It happens. Sometimes we fall off the mat. Life gets busy or hard or complicated, and our yoga practice falls by the wayside. Maybe it’s due to a major life shift – having a baby, relocating, a job change, getting married or divorced, injury or illness, a death in the family…etc. Or sometimes something as simple as your schedule changing, your favorite class being cancelled, travel plans, or good old -fashioned exhaustion and overwhelm can come between you and your practice. Maybe it happens slowly…you start practicing less and less frequently until you realize that weeks, months, or years have gone by, or maybe it happens all at once. Either way, it can be very discouraging, and quite a shock!

The Covid pandemic has certainly been a hurdle for many of us. Some studio classes aren’t available, or we don’t feel comfortable interacting in public. Many of our lives are disrupted and regular schedules are skewed. Maybe everyone is home all the time now, and it’s challenging to find a quiet time and space to go inward. Maybe you’re extra busy home schooling your kids. Maybe your nerves are simply frayed and you find yourself paralyzed by all the fear and worry and muddling through. Add in the extra pressure of the holidays, and we can end up feeling like something’s got to give. If you have found yourself disconnected from your yoga practice, I just want to let you know that it is natural and normal and okay. And I want to reassure you that it is possible to get it back.

In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali reminds us that it takes a very, very long time of uninterrupted practice, with earnestness and heart-felt devotion, to become firmly grounded in our practice. (PYS 1.14) Backsliding is often part of the journey. So, if you’ve abandoned your practice and are grieving the loss, forgive yourself, keep the faith, and begin again!

The good news it that taking a break from our practice can come with an unexpected bonus. When we return to yoga after time away, we often rediscover the power of the Beginner’s Mind, that sense of openness and wonder we felt when we first came to the practice. As we reacquaint ourselves with our bodies, which may be very different than the last time we were on the mat, everything feels new again. We get to rediscover our strengths and weaknesses, and re-examine the stories we tell ourselves about our challenges and abilities. It is common to bemoan what we have lost in our time away – flexibility, strength, endurance. But these things will return. Our bodies remember. And we might find that what we gain – a fresh perspective and a new appreciation for our practice and ourselves – is even more valuable.

Here are a few suggestions for getting back into your practice:

Start Slow – With yoga, a little goes a long way, and you want to set yourself up for success. If you tell yourself you have to get up at 5am and practice for 90 minutes, five days a week, you are bound to encounter resistance. Maybe you start with a modest goal – 3 sun salutations and five minutes of sitting quietly every other day. Maybe you just commit to one class a week, or lying with your legs up the wall for a few minutes each evening before bed. It often takes the gentlest of nudges for inertia to give way to momentum.

Or Dive In – You know yourself best. Maybe you’re the kind of person who needs to jump in with both feet to get things rolling. They say it takes at least 21 days to establish a new habit. Maybe you commit to a month of consecutive daily Zoom or in-studio classes. Chances are good you’ll be right back in your yoga groove by the end of the run.

Re-evaluate – It’s entirely possible that your past practice no longer fits your present needs. Perhaps you need something more gentle and nourishing right now, or maybe it’s time to crank things up. Maybe you want to consider trying a new teacher or a completely different style of yoga. Make it an adventure, and try to have some fun. You might discover new things about yourself or an unexpected practice that feels just right.

Buddy Up –It is more important than ever to find ways to connect with the people we love. You and a friend could try the same online class, or explore something totally different, like Ariel Yoga, together. Perhaps you just both commit to a 30- minute home practice most days, and hold one another accountable. Meanwhile you can send each other inspiring yoga articles and videos to reignite your love of the practice.

One of the beautiful truths about yoga is that it is always there, waiting for us. Let’s leave the past in the past and come into the beauty of the present. NOW is the only time that matters. Remember that Ahimsa (loving kindness) is vital to the process. Please don’t use yoga as another opportunity to give yourself a hard time. If you’ve fallen off the mat for a bit, let the shame and self-judgment go, and just climb back on. It doesn’t matter how long it has taken for you to return, you are welcome, you are home.