Have you hit a yoga plateau?

How a new style, book, and good deed can help you overcome it

In this yoga-savvy age, many athletes have more than a casual practice. They take class regularly, have poses they do at home, and perhaps even dabble in basic yoga philosophy. But whether you’re a seasoned practitioner or a relatively new student, plateaus are inevitable. You might feel uninspired or like you’re not making progress.

“When this happens it is a great opportunity to reflect on why,” says senior Pure Yoga instructor, Sonja Rzepski. “Often we get stuck in old habits or patterns, whether that's in a relationship or on our mat; the key is to recognize that and hit the refresh button.”

The discipline of yoga encompasses a vast, deep well of teachings, styles, and philosophies, so new portals into the practice are practically endless. A yoga plateau can be a great chance to invigorate your sense of discovery and inspiration.

Here are five pieces of sage advice collected from Rzepski and Kay Kay Clivio, head of Pure Yoga’s teacher training program.

1. Try a different style.
If your usual practice is a sweaty vinyasa, spend some time learning more about the logic of alignment in an Iyengar class, target your connective tissue and deep muscular release with Yin yoga, or try a new energetic approach with Kundalini yoga. Rzepski recommends sticking with it for four to six sessions before returning to your preferred or go-to classes. The idea is to look at your practice through a different lens, one that might trigger insights that will help you move past your plateau.

2. Book private sessions with your favorite teacher.
“Generally group classes are packed and there is no time for the breakdown of poses or to ask questions,” says Clivio. Getting closer to your source of inspiration will only make the fire of determination burn brighter. Three to six one-on-ones should be sufficient, per Rzepski, though you may want to continue them.

3. Explore the mind-body connection.
Asana (the physical practice of yoga) was originally conceived simply as a way to prepare the body for meditation. Try moving beyond the physical and explore the nuances of the breath or meditation (try the Headstrong meditations in the Equinox app). You can also learn more about the chakra system, the sister science of Ayurveda, or stack your nightstand with books on yoga philosophy. (Two Rzepski recommends:Light on Life by B.K.S. Iyengar and Healing Yogaby Loren Fishman.) “Learning more of the science of yoga can improve the depth of any practitioners postures,” says Clivio. “Not just seeing the postures as shapes and forms but a means to balance the energetic body.”

4. Dive deeper.
Move further into any aspect of the practice that inspires or challenges you. If you love inversions, take a workshop. Or, sign up for a retreat. This can give you renewed enthusiasm that will carry you past a plateau. Rzepski also recommends keeping a yoga journal to record and acknowledge your daily impressions and experiences. You may be making more progress than you think.

5. Get off your mat.
Karma yoga (the practice of service to others) is important, but often overlooked. Lose yourself in unselfish action by volunteering or simply look for opportunities for kindness and good deeds.

Above all, it’s perseverance. Sometimes you feel a plateau because the daily growth you are experiencing can be very small and hard to calculate. Keep going. Have faith that the work you’re doing is worthwhile.

Photo: Bersa / Art Partner Licensing