If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s procrastinating. It can take me forever to start something, even if it’s an undertaking I love or that’s generally easy.
To my credit (bear with me here instead of gagging), I get really invested in endeavors, and the very idea of all the energy I’ll have to muster once I start is enough to demote me into to-do-listing whatever I could actually do — again, including fun or simple stuff. “Create mantle artwork” and “curate photos for new Mac” have been on my list for, um, a year.
Maybe you feel this way too — and you’ve been moody or impatient and your physical self is coiled up and tense.
In other words: You could use a yoga class, which you haven’t taken in ages because of pandemic studio closures or a number of other reasons, ranging from scheduling conflicts to injury. Reconnecting with your sticky mat is lovely in an abstract sense, but you’re not sure your limbs or mental self can handle it. Also, you’d rather continue clicking through your apps until something interesting pops up in one of them.
Move slowly, my friend.
But move. Otherwise you’ll be relegated to hollow lollygagging instead of reaping the soul-satisfying reward of action. Take it from someone who knows.
How to start doing yoga after time away
When you haven’t been to an in-person class in ages, it’s tough to predict how the space you’re headed to will look or feel — or smell, for that matter (maybe the studio uses incense now, or stopped using it). Maybe it’ll be crowded. Or empty. Maybe too cold or warm for your liking (so wear layers).
Also leave plenty of time to commute so that you don’t feel rushed, which is safer, obviously, but also infinitely more pleasant. What’s more, an early arrival allows you to stake out a spot. I suggest a corner, which lets you go covert more easily, offers a wall for support and shields you from the creeping relocation that inevitably occurs when you’re in the middle of the room and latecomers jostle for floor space.
Grab props, even if they aren’t required or you don’t think you’ll use them. They also come in handy for personal-space demarcation.
Have no expectations for your practice other than showing up.
Maybe you lie in place for most of class. Acceptable; after an extended break, it’s impossible to know exactly what you’ll need or be capable of.
To that end, even if you’re typically a power yogi, consider launching your return with a basic class (not drastically heated, not geared toward advanced practitioners, not incorporating more than 5-10 minutes of closing meditation). That way you’ll feel less self-imposed pressure to be or do anything extraordinary.
And, yes, underachievement spans both mental and physical aspects of practice.
3. Be receptive.
Unless your health is at risk, commit to the entire session instead of bailing if things aren’t precisely how you want them to be.
Use the class as an opportunity to explore how you react to the whole experience, and then let that inform you, perhaps even long after class ends.
4. Back off as needed.
Being receptive doesn’t oblige you to do everything offered in class.
To help, at the outset, request that the instructor not physically adjust you. Given you’ve not practiced in some time, injury is more likely because you’re not tuned in to the interplay between yoga’s movements and your body.
If something feels like it could hurt, stop doing it. Likewise, if entering a suggested mental space feels overwhelming, relinquish that challenge and let yourself be.
Mitra Malek is a former Yoga Journal editor and has taught yoga regularly since 2006.