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When to Take a Break from Yoga – A Teacher’s Perspective

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When to Take a Break from Yoga - A Teacher's Perspective

You’re obsessed with yoga…but is that good?

As I come up against my first year mark teaching and the tail end of my almost fourteen year practice, I reflect on the yogis and yoginis I surround myself with daily. These folks, with whom I come into daily contact at studios, are ‘enthusiasts’ whose conversation with me ranges anywhere from the occasional ‘hi’s” to “how is the kid’s soccer going?” to “you’re here again?” banter.

As we pass each other and fill up our water bottles or pull our hair into a ponytail quickly and carelessly–every time, there is excitement for the start of class.

As a teacher, I can tell who the students are who have the pure love of yoga. These are the people I see doing doubles and triples in a day. Some are in teacher training programs or other weekend intensives that require a set amount of hours for completion; and others are not in any programs. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that, at times, I do wonder if this seemingly “obsessive” streak among the doublers and triplers is healthy for their bodies. This concern mostly comes from knowing that some of these people have not practiced for all that long and their bodies are still acclimating. One student who really brought this to my mind was a very petite woman who always wears many layers of clothing in class, including her cross country ski shell. It feels like 110 degrees F inside the studio, yet she wears all those clothes and takes two or three classes a day.

Before, as a student, I never thought twice about this. Now as a teacher, I can’t help but wonder if perhaps they are taxing their bodies (and minds) with yoga. Whether they know about the concept of “moderation”  or Brahmacharya; These yogis and yoginis take the word ‘enthusiast’ to the next level: maybe even up to the weightiness of the word “zealot.”

I ask myself if they are seeking their mats as a distraction for life – but I don’t dare ask as it is usually not my place. My place is to help them while they are on their mats, give them something to think about off their mats, be approachable for anything outside of class they might bring up with me, and to prepare to drive to my next location for my next class.

Indeed, yoga is life-enhancing, life-transformative, and there have been stages of my life when I couldn’t get enough yoga.  Even as a teacher now, I crave my mat as I am on the ‘giving’ end lately more than the receiving.

But what is easily seen is reminiscent of the Type-A Yoga Girl of Pemco Insurance Northwest profiles ad series. Notice the description: It seems pretty funny–but there is definitely truth there. And I think I was even once considered this girl at least during times of turmoil and chaos in my life pulling doubles and triples myself.

Pemco Type A Yoga Girl

With the past six years being my most ‘zealot-like stint” during both teacher training times and non-training times, I think it is fair to say that my phases have ebbed and flowed seasonally. At times, I’m going 3-4 days a week (like now) as a teacher and in the past, during cycling prep or mountaineering trip trainings, I’ve barely gone to yoga in the summer months. As far as a home practice goes, I’ve done my own yoga sporadically, especially if you count being cramped up in a tent all night and stretching to the morning dew in the morning and light of dawn.

With all these insights noted, I ultimately think that students don’t realize that it is okay to put yoga down for awhile. This is especially true after a challenge is complete such as a 15- or 30-day challenge like so many students complete during slower times at studios. I tell my students it is okay to return back to it when the season dictates, that it is okay to explore other types of exercise. It’s hard to convince the most stubborn zealot of this as most of them know in their heart of hearts – the day just doesn’t feel right without their yoga treat. But others are easier to convince as they know they will do yoga until they die. Like me. I know that and never question it.

Though, I always feel so good after I hit a master class with a studio founder or Wanderlust-type personality, I have to remember that having lots of dimensions in one’s life is healthy.  And, I think the authenticity and boldness to be able to admit this to peers may either hurt my career or broaden it. But in the true spirit of yoga, I will let them own their judgements knowing that my yoga journey is completely different than anyone else’s. This is my truth.

If there is a time you can’t get to a class because of your schedule or Seattle traffic or because the weather is gorgeous and you’d rather go do something else – give yourself permission. To be able to look at yoga as a lifetime pursuit that is always there in all seasons and to take advantage of the outdoors to enrapture yourself in in the given season. The bravery to do something different; to be able to stop beating yourself up if you can’t get make the 12:00 because of dang traffic.

It is always there for you. Just like at the point you decide to fully extend your legs in your tripod headstand, trust it to expand and contract on its own.

Also by Jackie: How to Unblock the Sixth Chakra and Rediscover Your Intuition

How Partner Yoga Helped Us Reconnect and Rekindle Our Marriage

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Photo: Matt Madd via Flickr; Pemco

Jacqueline Quattrocchi

Jacqueline Quattrocchi

Contributor at Peaceful Dumpling
Jacqueline Quattrocchi is a Seattle transplant who grew up in NY. After years in the IT field, Jackie made a career change to become a full-time yoga instructor, a result of 14 years of Iyengar, Bikram, and Vinyasa practice. Jackie brings a wealth of versatility, adaptability and experience to her yoga students; her insight transfers both to their lives on and off their mats. Jackie has had the ability to build on her Journalism roots and write content about many professional areas. Currently, this background has resulted into writing for wellness/health and more general assignment topics. Jackie owns and operates MyAsana2Go.com, a wellness program geared toward bringing yoga into companies for employee health. With two 200-hr training Yoga Alliance-recognized training Hatha Fusion(200 RYT) and in Power Vinyasa (200 RYT), Jackie enjoys her teaching career at Hot Yoga Experience in Sammamish, WA. She is the owner of EEC, LLC - an editorial consulting firm, and as a mother and wife, activity plays an enormous part in her family's life. She enjoys backpacking, rock climbing and cycling with her family.
  • First and foremost, I’m so pleased Jackie is writing and sharing her experiences and I support this fully – she is both a friend and a peer.

    Here’s what I’d like to add to what’s been shared. No matter how plain or bland we make yoga in offering it to others, it is completely impossible to divest the lineage, history, energetics, and evolution of the practice and those who have mastered it before us. It is, by its very design, perhaps the most potent and clear system for human evolution.

    As such, the purpose of asana (poses, postures, the physical practice) is two-fold; to access and expand the consciousness of the practitioner, and to create a healthy vessel to contain the soul or spirit. For this reason it is completely appropriate to take “doubles” “triples” or spend the day doing asana WHEN such a pursuit embodies BOTH of the above purposes. When it does not it is merely gymnastics or exercise – a substitute for the StairMaster that just happens to make for more interesting coffee talk.

    This is not to say one can’t use asana for buns of steel or lean muscle mass or an ass kicking or a boot camping but these things are not of yoga’s design. They are, all too often, just the latest way we pacify our cravings, desires, and dysfunctions, but in a “new” direction.

    Like all machines, the human body will burn out if it is run, non-stop, without being properly attended. Fortunately yoga has a remedy for this. Unfortunately most are unaware of the remedy, overlook it, or discount it all together. And that remedy is the supporting structure, the foundation laid by the practice of yama and niyama, the restoration of the body and mind through gentle, aligned pranayama, the stilling of the mind (chitta vritti) which is required for meditation. And of course the most important of all, the application of the practice in real time, in the real world and across the three relationships: self, others, and cosmos.

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