If you practice yoga regularly, chances are you’ve had the following experience: You come to your mat for your daily practice, and find your body moving through a sequence that feels comfortably familiar. Your mind drifts, your focus is muddled, and you realize that this sequence that once brought you joy, flexibility and expansiveness is beginning to feel—dare we say it?—a little boring.
Don’t get us wrong. Repetition and discipline are important foundations of yoga practice. Benefits of routine practices include moving deeper into certain poses while witnessing changes and evolutions our physical and mental strength—not to mention reaping the purifying and strengthening benefits of postures while practicing them consistently.
However, it can be just as vaulable to open ourselves to new approaches to yoga from time to time. Doing so is just another form of discipline—the dedication to finding new angles and perspectives from which to approach your practice. It ensures that we never practice on “auto-pilot,” but rather come to our mats in a fully present state of being. When we “change it up,” we withhold expectations, and we allow our creative spirit to come forward.
If you find that your current yoga practice is feeling stale—or even if you’re just looking for something new to incorporate into your practice—here are some suggestions for changing up your regular yoga routine:
1. Pick a body part, any body part. The human body is comprised of over seven thousand parts. If your practice feels stale, chances are you are focusing on only a small fraction of these. For instance, if your focus is normally on your feet in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), focus on the pinky finger. If you place awareness on the legs or shoulders in Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose), try the gallbladder. It may seem silly, but placing your awareness on a not-so-obvious body part for the duration of your practice will bring you out of your thoughts and teach you to inhabit your physical body in a whole new way.
2. Focus on a chakra. The chakras were first seen by seers (“see-ers”) who spent several hours each day in meditation and in observance of their bodies. Embracing this ancient wisdom, embark on your own exploration. Perhaps you know that green is the color of the heart chakra, but have you experienced this connection to the fourth chakra for yourself? Practice heart-opening asanas with your awareness intently centered on the heart chakra and see what you observe.
3. Use a “new” old prop. We often celebrate the day we no longer need those straps in Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend) or the aid of a block in Trikonasana (Triangle Pose). But an interesting challenge for someone who’s been practicing for a while could be to dig out your old props and give them a try with a beginner’s mind. You may find creative ways to use the props that take you deeper in your body than expected. For example, try holding blocks in your hands during Sun Salutations or sitting on a blanket during Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose). You may even find yourself celebrating again as you find a new, refreshing perspective in old, familiar postures.
4. Practice a different style. It can be interesting to study with a teacher from a different tradition. Not only will the physical alignment cues be a fun way to challenge your habituated mind and body, but each lineage often emphasizes similar teachings in different ways. If you are a dedicated Ashtanga yogi, try a Forrest Yoga class. If you often stick to Restorative, perhaps give Acro Yoga a chance. It is important to place ourselves in new circumstances and explore how much we are capable of.
What are ways that you “change it up” in your yoga practice?