Most yoga teachers tell you to practice every day.
But you shouldn’t – and at the least, you shouldn’t do the same set of poses every day. Why?
Because anything that you do repeatedly over long periods of time can lead to a repetitive stress injury (RSI).
And especially some of the common poses we see in a typical vinyasa class – like Chaturanga. I’m not saying Chaturanga is bad – but doing dozens of them every day is bad. In order to strive for balance in your body you need a variety of movements that target all your major muscle groups.
Some of my first teachers told me that it is ideal to practice the physical asanas every single day. The problem is that if we did practice every day, we would probably gravitate toward what we like and do the same style of yoga or the same poses repeatedly. For the most part, we humans stick to what we like – we stay within our comfort zone.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone!
Your body needs variation. This is a fundamental and powerful law of nature.
This applies to genetics. Diversity plays a crucial role in the survival and adaptability of a species and is essential for it to evolve.
This applies to agriculture – little to no diversity makes crops extremely susceptible to widespread disease.
And it applies to your diet – where a variety of proteins, carbs and vegetables is ideal. Your body needs dozens of amino acids, vitamins and minerals. You can’t satisfy that by eating the same meals every day.
Same goes for what you DO with your body.
Change your routine.
MIX IT UP!
If you do a ton of yoga then you need to balance it with some strength work. If you lift weights all the time, then you probably need to incorporate yoga into your routine.According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) it is ideal to have a balance of cardiorespiratory, resistance, flexibility, and neuromotor exercises.
Keep Your Brain Fit Too
Another problem with staying in your comfort zone is that you get mindless. We tend to check out mentally when we do something over and over again the same way day in and day out. Doing something new or in a new way forces you to pay attention. You may not like it at first but it forces you to focus as your brain and body try to make sense of what is happening. Your brain benefits from this variation.
Bringing newness to your practice or practicing in a “new” way can change hundreds of millions of connections between the nerve cells in your brain maps.
In order to keep your brain “fit” you must learn something new, instead of replaying already mastered skills.
Be Strong And Flexible
I made the mistake of staying in my own comfort zone.
I was always very flexible and gravitated toward yoga because I had a natural ability for it. But after many years of practice, I started to feel too flexible and my joints became unstable.
Thanks to my extensive anatomy studies, I know that the body needs strength in addition to flexibility so that there is STABILITY.
This is why you might hear me say in class that yoga is about achieving a balance of flexibility and strength. Because flexibility + flexibility + more flexibility leads to INSTABILITY.
For the last two years I started incorporating strength training into my own routine. Most recently I started taking a conditioning class at a Crossfit gym with the owner Eric Von Frohlich. It’s hard for me and completely out of my comfort zone but I know my body needs it. It’s brought my body more into balance by building up my strength, promoting healthy joints and giving me a good cardiovascular workout.
Not only did it improve my yoga practice, but my kettle bell swings actually became part of my practice. I realized I can focus on form and get in the meditative zone with any movement – whether a pushup, rowing or a pull up.
Whatever your yoga asana practice is – don’t get sucked into thinking that it is ideal to do it every day.
Vary your routine.
Include walking, running or lift some weights. If you absolutely believe that you must practice every day then at least make sure you are not doing the exact same poses every day. Remove downdog for a week – see what happens. Replace updog with locusts for 2 weeks and see what happens. Or you could practice one of the many other limbs of yoga – meditation, pranayama, etc. Get out of your comfort zone.
Strive for a balance of strength and flexibility in your body.
In the comments section below – tell me one thing that you always do in your yoga practice that you will let go of this week. Then make a plan and decide how you will change up your yoga routine and strive for balance in your body.