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3 Things I Learned After Taking a Break from My Yoga Practice

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Rather than feeling guilty for not rolling out her mat every day, one writer embraced her hiatus from yoga—and it transformed her practice forever.

Here’s what one yogi learned when she took six months off from her practice.

Throughout my 16-year-long yoga practice, the longest I’d gone without attending class was a few weeks at most—and then it was only due to being sick.

Yet after my father passed away last year, yoga became burdensome. My emotions were so raw and fragile, it took every ounce of my strength to adapt to my loss and tend to my professional life, three kids, and my mom’s wellbeing.

Gradually, my favorite yoga teachers’ dharma talks weren’t penetrating. Asana sequences felt repetitious and uninspired. I wasn’t ready to push myself, cut myself any slack, harden, soften, or contemplate which action felt most appropriate. And while I was keenly aware that I desired to be present, I didn’t want to be in the presence of a class-community. After my father’s death, it was solitude I most craved—moments throughout busy days during which I could privately feel my heartbreak and let the tears roll.

See also A New Year’s Dharma Talk with Lauren Eckstrom on Embracing Your Truest Self

Going on retreat in order to re-immerse

Six months after my dad’s death, I went on a four-day yoga retreat with my sister in Hawaii. I knew it would be the perfect opportunity time, place and scenario to roll out my yoga mat again.

We landed in Kauai, known as the Garden Isle, and I instantly felt its mana—magic power. Every vantage point presented views of ombre-green rolling hills, age-old trees,and grand cliffs. There was a life-affirming energy flowing andI felt an almost primal connection to the land.

Our 1000-acre retreat base at The Lodge at Kukui’ ula overlooks the Pacific’s crystal waters, setting a serene, soul-lifting vibe. We took part in the property’s Living Well Yoga Guru Series, through which the nation’s top wellness experts share their practice with members and guests on a monthly basis.

Each 4-day program has a new theme and guest teacher, who offers twice daily yoga practices at morning and sunset, daily meditation sessions, and topical discussions. On offer is also a range of activities, from mindful eating and qi gong to sound therapy.

We arrived early before our first yoga class in the gorgeous, open-air movement studio. I rolled out my mat next to my sister’s and made my way in to Easy Pose (Sukhasana) for the first time in half a year’s time. Soon after taking this seat I felt at ease, supported and blessed to rejoin the yoga community at large, here.

See also 6 Yoga Retreats to Help You Recover from a Bad Breakup

Our teacher, Chelsey Korus, shared a quiet frompoet Dawna Markova in her opening Dharma talk: “I will not die an unlived life.” Hearing these words seemed fated. Losing my dad had left me somewhat apathetic and depleted of life-force. These words served as a gentle reminder of how fleeting and treasurable life is, and confirmed how hard I’d worked to move through unthinkable grief, to re-appreciate beauty in the world, and to seize life-affirming opportunities, such as this retreat.

It was fitting to re-enter my yoga practice with Korus as my instructor, as she exudes grace, strength, and resilience in teaching style, and is known for fearlessness in her practice and in life. Through movement, she cued us to tap in to our inner power, face obstacles head-on, and overcome them—particularly fitting for me given the challenge of mourning my dad, and subsequent resilience I’d been cultivating.

Suddenly, I was keenly aware of how removed I’d been from the level of discipline and accountability I receive from yoga work. But the time feltright to dive inward again;to notice and address what may need tending to.

Each day on retreat, I was reminded of my love of yoga. I left each session feeling more alive and thankful than I had in a long while. And I realized time and space hadn’t weakened my love for yoga. In fact, it had revitalized it.

See also 6 Yoga Retreats to Help You Deal With Addiction

Sometimes it’s important to take a step back from the things you love to move forward. 

