Dedicated yogi and senior Meadowlark teacher, Frankie Culpin, gives advice for those returning to yoga after a hiatus and reflects on her own experience coming back to the mat after having her son, baby Isaac.
I’m sure most of us have had times where we’ve really been enjoying our practice, been going regularly to classes or started to play about with a home practice, and then something happens and we can’t get to class, or have to stop practicing for one reason or another. This could be caused by a life event, an injury or one of many other things, including feeling a little less interested or motivated. I think it’s healthy to take a break sometimes and also to explore other ways of moving or balancing your body. For example, you might take a hiatus from the asana side of yoga and develop a meditation practice… it comes down to what you feel you need and what you feel you have room for in your life at any given time.
The thing is, once we get out of the habit of practicing, it can often be hard to return to yoga. My practice became very gentle and quite short during the third trimester of pregnancy. Then, after having baby Isaac, my focus shifted away from my practice – as you can imagine there were a lot of demands on my time and attention. I had decided to return to teaching when he was 3 months old and I’m glad I did as I could see how my focus on yoga could have started to fade into oblivion and my own practice become null and void because it can become all too easy to de-prioritise your own needs.
Thankfully teaching gave me the motivation to get on my mat again. My body feels like that of someone who is just starting yoga for the first time – now I really feel every stretch and even the smallest bit of strength work feels tough, especially core work! But this actually feels really good too. I have a new appreciation for people who come to yoga feeling ‘really tight’ and for how postures might feel for beginners. When you practice a lot and have increased your flexibilty, you can start to become complacent about many postures that at one point might have seemed quite strong. For example for me, a high lunge now creates a strong stretch in my thigh muscles and the front of my hip (quads and hip flexors) and I’ve remembered that it’s also a balance!
If you’ve had a break from the practice, it can be beneficial – taking a step back can give you a new perspective and, though it will take patience and time to return to where you left off, it’ll be worth it and you will get your practice back. I would encourage people who have taken a bit of a hiatus not to feel nervous about returning to the mat or disheartened if, once you do, your body doesn’t feel the same as before. Instead, celebrate where you are and the fact that you’ve returned at all.
If you’re not sure how to get back into a home practice (I’ll share my tips on how to do so in a future blog), bear in mind that no amount of time on the mat is insignificant. If you spend 5 minutes sitting, breathing, scanning through your body and creating time for yourself then that is honestly one of the most powerful practices you can do. If you spend a couple of minutes doing straight-forward stretches such as Cow/Cat, Downward Facing Dog and Child’s Pose then that’s also great – maybe extend it to taking your legs up the wall as it feels so good! Try, if you can, to take rest in some shape or form – Savasana should never be underestimated!
Self-care is important in whatever shape or form that it takes for you so try to bump it up the ‘to-do list’ and steer away from the temptation to put yourself last. It helps to find a teacher you feel comfortable with, who can support you back into your practice and, of course, remember to enjoy it!