Why I De-Intensified My Yoga Practice
I started practicing yoga seven years ago at a hot yoga studio in Houston. You might wonder why a city known for 100+ temps and swamp humidity needs hot yoga, and I don’t have an answer for you there, but I can say that it was intense and sweaty and I loved it. Over the last seven years, I’ve practiced yoga at home and at a variety of studios (and temperatures). I did yoga teacher training a couple years ago and started teaching at gyms and studios shortly after that too.
Over the last year, I’ve taught yoga and, up until recently, attended hot yoga classes (this time in a more temperate climate, at least) four or five times a week. I also went to the gym, rode my bike or walked everywhere, and stayed busy with work and school. I’ve been super active and recently realized that I am often exhausted and it doesn’t feel good. Of everything I was involved in, my quick-paced hot yoga classes seemed like the thing to let go of, since they were becoming a painful slog that wore me out instead of energized me. Over the last couple months, I’ve backed off a bit, and it’s been awesome.
Science backs it up
Rest is good for you. NO SERIOUSLY: REST IS GOOD FOR YOU. Our culture doesn’t place value on gentleness and taking things slow. Yoga can be a great antidote for this, but even the do-more-better-faster mentality creeps in there, and that totally got me in the last year. I liked the intensity of hot yoga and I liked proving to myself that I could make it through these classes. But it’s OK to take things slow. In fact, sometimes it’s even better than going fast. Even though I know that, it’s hard to act on it. I’m a super-logical person, so reading research that gives me permission to be gentler with myself is a good way for me to feel OK about trusting my intuition, and there’s plenty to read about the benefits of a gentler yoga practice.
I started focusing on other exercise more
One of the few things in life that truly is a zero-sum game is time. I have plenty of time to spend taking care of my body most days, but I don’t have all the time in the world. Giving up an hour or two of yoga a week to spend at the gym doing cardio and weights instead has me feeling stronger and happier. I would never take yoga out of my routine completely, but complementing it with a few other styles of exercise is much better and more sustainable for me. As always, your mileage may vary, but a cardio/weights/yoga routine has me feeling pretty unstoppable.
I wasn’t doing my body any favors
I mentioned that my fast vinyasa hot classes had become painful recently. My right hip was sore most of the time, my wrists started to hate downward dog, and challenging poses that used to be pretty comfortable for me were feeling inaccessible. Sweating so much was feeling dehydrating more than detoxifying.
I’m still a fan of hot yoga sometimes, but it’s easy to overextend yourself when you’re pushing your body at high temperatures. I decided it was more important for me to take a step back, let my seriously fatigued muscles heal, and build my flexibility back up in a more sustainable way.
What I’m doing now?
Right now, I have a great weekly routine that includes 3-4 gym visits where I do cardio and weights, and 2-3 gentle or all-levels non-heated yoga classes. I’m not teaching on a regular basis, but I occasionally substitute, and I feel much more confident guiding others through a yoga class lately even though I’m not kicking up into handstands at 100+ temperatures anymore. I’m still quite active, but it’s in a way that fully energizes and strengthens me.
Over to you! Have you ever overdone it with too-much or too-intense yoga? How have you found balance in your wellness routines?
Feature Image via Bad Yogi community member Micole Gauvin