3 Things I Learned After Taking a Break from My Practice

Sometimes in life, retreating is the only way to go forward. While I didn’t expect to withdraw from yoga, doing so became a necessary step in recovering from my great loss. Here are some pearls of wisdom I picked up during my hiatus from my practice:

It’s OK to press pause. After losing my dad, my emotions were thrown off-balance and my go-to health and fitness regimen stopped working. Stepping out of my weekly yoga class routine actually reduced the stress of keeping up with an ineffective, unsatisfying regimen. I learned not to harbor feelings of guilt or failure about pausing for better perspective; after all, doing so didn’t make me a “bad yogi.” A grieving spirit heals uniquelyThere’s no one-size fits all treatment when you’re in deep mourning. Even therapeutic modalities—like meditation and yoga—didn’t resonate well or enough for me after my father passed away, and accepting this was a key to my healing.

Yoga teachings stay with us off the mat. Yoga is more than skin and muscle deep. Time spent studying the philosophy and principles of this ancient practice remain with us long after we leave class. The benefits of the kind of inner work yoga demands—mindfulness, compassion, and stamina—didn’t leave me, even though I felt called to take a break from my asana practice. And somewhere deep inside, I knew that if I remained patient and true to my heart, I would ultimately come back to the practice I loved so much.

See also These 6 Simple Exercises Can Help You Cultivate More Compassion For Yourself

Absence truly can make the heart grow fonder. Like any long-term relationship, outside forces can challenge the strength of its bond. While my yoga commitment was too challenging to stay committed to during a time of crisis and change, I learned that it was perfectly OK to step away and in doing so, I was able to remember how much I loved it. My mat and broader yoga community was right where I’d left it when I resumed in Kauai. Time apart actually enhanced my appreciation, respect, and love for my practice.

About the Author

Erika Prafder is a veteran writer for The New York Post and the author of a book on entrepreneurship. A longtime yoga enthusiast and Hatha yoga teacher, she edits kidsyogadaily.com, a news source for young yogis. 



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Balance

One Yoga Teacher's 3 Lessons We Could All Learn About Making Money

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Yoga and abundance don’t always feel like they belong together. One yoga teacher shares the lessons she learned about accepting wealth and tearing down financial barriers that weren’t serving her.

As I watched the snow fall into the hot tub at the retreat center I was visiting, nestled in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, I found myself thinking, How did I get this luxury?! Taking four days off to indulge at a hot springs in the mountains while learning from my yoga mentor seemed like a far cry from my start as a yoga teacher. Being underpaid was a regular occurrence when I first started teaching. Struggling to buy groceries, trips to the gas station hoping that I didn’t go over the twenty dollars I had in my wallet, and not being able to afford health care (gulp) were discomforts I grew strangely accustomed to.

I was extremely passionate about teaching yoga and I loved doing it, but my bank account did not match my passion as an instructor. As much as I would like to blame corporations, point my finger at capitalism, and gnash my teeth at the unfair nature of my soulful work being so undervalued, the truth is that my value as a teacher was already at a deficit before I even stepped foot into a yoga studio.

See also 10 Business Secrets to Starting a Successful Yoga Career

When I followed the thread that led me to being a “poor yoga teacher,” I could trace it all the way back to the old sayings that were instilled in my absorbent young brain as a child: “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” “You have to work hard for money.” Or the most insidious, “Good people don’t need money.”

These seeds grew in my subconscious at a slow and steady rate. Over time, they became my reality, and as my yoga career developed, so did my belief that money meant struggle.

See also A 5-Minute Meditation To Relieve Financial Stress

I said “yes” to unpaid yoga gigs. I constantly bustled across town from one teaching job to the next. And I watched as my own practice fell to the wayside because teaching at a high volume was siphoning all my time and energy.

Finally I hit a bottom. I was fed up with scraping by, and I knew something had to change. I realized that if I wanted abundance, I needed to make a choice. That choice was to start shifting my perspective around money so that that I could not only heal my relationship with money, but also welcome prosperity into my life.

See also A Katonah Yoga Sequence To Live A More Abundant Life

There were three critical things that shifted the tide for me, and I know they can help any teacher looking to give themselves a raise.

