“Usually there’s about a three-month love affair with yoga. ‘I feel so good.’ After about two months of practice, people think they are practically enlightened. Then usually around the third month, something happens and the yoga actually starts to work. And the first thing the ego structure does is to look for an escape route. People start heading for the door just at the moment when they should stay.” – Richard Freeman
The Honeymoon Stage:
So, you found yoga (or it found you), and everything in your life started to change. You started feeling empowered because you finally held a headstand for three breaths, or you bound your hands in Marichyasana D for the first time after working on it for 8 months. Not only that, everything around you started to look more alive and beautiful. Flowers are more vibrant, food tastes better, and you have more gratitude and compassion than you’ve ever felt in your heart.
You feel so refreshed and renewed that you change your eating and sleeping habits to work around your yoga practice. You stop going out and drinking during the week, and tell your family that you can’t eat dinner past seven because you want an empty stomach when you wake get up for practice. And, if you’re single, you can only hope to meet someone that’s on the same schedule as you because you’re not about to divorce your practice.
You eventually realize there is way more to yoga than postures, so you start taking some philosophy workshops, and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Bhagavad Gita become your daily reference for inspiration. In addition to asana, you start becoming interested in learning about pranayama (breathing techniques), and attending kirtan (chanting) events.
You start to notice distance from your friends. This can be upsetting, but it’s okay. It happens. You’ve taken on a different lifestyle, so they’re confused when you try to tell them about prakriti (true nature) and purusha (the self), or that everything is maya (illusion).
When this happened to me, I was sad about it. I became frustrated with some of my friends for not accepting and supporting me. But, then I had a huge realization that it wasn’t them at all. It was me. My friends were the same as they always were. I had changed. I was the one who sounded preachy and judgmental (even if it wasn’t my intention). I never asked them, but I can only assume they felt uncomfortable when I was talking about my new beliefs about karma (action) and samsara (death & rebirth). These topics always become controversial, and although fun to talk about, I had to learn to evaluate the situation.
If you find that this is happening to you, you’re going to have to let it run its course. Eventually, the honeymoon stage ends, and you learn how to control your excitement about philosophy discussion for when you’re just around your “yoga” friends, and then enjoy hanging out with everyone else like usual.
Then, there will be some people that don’t accept the change in you, and that’s okay too. Not everyone who enters our lives will be there forever, but we can always appreciate them while they were there, and love them from a distance.
Making it Work:
What happens when the honeymoon stage ends? THIS IS WHEN IT GETS REAL!
You start to fall back into an old pattern, so you end up going to sleep late again or eating later than usual. You are having a hard time getting up in the morning, and you feel heavy. A posture you were once able to do starts to seem so far away. Now, you’re stuck. You’ve hit a plateau.
This is how yoga is like dating.
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In the beginning, it’s new. You look forward to seeing your yoga practice every day. You feel like every time you practice, you were just given a big hug and a bouquet of flowers. You put in the effort right back. You listen closely. You don’t just try to get into the postures, but you try to understand what’s going on internally. You show up and work hard. You and your practice are a unit.
So, now that you’ve hit this plateau, you’re not getting this bouquet of flowers every day. It actually feels like your practice is distant because you’re not moving forward. You’re struggling hard to try new techniques to get into a posture, which feels the same as when you struggle to learn different ways of communicating with a new partner. You just feel like you and your yoga practice are not connecting anymore. So, you stop showing up. You stop working as hard. You start to suffer.
Remember that with any relationship, you can’t give up. If you love your practice, and you know that it’s there to help and heal you, then you commit to sticking with it through the difficult times.
This is really the true test. This is when you can learn from it the most.
So, what do you do? How do you get through this rough patch?
Here is something to help you after the honeymoon stage, so when you hit a plateau, you can move forward with ease.
Go Back To The Foundations:
When you’ve hit this plateau, just focus on breath and feeling in each posture. Don’t focus on pushing through your practice and working too intense in each posture. The truth is that the intensity is making it to the mat and getting through this time. If your focus is just on breathing and moving, then it takes the pressure off.
Get into the posture, breathe deep, and feel. Focus on staying present and longer in each posture. When you’re going through a huge transformation like this, just get into the posture, and breathe deep. Feel what’s going on. Where do you feel tight and stiff? Where do you feel aches and pains? In Yoga Mala, Pattabhi Jois says to take as many breaths a possible before moving on to the next posture. So, go back to basics. Staying longer in each posture will teach you to let go and create more body awareness.
Turn your gaze inwards. The drishti’s tell us where to gaze in each posture, but eventually your eyes will soften and your gaze will move inside. Take this time to make the drishti a priority. Once you take the drishti, turn your gaze towards your eyebrow center, and just feel what’s going on in the inner body.
So, there you go. I helped you out with one thing you can work on already, but make sure you get your copy of the sutras so that you can continue to learn new lessons and work on improving other aspects of the mind.
You’ll see that this will not only help get through your plateau in your yoga practice, but also in all aspects of your life.
Please let me know in the comments how you get through a plateau!
Namaste, Love, and lots of OM,