I was talking to a student, and his words to me literally were, I feel that my yoga practice has died. A part of me has gone and I don’t know how to bring it back. I jokingly explained to him that I had many of those episodes since I started practicing and many times I felt that I needed to call 911 and offer CPR to my dying yoga practice.
The world out there tells us all the benefits of yoga. We see instructors in beautiful poses and polished, manicured places. Instagram is like the Disneyland of yoga. But like everything in life there is a counterpart, and sometimes a more real aspect.
My yoga practice has died and come back to life so many times.
The first time I said goodbye to my yoga practice was when I was in NYC, teaching up to 35 yoga classes a week plus private clients. My self practice died of loneliness, it pretty much left me without notice. I burned out twice in NYC, and I believe that it was partly due to not having time for practice. And by practice I don't mean a whole primary series of Ashtanga, or a full Kriya of Kundalini. I mean just lying on my back and taking 30 minutes to breathe and do the most basic stretches. That could be practice. Ironically, I was a yoga teacher, without a yoga practice. That made me sad.
My practice fell apart again when I injured my shoulder and was out of commission for a while. I still was able to do seated postures and breath exercises, but I longed to do more strenuous movements and feel the after effects of a full, sweaty practice. My ego was bruised as much as my body was. I had trouble accepting the fact that at that time, there were things that I couldn’t do. I fought against it.
My practice collapsed again after moving to Miami and going through major adaptation challenges. New city, new apartment, new work, new everything. It all felt so unstable, and although logically my practice was the first thing that I should turn to in order to anchor myself, I didn't. Life’s challenges were intense and it felt like there was no time for me to slow down. I had to stay awake and alert.
My practice froze up again when I was diagnosed with depression. Everything in life felt like a weight on my shoulders, and just trying to grab a mat and put it on the floor to practice seemed as exhausting as doing 108 salutations. I even tried to rekindle my love of the practice by reading yoga books, but I didn’t have the energy to read.
My practice went comatose when my mom died. I was completely numb inside. I lost her. I lost myself. I lost one of the things that I loved most in the world. I felt damaged and lost. Again, logically, some sort of nurturing, caring, breathing, and meditation could have helped a little. But I couldn’t. I refused it. I wanted to be alone and mourn in my own way. Crying was my practice. And I really mean that.
So as you can see, my practice and I have gone through many challenges many times. The reason why I am sharing this with you is so that you know that for each time that my practice collapsed, fainted, mutated, or went missing in action, it always came back. It came back from a place deep within myself that didn’t feel forced. It came back from a place within myself that said, "Now. Start again." Sometimes I was inspired by a student, a colleague. Sometimes it was a deep feeling of missing something so important in my life and finally getting the strength to do it. A longing.
Each of us will reconnect to the practice in different ways. We can’t judge someone else’s connection to the practice (or disconnection from it) as they go through life’s challenges. But we can share our experience in order to make those going through challenges feel less isolated.
If you fall off the wagon, be extremely gentle and kind to yourself. Don't compare your experience with anyone else's. Do your own soul-searching, and cut yourself some slack.
Practice is not just the time that you spend on the mat doing downward dogs. It's also the time that you spend standing on your own two feet dealing with life, keeping your ethical standards, drawing boundaries when necessary, navigating life's changes and challenges. That is ultimately the yoga I care most about. The postures will always be there waiting for you. Life keeps happening.
Every day gives you an opportunity to do some kind of yoga.
The physical practice goes away sometimes, and may seem to be dead. But it eventually comes back, stronger and clearer.
The real practice is every day. The practice is every breath.
Trust that you are being guided, and in your own time you will be back on your feet (and on the mat).
Adrian Molina has been teaching yoga continuously since 2004. He is a well-known and respected instructor in Miami and New York, with an extensive worldwide following through his platform and school of yoga, Warrior Flow. Adrian and his husband Dennis reside in Miami and frequently lead workshops and international retreats in NYC and around the world. Adrian is also a writer, massage therapist, Reiki healer, meditation teacher, sound therapist, and a Kriya yoga practitioner in the lineage of Paramahansa Yogananda. Adrian is recognized for the community-building work he does in Miami and beyond.