Getting bored with your yoga practice? It happens to the best of us—especially when you’ve been practicing yoga for years on end. I speak from experience: yoga can start to feel stale. Thankfully, it can most definitely be revived with these tried and true methods.
How a Yoga Practice Can Feel Stale
I first started practicing yoga about 14 years ago. In my early days, it was always exciting, always challenging. Yoga gave me a new way to move my body. And as a former runner with tight hips and hamstrings, the poses did not come easily.
I felt so much self-confidence and satisfaction from journeying into the postures. Whether it was finally bringing my front thigh parallel the floor in warrior one, my toes hovering above the ground for seconds in a row in crow, or at last being able to lift my head from the floor in wheel, I was enthralled with yoga.
My yoga practice went on like this for many years. Mastery over the physical had me hooked. I went from stiff to uber bendy, from balance-less to equipoised.
And then it happened. My yoga practice became stale. The poses no longer gave me the gratification that they used to. While I loved my teachers, my yoga practice had awakened something within that their teachings didn’t seem to reach. There had to be more to yoga, and I wasn’t getting it from studio classes. Something was missing.
And so, I searched. Through practicing on my own, reading ancient texts, becoming a yoga teacher, and studying with yoga masters in India, I discovered that true yoga can never be stale.
7 Ways to Reinvigorate Your Yoga Practice
1. Exploring the spirituality of yoga
Yoga is certainly not confined to the physical. American yoga would lead you to believe otherwise, with classes that rarely mention anything about spirituality (save “surrendering”). The spiritual side of yoga remains elusive.
If we’re mis (or un) informed, we’d think that once we can hold a 10 minute handstand, we’ve become yoga masters and that there’s little left on the path.
Oh how untrue this is. While the spiritual system of yoga requires endless books to really explain, it can be described in a nutshell as a path toward enlightenment. If we believe that yoga is limited to the mat, it’s hard to connect the dots between something so physical and something as elusive as self-realization.
This is the stuff that never gets explained in studio yoga classes. In order to avoid having our yoga practice become stale, we have to learn this wisdom on our own.
2. Pranayama: a yoga must
In the sage Patanjali’s ashtanga yoga (or eight-fold path), the next step after asana is pranayama.
Pranayama means “breath expansion.” It’s the practice of controlling the breath as a means to control the mind. It’s not one technique in particular, but any number of methods that manipulate and alter the breath. It takes our yoga practice to the next level. We begin to tame the mind for the more demanding practice of meditation.
Pranayama is rarely taught in studio yoga classes. Along with spirituality, it was left behind in India when yoga came west. Since it absolutely must be practiced correctly and safely, it can’t be learned from a book. This means we must seek out a teacher who teaches pranayama: difficult to find, but absolutely worth it. For anyone who feels that their practice is getting stale, pranayama is the next move.
3. Teacher training: beyond studio yoga classes
Despite the big price tag, yoga teacher training is the perfect answer to a stale yoga practice. It teaches all the wisdom that every yogi needs: pranayama, yogic philosophy, spirituality, and meditation. It’s not just for those who eventually plan to teach. YTTC is more like a yoga immersion, shedding light on the deeper teachings of yoga. Incredibly inspiring, it brings new life to a stale yoga practice.
4. Knowing when it’s time to move on
When we find a teacher that we truly resonate with, our yoga practice can soar to new heights. Their teachings hold so much truth for us. It can happen, however, that we’ll eventually outgrow them. Tough as it can be, sometimes we must move on.
If we’re under the guidance of a true teacher (like a guru) it’s impossible for our practice go stale. A true teacher will always lead us further on our journey, even to the point where they awaken the teacher within. But if our teacher lacks wisdom on the spiritual aspects of yoga, how can they lead us any further than the physical?
While we must be grateful for their teachings, we owe it to ourselves to continue to grow, finding the guidance that we need.
5. Take your yoga practice home
Being a yoga student is just like being a student in school. We go to class to receive the teachings, but we have to do our homework to really learn the lessons. If we only practice yoga while we’re in the studio, our practice will never grow deep.
I learned this first hand. It was only once I started doing yoga on my own that I improved my willpower and perseverance (a home practice takes serious motivation). My spirituality blossomed, as I found myself spending more time in prayer at the beginning and end of each session. Eventually, I felt confident enough to go through yoga teacher training, and was spat out the other side with yogi eyes wide open. It was the perfect antidote to feeling bored with my yoga practice.
6. Seeking the wisdom of yoga masters
Books are a bored yogi’s best friend. The ancient yogic texts like Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, and Bhagavad Gita are yogi must-reads. They’re not necessarily the easiest books to understand, but there are so many translations accompanied by commentaries to give us guidance.
7. Freshness in newness
If we’re simply bored of the yoga we’ve always been doing, it’s a good idea to try something different. It’s possible to get so stuck in our ways that we cease to grow, causing our practice to become stale. A new style can open the mind to a new way of yoga.
While it always depends on the teacher, some yoga styles are more physically-based than others. Power, hot, vinyasa, and ashtanga are more about mastery of the pose. Growing tired of any one of these practices might mean it’s time to hit up some hatha, where long holds give a new challenge to body and more importantly, mind; bhakti, where devotion and flow get blurred together; or kundalini, where yogic energy is altered.
In my own journey with yoga, I’ve shifted from stagnant to a wide-eyed yogi using each of these methods at some point or another. My first tactic was to switch yoga styles, giving up my long-loved vinyasa classes and trading them for hatha. When my favorite teacher couldn’t teach me beyond what her 5-7pm class allowed, I sought out new teachers for inspiration. When even their teachings failed to fill in all the puzzle pieces, I took my yoga practice home. And when I felt confident enough, I completed yoga teacher training.
Pranayama has since been a part of my daily practice and it never grows old, as there’s always room to grow. And to inspire my yoga practice whenever needed, I read ancient texts on yoga and books on spiritual masters.
It’s a cycle, actually: sometimes it’s more pranayama that I need, sometimes a studio class with a new teacher to give me inspiration for my home practice, and sometimes dipping my toe into the waters of a new style to re-inspire what I practice at home. Any sense of my practice going stale is quickly abolished as yoga becomes fresh again. It will forever be a tool for personal growth.