:20 am

Can you do yoga in your kitchen? I live in a studio and only have a strip of tile for my kitchen floor, but I make it work. Do what you gotta do :)

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18 Rachel April 6, 2012 at 9:02 am

I’ve looked into it but the kitchen is too tight of a squeeze! BUT these comments reminded me that I was going to actually give my bathroom a try. I’ll let you know how it goes!

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19 Nikki April 6, 2012 at 6:05 am

I’m doing a work-trade at my yoga studio. I show up half an hour early to check people in, and then I can take that class (I just sneak in the back about 5 minutes late). Every class I “work” I get a free class that week. It’s nice because it guarantees I show up – if I’m not there to check in the class, I let everyone down. So, it gets me on my mat at least 2x per week. Plus, then I have two free classes, and one one likes to turn down free stuff! You should see if you can work out something with your studio :)

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20 Dana April 6, 2012 at 7:48 am

Recent new reader and loving your content! There must have been something in the air, yesterday was an emotional day for me as well. I attempted a yoga class, but didn’t make it on time:( Honestly though, sleep is the next best thing. Hope you are feeling better today and good luck with getting back into the swing of things on the yoga front.

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21 Megan C. April 6, 2012 at 8:42 am

You have inspired me to go back to yoga. I’ve been avoiding it for a while because I know the first class will be tough. But it won’t get any easier the longer I wait.

As for the carpet issue…what about getting some flooring and laying it over the carpet to put your mat on. Or I’ve seen some outdoor flooring that you might be able to use.

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22 emily April 6, 2012 at 10:49 am

Oh man, that first class after a hiatus is always killer. I feel like my body is yelling at me the whole time. And I always resent how monstrously unfair it is that a week or two off makes you feel like you’ve lost a month or two of progress. Of course, it will come back quickly, but everything feels so *off* for that first class. Good for you for getting it over with :)

I try (try…) to do something at home if I’m going to be away from the studio for a while, even if it’s just child’s pose, a reclining twist, and legs up the wall (while focusing on breath). Just something to remind my body that I still love it, and remind my brain that I like myself better when I’m doing yoga regularly.

And, yes, I feel like an imposter saying things like “my practice” and calling myself a yogi or yogini. Like, isn’t someone going to check for my official yogi card, or something? Isn’t someone going to administer a test to make me prove myself? And that’s without throwing sanskrit into the mix. I love the sanskrit words: tadasana always makes me think “ta-da!”, and why would I want to do “reclined bound angle pose” when I could do “supta baddha konasana” instead? But I feel like an asshole when I use the sanskrit.

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23 Christina April 6, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Out of curiosity, why couldn’t you have done yoga at home until you were able to take classes again? You don’t always need the help of an instructor to do a simple routine.

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24 Rachel April 6, 2012 at 1:05 pm

As I said in the post, my apartment is almost all carpet and doing yoga on carpet can be really bad for your wrists. I have carpal tunnel and tendonitis so I have to be careful as it is — I don’t want to make it worse. But I totally can/should have been doing poses that wouldn’t put my wrists at risk and I’ll do that going forward!

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25 Christina April 7, 2012 at 11:55 am

Fair enough. I didn’t know that about carpeting; fortunately I haven’t encountered any trouble yogaing on it (my room is carpet). Hope you can find a routine that works for you!

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26 April April 6, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Thank you so much for this post. The line alone, “I just…have a lot of feelings” says it all. I worked out only twice this week but each workout was me pushing harder than I normally do and I think that is because of the amount of emotion I am going through right now.

I hope you continue to feel better and stronger considering how busy you are! Always the hardest to take care of ourselves first.

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27 K @ The Chic Teach April 7, 2012 at 11:12 am

Oh, girl. Preaching to the choir.

I used to be a yoga devotee for sure, and then life got in the way (and I think I suffered a smidge of burn out). I’ve found that as long as I practice a few poses a week, and maybe have a short 20ish minute practice at home once a week, I can at least keep up my physical strength and flexibility.

The emotional/spiritual side of yoga? Now that crap takes practice and intention. I mean, if I don’t set aside a time to mentally focus (or mediate I guess), then my emotions are seriously a roller coaster. That’s the type of thing that going to an ACTUAL yoga class is really good for, and in my opinion, necessary.

Sometimes it takes humbling and super frustrating/irritating situations to realize we need to change something up. Thanks for sharing your experience with us :-)

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28 Christina April 26, 2012 at 7:26 am

Maybe you were avoiding yoga because you didn’t WANT to deal with all those emotions. I do that. I usually practice 5 days/week and I’ve only practiced a few times in the last 2 weeks. I realized I was avoiding it because I didn’t want to feel my emotions.

Of course when you go back you realize what a mistake that was, because like it or not, those emotions are getting stored and will come up eventually!

Think of your yoga practice as a marathon, not a sprint. You missed a month, no big deal, because you will practice for LIFE :)

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