Whether a yoga teacher or student, a beginner or an advanced practitioner, everyone at some point becomes “bored” with his or her yoga practice. If you are worried that yoga has been reduced to a to-do item for you, yoga expert Lynn Burgess shares how to stay excited about keeping yoga in your life.
Q: My practice continues to evolve and I continue to see benefits, especially balance and flexibility in some areas, like turning my head to back out of parking spots! But I am having a little trouble staying motivated. Any ideas?
A: I think you are asking about what creates a sustainable practice. It’s really your curiosity that sparks motivation and enhances learning. Ask yourself, “What kindles my curiosity?” Let that answer push you forward into learning and practicing. If you are curious then you aren’t forcing yourself or disciplining yourself. You aren’t saying, “I know this is good for me so I have to keep doing it.” The doing then has a special place. Wouldn’t it be great if there was something inside of you calling out for yoga? When you find out what that is, yoga isn’t something on your to do list. The practice isn’t oppressive at all.
Q: Also, while I do see some progress, I don’t think I will ever get my heels to the floor in down dog and my hamstrings are as tight as ever. Thoughts?
A: Down Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) offers many benefits. When you’re tired, staying in this pose for a short time will restore your energy. It can also help strengthen your legs, ease shoulder stiffness, and slow your heartbeat. The pose requires both strength and flexibility; it teaches you to appreciate alignment, and thus prepares you for doing inversions, backbends, and forward bends; and it offers philosophical lessons, such as the cultivation of stability and spaciousness that will carry over into the rest of your life.
If your heels aren’t touching the ground in Downward-Facing Dog, you can compensate by bringing the floor up to you. You can use a heel wedge or roll up a thick towel or the blanket 4(or two, depending on how much height you need) and lay it on your mat under your heels instead of having them suspended above the ground.
Another option is to place a pair of blocks flat and lengthwise toward the front of your mat, and arrange them so that they are shoulder-distance apart and parallel. Come to all fours, with your hands on the blocks and your hips stacked above your knees. Adjust the blocks so that your hands are an inch or so in front of your shoulders, with the fleshy part of your palm just over the edge for traction (as opposed to having your hands on the center of the blocks). Once you’ve organized your hands, set your feet hip-distance apart, lift your hips, and straighten your legs, engage your quadriceps and press them back, reaching your heels toward the floor. If your hamstrings are tight, straightening your legs will be challenging, but notice how the blocks help you to move in this direction.