Do you practice at every studio in town, know every teacher and practice several yoga styles? Are you constantly seeking the thrill of more advanced poses, or adventuring into new forms of practice? If so, you might be a yoga thrill seeker.
Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing wrong with variety. I need a certain amount of it, and I know my students do too—but as a yoga teacher, I sometimes have to resist the urge to entertain my students.
I want them to like my class, so I pepper it with humor and try to keep things fresh. I think that’s okay, as long as I don’t cross the line and actually break into a song and dance routine.
At some point, though, students that have been practicing a while sometimes start to get...bored. They’ve done every possible vinyasa variation, they can do some really impressive poses, and they may have experimented with different styles and different teachers. Even so, sometimes, they’re left with a feeling of, “Now what?”
To these students, I say: "You’re bored with yoga? Congratulations. Now the real yoga begins."
If you’re bored, it’s a sure sign that you’ve exhausted the superficial layer of yoga and it’s time to go deeper—because yoga is so much more than fun party tricks.
Maybe, like me, you have a wandering mind that seeks stimulation—and you may believe that you need that stimulation to feel the joy and inspiration that will keep you coming back to the mat. Sometimes we all need to change our routine (or something about our practice) to stay motivated. But often these changes are just distractions.
Likewise, emphasizing the purely physical aspect of the practice, and chasing down bigger and more impressive poses can be like a fun thrill ride. And while there’s nothing wrong with taking that ride every now and then, thrills can actually take us further away from ourselves, which I’m pretty sure is not what Patanjali had in mind.
Boredom is sometimes your ego’s way of letting you know it wants more cool stuff to feel good about—like being able to do chaturanga on two fingers. Very impressive—and very distracting.
But take heart, we all get bored sometimes. Think of it as a good sign—a sign that you’re ready to go to the next level. Boredom is a sure sign that you haven’t dived deep down into the practice, with full attention on the breath and in your body. It's inexhaustable and if you pay close enough attention, that breath and that body are an infinite source of information, inspiration and even entertainment.
One way to go deeper in your practice is by developing your mindfulness. “Mindfulness” is a word that is used a lot, but I have a feeling a lot of people don’t really know what it means. To me, mindfulness means paying attention to what’s going on in the present moment, in a deliberate, inquisitive, and non-judgmental way. It means you are an observer to your experience. You are aware of what you are doing, seeing, feeling, and thinking. You are aware of all of these things without getting caught up in reactions, judgments, and story lines.
In yoga, and meditation, we can use the breath as a vehicle for practicing mindfulness. We practice bringing our attention back to our breath time, and time, and time again—whenever we find our minds wandering off. We can also use our bodies—keeping our awareness attuned to the ever changing flow of sensations and energy that we feel as we practice.
Working with our attention, we can begin to observe and witness what goes on in our minds without getting caught up in thoughts and stories we tell ourselves - like “if only I could do that pose.” We learn, through experience, not to take all of our thoughts and feelings so seriously, because they are ultimately fleeting and formless, like that sensation in your thighs in Warrior Two.
Practicing this way, you can use boredom as a a sort of red flag—a signal that you’ve lost your mindfulness—or maybe that you are resisting the present moment in some way. Because when you are truly mindful, when you are paying full attention to the present moment, nothing is boring.
So what to do when boredom—or resistance arise? Acknowledge them. Recognize that you are seeking distraction, stimulation, comfort, whatever. Remember that we all have those moments and try to accept that those moments are part of the practice, and that they too are temporary. Then, gently pull your attention back to the breath and back into your body, without judgment or self-criticism.
Like your muscles, mindfulness gets stronger the more you practice it, and it will transform your practice, and your life, if you practice it diligently.
And that, I believe, is more worthwhile than any thrill ride!
Photo via iStock.