A few years ago, I often found myself searching for stillness. I started going to yoga classes whenever I could find time—there was something about holding postures and breathing through my discomfort that perfectly translated to what I was feeling in my life. I found I could gain composure in chaos, and when I rested in savasana, the final resting pose, I felt almost blissful.
Savasana was every bit as important as the most challenging poses, I discovered. Learning to be still was a challenging process, but it was so beneficial.
I became so invested in yoga that I attended two- and three-hour workshops on weekends. When I wanted more, I enrolled in a six-month yoga teacher training course that ended in a weekend in the woods of West Virginia. By the time I started training clients on my own, in my basement and at local studios, I was a total yoga junkie. I was learning new techniques all the time and using them in my own life, as well as with my students. My practice evolved and grew, and I did too. As I stepped on my mat every day, without fail, I vowed I always would.
But time went on, and I found myself getting bored and restless with yoga. I’d gotten into yoga after the birth of my first child, and after I had a second baby, my time for longer practices was gone. My yoga practice became reduced to sitting on my mat for a few minutes a day, doing a few restorative poses, usually with my baby latched onto my chest.
My yoga practice wasn’t eliminated from my life, but it had massively shifted. I felt I was a bad yogi because I didn’t have the time to commit to it anymore, and even when I did, I was often too exhausted to do anything but sit and breathe, or put my legs up the wall. It was still yoga, I told myself, but it didn’t feel like I was doing much of anything at all.
As I stepped on my mat every day, without fail, I vowed I always would.
As my children grew, slowly, time for yoga came back into my life. The time came when I could turn on a show and perform a home practice, or drop them at the gym daycare center and attend a yoga class—and I did. I started going to yoga again, but I wasn’t loving my practice anymore.
In fact, I didn’t feel connected to it at all. I felt distant and distracted. But because yoga demands concentration, the more distracted I felt, the more I forced myself to stay on the mat, to recommit. I regained a little core strength. I got bendy again. But I was also bored. The more I practiced, the further I felt from yoga.
One day, I rolled out my yoga mat and began a 45-minute long practice in my living room while my kids played outside. Within five minutes I was bored out of my mind. “I don’t want to do this!” I said out loud, for no one but me to hear. And saying the words felt like relief.
Instead, I got my dusty set of dumbells that I hadn’t touched in years and put myself through a grueling 30-minute high-intensity interval workout. And afterward, as I sat stretching on my mat, I felt sore and sweaty and amazing. It had been just what I needed.
I’d been so committed to practicing yoga that I’d forgotten that my body could do other things besides yoga too. The next time I dropped off my kids at the gym daycare, I skipped my usual yoga class. Instead, I went for a long, hard run on the treadmill. For years, I’d stayed away from running. I had always struggled with it and never enjoyed doing it—but suddenly, my body was craving it.
Soon, I was able to go for longer and long runs. I did HIIT workouts on the regular. I still used yoga to stretch, and sometimes, just to sit and breathe for a few minutes. I tried to practice mindfulness in my daily life. Yoga was still a part of me, and I felt grateful for all of the knowledge I had picked up over the years—but I was no longer a yoga junkie.
At first, I felt like a slacker, like I had completely bailed on something that had been so important to me simply because I didn’t feel like doing it anymore. But then I remembered something, one of yoga’s most important teachings—listen to your body.
Yes, I had moved away from a more serious yoga practice, but in a sense, I was still practicing yoga because I was listening to what my body wanted and needed from me. It just didn’t look like yoga—at least not all the time. It looked like running, jumping, squatting, lunging, and doing push-ups. It looked like running for miles at my local park or plodding on the treadmill. It looked like lifting weights and doing whatever kind of workout I wanted to do that day.
Once in a while, I still go to yoga or follow a short practice on YouTube to stretch out my muscles. And it feels like a good balance. But I don’t need yoga in the way that I once did. And I’ve decided that that’s totally OK.
I was still practicing yoga because I was listening to what my body wanted and needed from me.
I’m sure there will be a time, maybe even in the near future, that I become a yoga junkie once more. I might start craving those 90-minute practices, working on my balance and finding my inner peace. I might even fall in love with savasana all over again.
But right now, I’m going to keep on listening to my body and doing what serves it. It might make me a little bit of a yoga drop-out. But I think that yoga can come in many different forms, and it has many different lessons. Perhaps the most powerful one of all is to simply tune in and listen to what you need. That’s exactly what I’m going to do.
Sarah Bregel is a mother, writer, feminist, and deep-breather. She’s been published all over the internet and in print. Her work has been included in multiple anthologies, and she is currently writing her first book, a memoir about marriage and motherhood. Find her on Facebook or on Twitter @SarahBregel.