We all get stuck in a rut from time to time—even yoga teachers. In fact, the question that comes up most frequently in the group of teachers that I mentor is, “how do I keep my practice and teaching fresh?” After all, it’s hard to inspire and connect with your students when you’re feeling stale. The first thing to do is remember this: all relationships, vocations, and passions go through different phases, and, feeling a little lackluster from time to time doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you or your relationship to yoga. So, don’t go crazy if your practice and teaching feel stagnant—you probably just need to experiment a little and get back to what matters most.
- Recommit to your practice
If you sat down and listed all the variables that led you to you teaching yoga, you’d run out of ink before you ran out of reasons. One reason, however, would outshine the rest: you fell in love with your yoga practice and, even more than you wanted to share that love, you wanted to deepen and retain it for yourself. And, maybe, just maybe, you’ve gotten away from your practice. If you’ve strayed from your practice don’t think to yourself “I need to practice more.” Just go practice more! Maybe this means taking a different class, doing a different home practice at a different time, or exploring meditation and pranayama. Maybe it is as easy as it sounds: your practice is right there waiting for you—go enjoy it.
- Change your pace
One of the best elements of your practice to change from time to time is the pace. Changing the pace of your practice changes the rhythm of your breathing and the overall feeling tone of your experience. If you like a slower flow consider getting the lead out for a few days. If your practice resembles a spin class, consider applying the breaks and slowing things down for a little while. Changing your regular cadence tends to reveal different sensations and produce an experience that may be different enough to re-inspire you and your students.
- Experiment with a different pose
Pick up your worn and torn copy of Light on Yoga, flip around until you find a pose or two that you haven’t tried in a few years (if ever), and experiment with it. Deconstruct its’ elements and figure out how to create a sequence for you and your students.
- Take a break from your staples
Honestly, there are days when I’d rather stab myself in the eye than teach chatturanga and upward-facing dog. As a vinyasa-based instructor this can be difficult, but, since I’m completely averse to losing an eye, I don’t teach those poses that day. Instead, I change my routine to exclude these postures and include different things like longer-held planks, locust variations and cobra. I’m always a little fearful to drop poses that are feeling overly rote for me, but leaving these poses off the menu for a day (or a week) varies my sequencing and always leads to something interesting that I hadn’t explored in a while. Even more, it tends to re-engage my students who are just as happy to have the occasional change of pace.
- Reconnect with your “big picture”
If you could teach your students one thing, what would it be? If you don’t teach, what is the deepest, most valuable lesson or value that your practice has given you? Chances are that if you’re feeling stale you’ve gotten disconnected from your answer. We all get carried away from what matters most on occasion. Try spending 5 to 15 minutes in seated meditation with this question in mind and observe what comes up. My guess is that your answer will be a simple, deep guiding principle. Reconnecting and recommitting to this guiding principle will re-energize your practice and teaching right away.
Jason Crandell was recently named one of the next generation of teachers shaping yoga’s future by Yoga Journal for his skillful, unique approach to vinyasa yoga. Jason’s steady pace, creative sequencing, and attention to detail encourage students to move slowly, deeply, and mindfully into their bodies. Jason credits his primary teacher, Rodney Yee, teachers in the Iyengar Yoga tradition such as Ramanand Patel, and ongoing studies in Eastern and Western philosophy for inspiring to him bring greater alignment and mindfulness to Vinyasa Yoga.
Jason is a contributing editor for Yoga Journal and has written over 13 articles for the magazine and website – many of which have been translated internationally (including Japan, China, Italy and Brazil). His integrative and accessible teachings support students of every background and lineage, helping them to find greater depth, awareness, and well-being in their practice – and in their lives. Follow Jason on Facebook and Twitter.