Have you ever taken a yoga class so many times with the same teacher that you lose motivation? The class seems repetitive. You find that you are stuck, doing the same thing over and over. Dare I even say that you are bored? Maybe the teacher doesn’t switch it up enough or worse, maybe the teacher is in script! And even worsey worse – (is that even a word) – maybe it’s the only class that works for your schedule.
Instead of blaming your teacher, did you ever stop to consider that it takes two to tango? Maybe *you* (that’s right), you have let yourself shift comfortably into a yoga rut, a default mode, and have been going through the motions with or without help from your instructor.
Don’t let a repetitive teacher in script or your own defaulted body limit your edge. Treat each class as a new opportunity for possibility and expansion! Don’t just wait for a good teacher to blow your mind. Take it upon yourself to blow your own mind. Deepen your practice with these quick moves and tell default to kiss your old usual Asana goodbye.
1. Be a true warrior. Excuse me, Virabhadrasana coming through. In each Warrior 1 and 2, hold yourself accountable to have your front knee at 90 degrees or as close as you can possibly get to it. Ground the four corners of both feet into your mat, lift your front toes and pull the pit of your belly in and up and sink as low as you possibly can. Hold yourself there like you mean it and stick it like Kerri Strug each and every time no matter how bad it burns. Get uncomfortable and stay. Be the warrior that you were meant to be. Your thighs will thank you for it and so will summer. You may even be pleasantly surprised at your reaction or lack there of when things get uncomfortable off your mat.
2. Close your eyes. Take your favorite and best balancing pose, one in which you are most comfortable and confident. If you don’t have one, try tree pose. Once you are set in your stance (defaulted or not), open to full expression and close your eyes. Take your gaze inward, tuck your tailbone and hold the pose as long as you can. If you fall out, then it’s working. Get right back in it, close your eyes again, and see if you can hold it longer than before. Explore what it takes to stay as strong outwardly unaffected by your shift in vision when your gaze is directed inward. If you have to adjust your bent leg to stick it, do it. Go there. Go where possibility takes you.
3. Set yourself up for failure. Take your most challenging pose. Is it twisted crescent lunge, handstand, headstand, frog kicks, half moon, or dancer? Whatever it is, pick the first one that comes to mind and set a goal that the next time that that damn pose is called, you are going to go big. Bigger than the Beatles. Bigger than that damn dress debacle. So big in fact that you are going to fall out with intent because you are not going to stop trying to go somewhere new in the pose. Plan to be a disaster. Plan to be a hot mess. See where it takes you. Maybe it’s not so bad. And even better, maybe it is! AND maybe, just maybe, you will forget what happened to being in default.
4. What time is it, Mr. Fox? In case you didn’t get this childhood reference, it’s midnight! AHHH! In your practice, think midnight as in 12:00. Whether you are in Tadasana, Warrior, Crescent Lunge, Half Moon, Dancer, Airplane, Eagle, Bridge, Wheel, or anything in between, set your standing foot or feet to 12:00. When we slip into default and get comfortable in poses that aren’t so comfortable, sometimes our feet tend to turn in or out, and seldom do we change them back for fear of not looking perfect in the pose. Force your feet to 12:00 and set a solid foundation from which to build your core and inner strength. If you fall out, guess what. It’s working, you are growing and chances are, you aren’t bored because you have a new challenge – to be perfect at perfect form. Even better chances are, are that you are more grounded. Able to lift higher and go farther.
5. Quit the Excuses! Spoiler alert! I HATE Camel. There. I said it. I hate Camel. I make up a million excuses every single time it comes up. I just do what I always do and give it a half-ass, lackluster, waste-of-my-time try. Until recently that is. I decided to change my mind about it and think of it, the way I think of handstand. I am not a master of handstand, but I want to be! Standing on my hands fascinates me, so why can’t I take that same view and apply it to gracefully falling backwards onto my palms from my knees? It’s a halfway dance from being able to do a full standing backbend. Why do gymnasts and ballerinas get to have all the fun? Why can’t I make that part of my own dance? Since I have outed my lame excuses for Camel, I now see a twinkling light at the end of this once drab camel tunnel, and know that true Camel is a possibility for me. I don’t fear Camel like I once did (which is not true for Camel Toe, but that is for another time.) The twinkling light may be dim, but it is there, letting me know that Camel – the way I want it to be – is there too, somewhere in my near future.
So there you have it. My five little tips for getting out of default, and with that, I will also remind you, that only the boring get bored. If you have any of your own tips for catching yourself in and/or getting yourself out of default, please share! Don’t let boredom spread. Do your part and share to contribute to end yoga default everywhere!
Also by Johanna: 5 Best Tips for a Handstand
Related: 7 Ways to Break Out of a Fitness Rut
Photo: Johanna Mason; Peaceful Dumpling