Everyone gets stuck in a rut from time to time, whether in your job, your life, your style of dressing or even your yoga practice. Routine isn’t a bad thing when it’s helping you to be organized so that your days are more peaceful. It’s also nice to know that you can count on a good experience in a class or that Thursday night out with family and/or friends as something to look forward to.
Here’s where discernment comes into play. There’s a difference between the thought patterns that hold you back and the comfortable life patterns that help your days feel anchored and settled. Maybe, you can’t remember the last time you missed your favorite Thursday yoga class. Or, you consider yourself “addicted” to your preferred style. Your home practice never varies. Sound familiar? First of all, good on you for finding a practice that inspires you. Consistency on your mat is a great thing and is a wonderful tool for advancing your mental and physical practice. There’s no need to leave that routine, but sometimes trying a different style can be a fun complement to your weekly practice. Because yoga is so complex, it’s easy to forget how much variety there is beyond the classes you regularly take.
Just like with food, experimenting with your yoga can add flavor to your regular practice. Sometimes seeing poses through the lens of a different style or teach can help you toward that “aha!” moment. Sometimes, a different class can teach you something about yourself as a yoga student—you tend to respond to visual cues more than verbal corrections to adjust your alignment, for example—that helps you learn. Often, it takes a blend of styles to help you open all of the opportunities for expanding your physical capabilities on the mat as well as your mental and spiritual muscles.
If you are looking to try a different kind of class, the first thing to consider is how far you feel like going outside the box. Maybe you are just looking for a different shade of the same color. If you’re a regular hatha yoga student, giving yin a go might offer you the chance to slow down further and explore each pose more deeply. Learning to stay in a position for five minutes, feeling your body warm and soften and passing the point of reactivity as you release enables you find new meaning to the idea of being in the moment.
If you usually seek out vinyasa or power yoga, you might want to find a hot class to intensify the experience. The challenge of creating heat inside the body as you move through a slow but steady series of asanas while accepting the 105-plus-degree heat in the room can bring a sort of laser focus to your movements and your breath. Working in the heat can help you get in touch with the idea of softening and lengthening your muscles and tendons—a perfect complement to the muscular expansion/compress that typifies flow classes.
Maybe, you’d like to take a leap outside of your comfort zone. If that’s the case, think about what kind of different class you want. If you are a Bikram devotee, just trying a class without the heat will offer a new experience of yoga. If you’ve done Ashtanga for most of your time as a student, you might want to try a hatha or vinyasa class to see what it’s like when you can’t predict the next asana.
And, sometimes experimenting is just plain fun. Walking into class with no expectations is a great tool to give yourself a clean slate. The poses that send up red flags in your regular class may not even be part of the sequence in a different style. And, the class is bound to be unfamiliar, so you walk in with a fresh attitude and enjoy a new way of moving and thinking.