Yoga: When Is It Time To Change Your Yoga Practice, by Parvati Devi

I was asked by a yoga practitioner, who had a background of rigorous, “orthodox” asana practice, about how to know if it is truly the right time for her to change her practice.

Anything in our lives can become binding. We can feel joyfully free while jogging, later to find that running feels like a constrictive chore. We can find freedom in the new yoga classes we just adore, to later find that we are bored with the teacher and the routines. We can experience heights of bliss never before experienced when we first take up meditating, until we hit bumpy bits in our psyche when sitting practice starts to feel more like listening to nails on a chalkboard than to sweet, angelic music.

The ego is a tricky and hungry thing that has power only when we feed it. But sometimes – even often – we are unaware we are doing so. Just as a chameleon can change colour to blend with its surrounding, so too our ego can shift and fool us to suit our desires. We may think we are evolving when in fact we are unconsciously justifying our self-serving ego.

The ego can even quietly adjust to fool us, so that we think we are growing when we are actually becoming more attached. It can even feign enlightenment. A spiritual aspirant must be careful of this. Only when we have surrendered to the guidance of a fully realized master can we overcome this.

There are many faces of Yoga. Ultimately, yoga (that is, the face of the divine) is everywhere. If you feel stuck on your yogic path and you feel you need to expand and try something new, ask yourself a few important questions before any big changes:

– What motivates my desire for change?
– Is the desire to move coming from a place of agitation and constriction or from a place of expansion and ease?
– Is this period of transition a reflection of me having met aspects of myself I find challenging and am trying to avoid by changing my practice?
– Is this the voice of my soul guiding me to expand into new areas of possibility?

I believe deeply in the notion that digging many holes leads to just a lot of incomplete holes. But by digging one hole deeply, you will strike gold. It is important to stick with a practice, but one must do so with a sense of serious delight, focused playfulness and surrendered joy.

If you feel you are not moving away from your practice from a place of avoidance, always trust your gut when you feel drawn to try something new. Another rule of thumb is that that which feels rooted, vital and expansive supports your highest good and, as such, the highest good of all. That which feels constrictive and ungrounded is not in your highest good and is best released.

I do believe we are on the planet to have fun, to experience the bliss of the divine. We learn in both Hatha yoga and meditation practice to balance that which is alert and that which is relaxed. Discipline, when overly rigid, limits. But too much free flow is unguided and has no clear avenue for expression.

If you have developed a practice that is disciplined, keep that fire alive. It will serve you well. If you need more flow, do so in ways that bring delight into your life. See if you can shift your practice into a sense of freshness. What has been habitual may be experienced as new, with a beginner’s mind.

Ease up where you have been tight or pushy. Apply more attention where you may have been missing aspects of the practice. But above all, remember that yoga is not limited to your mat. Yoga is in how you perceive your mat as well as how you stand on it. Yoga is everywhere.

Parvati Devi is the editor-in-chief of Parvati Magazine. In addition to being an internationally acclaimed Canadian singer, songwriter, producer and performer, she is a yoga teacher and holistic educator, having studied yoga and meditation since 1987, and developed her own yoga teaching style called YEM™: Yoga as Energy Medicine. Her current shows, “YIN: Yoga in the Nightclub” and “Natamba”, bring forward a conscious energy into the pop mainstream. She also gives public talks, workshops and one-on-one intuitive counselling sessions. For more information, visit parvatidevi.com.