Late last year, I decided to bring more discipline to my yoga practice by practicing six days a week. Since my practice was pretty inconsistent — I’d practice anywhere from one to four times a week — the new consistency was a bit of an adjustment. The change has brought some unexpected findings, six of which I share below.
1. I am sore less often and have fewer aches and pains.
When I practiced one or two days a week, I’d often experience soreness throughout my body the next day and, sometimes, I’d have pain in my left knee (I blame two years of jumping hurdles in high school, but I digress). I was surprised that when I increased my yoga practice, I rarely became sore and the pain in my knee became nonexistent. This remains the case even after I try difficult poses. I think the more frequent practice helps me condition my muscles, become more aware of my alignment, and engage my muscles so I can distribute weight more evenly. All these factors allow me to experience more ease in the poses without taxing my body as much as I used to.
2. When I am in the studio, I actually have energy during the entire practice.
For much of last year, I made my in-studio practice more restorative than the poses called by the teacher. For instance, I used my knees in chaturanga, took lots of child’s poses, and snagged a few extra breaths in downward facing dog and savasana. I felt I needed this more restful practice to help conserve energy during a time I was often burning the candle at both ends. Since increasing my practice frequency, I am finding that even on more stressful days, I can still keep up with the pace of the teacher. I think this is because my body is more used to a vigorous flow, and I am more able to rise to the occasion of a flow that is more energetic.
3. Even when I don’t feel like practicing, the energy eventually comes.
When I practice at home, it is usually at 5:15 or 5:30 in the morning. I am not a morning person, and most days it’s a struggle to roll out of bed for pre-dawn yoga. Still, somehow I do it. After a few rounds of sun salutations, I even feel good. This realization has been important for me, because even when I feel sluggish and sleepy and only interested in another hour of snuggling beneath a blanket, I manage to enjoy a pretty robust practice. That makes finding motivation to practice just a little bit easier.
4. Certain poses have a long payoff for me, even with frequent practice.
I thought that with a more consistent practice, I’d see a great deal of progress in all the poses. While this is the case for some poses, it is not the case for all. My handstands, for example, have become more stable and I am gaining the courage to move away from the wall. On the other hand, I think I am still a year or two off from experiencing the fullest expression of cow face pose, double pigeon, and butterfly. Interestingly, this realization hasn’t dampened my enjoyment in these poses, nor my desire to continue attempting them. Growth in yoga isn’t always linear, and I am enjoying the inward journey of exploring physically challenging poses. Maintaining a near-daily practice has helped me maintain this perspective.
5. Time change ain’t no joke.
I don’t know that I remember a single time change from before I had kids. Now, magically, I feel every single spring forward — and it does not feel good. My body still wants to stay up later, which means it is so much more difficult to wake up early. Some days I just succumb and sleep the extra hour, saving my practice to the evening, just before bedtime. I am shifting away from this unsustainable schedule, as those late-night yoga sessions make me feel creaky and tight come morning.
6. I really, really need my day off.
When I decided to increase my practice frequency, I chose to take a day off for a couple of reasons. For one thing, I like the idea of a Sabbath — a day set aside where I find rest and seek God rather than productivity. For another thing, I figured it’d be wise to give my body a break each week. Even so, since so many yogis seem to practice every day, I thought I’d be tempted to do likewise. I rarely am. Frankly, I love having a day where I’m not getting yoga-ed up. I don’t feel “guilty” for indulging in the rest. Even better, I get to recharge, and I return to my yoga practice the next day with a greater since of appreciation.
If you’re looking to kickstart or reinvigorate your yoga practice, try giving yourself a more consistent schedule. You don’t have to do six days a week; just aim for consistency and move from there. See what unfolds in your practice — you may be just as surprised as I’ve been!