Taking a Yogic Break

A frequent issue of concern which arises consistently as the long holidays approach is how much flexibility and ability one will lose when stepping away from the mat and onto the beach, or into ski boots, or wherever travels might lead.

The loss will be minimal and quickly regained.

My answer may be surprising but it is one that I have found consistently true in my own case. Although, as a teacher I risk alienation implying I ever take leave from my mat. But I still contend, that the loss will be minimal and quickly regained.

Reality is however, that I one who leaves my may untouched from time to time. Much as I aspire to being that yogi who leaps from bed no matter where the bed is, and does nothing before spending twenty minutes in meditation and sun salutations, I am still working on that level of discipline, and haven’t quite reached it yet.

Naturally, when one stops practicing anything, be it pastry making or pranayama breathing, there will be a small consequence of fluidity when one resumes. Often, this is not a bad thing, as one refocuses and works that extra bit harder to concentrate on reaching back up to where one was before.

The key here is to realize that with pleasant diversion, hamstrings tighten, hip flexors lose their flex, and shoulders inevitably raise and hunch. It might not look like it in the happy holiday snaps, but a little like seismic shifting, it’s happening beneath the surface.

When the holiday is literally and figuratively over, and real life resumes once more, there’s no need to be discouraged that during one’s first forward fold, uttanasana, one’s hands reach only below the knees. Perhaps before the idyllic hiatus hands were flat on the floor in the same stance, but that is neither here nor there. What is important is to let go of what ‘was’ and set one’s intent around what ‘is’.

The relevant focus here should be breathing and concentrating on the steps to practice opening those newly tightened areas without force. There can be no more singularly damaging action in any pose than using brute strength to reach longer, higher or wider.Following shortly after the big push will come a huge rip, or tear, or pop, whatever it may sound like. And the pain will be debilitating and achieve nothing more than a very, very long, highly unpleasant recovery period.

It’s important to recognize that the reason we go away is to take a break from the everything that makes for a daily routine and return refreshed and renewed – a slightly different person. It is with this realization and acceptance that one should venture back into one’s yoga practice.

I find that frequently a break re-centers my practice. Rather than thinking that I know which pose is coming next, or how to transition into a pose, I find myself listening acutely, paying attention to cues, and often times my practice is somewhat better for the attention to detail.

It’s a little like looking at something you see every day, not seeing it for a while and suddenly – really seeing it.