5 Wellness Lessons I Learned from Quitting Yoga

I can’t recall exactly when I decided to roll up my yoga mat and call it a day.

IMG_5203Maybe it was a few years ago when I couldn’t find a yoga class that I enjoyed within a reasonable driving distance from my house. Sure, there were plenty of studios. But each time I stepped onto my mat and attempted to keep up with the flow and pace of the new fangled fitness yoga, I stepped off an hour later thinking, “Wow. I’m getting too old for this. I just can’t keep up anymore.”

I tried to go it alone for awhile. After all, I was a yoga teacher. I should have had the discipline and knowhow to make it happen for myself. But doing downward dog with my computer screen flickering in the background and a sink full of dishes just a few steps away was a recipe for distraction.

So I quit trying.

Surprisingly, I didn’t miss it that much. I happily replaced my practice (if you could call it that) with walking, swimming, and reading about  yoga in Yoga Journal when it landed in my mailbox each month. And when my body felt stiff and sore, I just reminded myself that this was why I didn’t do yoga anymore.

But last week, I found myself standing back on a borrowed yoga mat, in a warm, softly lit studio, in the town where I grew up. I had traveled back to help my parents for an extended period of time, and one night, out of the blue, I excused myself from the dinner table and announced that I was going out to take a yoga class. Just to get out. Well, I didn’t say that part. I acted like it was something I do all the time, not knowing if I would even make it past the Starbucks just around the corner.

I did make it to class that night. And from the moment I put my feet together in Mountain Pose and extended my arms over my head like the teacher instructed, I knew I had been away too long. All the reasons I loved yoga came flooding back as I stretched and moved in tune with my breath. As we took our time moving in and out of each pose–Chair Pose, to Warrior II, then on to Triangle and Warrior I–it dawned on me how much I missed having an activity in my life that encouraged me to move slowly and mindfully.

And I realized I was stiff–really stiff. Every muscle I moved seemed to snap like dry kindling as I coaxed it beyond its comfort zone. But in spite of my rigidity, I was able to find ways to move with some degree of ease through the poses. I took my time. I breathed. I encouraged myself to stay present and not judge. By the third class (yes, I excused myself from the dinner table two more times), I surprised myself by walking my feet up the wall into a modified handstand–something I was sure I was “too old” for.

Finding my yoga practice after a long layoff was a gift. But perhaps the bigger gift was quitting it a few years earlier. Contrast is a powerful teacher–you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone, kinda thing. Reflecting back, my journey home to yoga taught me some valuable wellness lessons:

  • I learned that taking a break from things in your life–yoga, a stale workout routine, your kids, your spouse–can be a good thing. You often return with a beginner’s mind and a renewed passion and appreciation for what you love.
  • I learned that it’s easy to forget how good we can feel–and that total, feel-good wellness is our birthright. Sure we live crazy, busy, overstuffed lives. But tools like yoga, good nutrition, and regular exercise are life enhancing vehicles to feeling like our best selves. “Don’t settle!” is my new mantra.
  • I learned that the remedy for feeling stiff and sore is not less movement, it’s more. A body that slouches in front of a computer screen or chauffeurs kids around all day hunched over a steering wheel forgets how to open and extend. Be gentle at first. Listen to your body. But always remember that moving more is the single best thing you can do for your wellness.
  • I learned that the statement “I’m getting too old for this!” is a clarion call to action. It’s easy to make a slow, gradual retreat from life as we experience the changes that happen each time we celebrate a birthday. Defy your age! Walk your feet up the wall into a handstand (with a spotter if you need it!). The confidence that comes from that will add years to your life.
  • I learned that wellness is not about whipping our bodies into shape for our fifteen minutes of red carpet fame. It’s about living our best life; body, mind, and spirit. Having a practice like yoga, with a dimension that calls you to be present and accounted for each time you step onto the mat, is real training for real life.

Duke GardensI’m still searching for a yoga class to love nearby. But in the meantime, I’ve rolled out my mat on my office floor and plan to practice in spite of flickering computer screens and dishes piling up in the sink. I’m back on my mat–and it feels really good!

Feel good. Be Well. Meg

WELLNESS PROMPT: Have you given up on an activity or hobby that you used to love? Why? What did you love about it? How did you feel when you were doing it? What keeps you from going back–or what would it take for you to give it another try? 10-minute write . . . go!


8 Comments on “5 Wellness Lessons I Learned from Quitting Yoga

  1. I’m in a break from yoga right now — thanks for helping me see it as a break and something that I may well choose to come back to when the time is right.

    • Hi Joy: That was so me! It just sort of dropped from my screen for a while. I was so surprised how much I missed it. And you’re right, I think it was a successful comeback because the timing was right. Keep me updated.

    • Hi Caryn: It’s fun how it works both ways, isn’t it? Thanks for reading.

  2. Hi! Meg, lovely insight, thank you for sharing. I quit doing yoga in class rooms and started practicing on my own in the quiet of my home. Its definitely more peaceful but requires tremendous will and determination to start and get through. I’m guessing acquiring that skill is also part of growing in yoga!

    • Hi Anuja: Yes. I’m with you. It takes a lot of determination and focus to put life aside and roll out our mats. But you’re right. It’s all part of the practice and what makes it so applicable to our lives. Thanks so much for reading and sharing your insight.

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