1. Realize that spirituality means abundance

When you go into class and speak the word “abundance,” can you honestly say that you are feeling it in all areas of your life? Chaining yourself to the idea that being spiritual means financially struggling can disrupt the abundance that is waiting for you. When you accept that financial abundance and spirituality can have a thriving working relationship, it will reflect in your spirit—and your bank account! Take it from visionary Maya Angelou, who said, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive”.

See also The Yoga of Money: Take Wisdom from the Mat to Your Finances

2. Get crystal clear on your teaching intention

For some people, teaching a full load of 15 classes a week can strain your health and your capacity to serve. As in any other business, it can take time to build a network and establish a presence in the yoga space. Figure out a teaching strategy that will fulfill you and help maintain your sanity—not detract from it. Do you see yourself teaching full time? Does having a full-time job while teaching two to three classes sound fulfilling? Get clear on what is right for YOU. The way I figured this out was by getting support from a business coach and community I trusted so that I could navigate how to market myself and speak effectively about my services.

See also Live + Practice From the Heart: Identify True Intention

3. Seek great mentorship

One of the most pivotal steps you can take to open to financial abundance is to seek guidance from other successful yogis. Learning from others who gained wisdom and experience from walking a path before me allowed me to understand the paths available to me. Just like your daily local teacher, learning from someone who knows the ropes is so much easier than trying to figure it out yourself. I also sought guidance from business mentors and like minded women who were committed to living on purpose that could teach me how to offer my gifts, live my purpose, and get the structure I needed to financially sustain myself. Look for local clubs, meetups, and other networking opportunities in which you’ll be able to make valuable connections in the community.

See also A Yoga Teacher’s Guide to Social Networking

Just like yoga, stretching your financial container can cause some discomfort. Just like the journey of yoga, the path to feeling ease and grace with our money values starts from within. With a clear vision and the right tools and support, knowing and claiming your worth as a yoga teacher is totally possible!



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Advanced Yoga Sequences

8 Poses to Feel Empowered and Sexy

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Try an affirmation practice to create a more satisfying sex life and spiritual life.

“I’ve learned that having sex and feeling sexy can and should come from the purest space.” — Rina Jakubowicz

When I was going through a divorce 10 years ago, I used affirmation practices to try to shift my mindset during the healing process. One phrase I repeated often was “I am beautiful.” 

As silly and simple as this may sound, it really helped me. Failing at a marriage is very painful and I carried a lot of judgments about myself, especially since I had been the first in the family to get a divorce. Walking around each day with this affirming thought, even if I didn’t believe it in the beginning, was life-changing. It helped me realize that my words and thoughts are powerful and that I’m in control of how I feel about myself. I began walking with confidence and maintaining a sense of calm in my communication and interactions. In addition to the affirmation practices, I started studying in the Bhagavad Gita and began to apply some of the teachings to my relationships, including in the bedroom. It took several years, but I began to develop a healthier relationship with myself and my sexuality. I learned how to break down my sexual walls and release judgment and fear to become my gorgeous, badass self from within.

I’ve learned that having sex and feeling sexy can and should come from the purest space. That will create the most euphoric and pleasurable experience for both you and your partner. I now teach “Sattvic and Sexy” workshops and courses because I want to help more women tap into this empowering space where they can stop harshly judging themselves or suppressing their sexuality. 

See also “Three Things Divorce Taught Me About Love”

Sattva is the highest of the three gunas (mental qualities) in Ayurveda. It means pure, poised, or objective. The lower two gunas are tamas and rajas. Tamas is a mental state of inertia, dullness, or laziness. Rajas is associated with mental agitation and hectic activity. We need rajas to move us away from tamas, but our ultimate goal is to move into sattva. If you’re passionate about something or someone but you’re overthinking, emotional, or getting caught in your head, then there’s an attachment and you’re in rajas. If you have passion from a pure place and it doesn’t control you, then you’re sattvic. 

See also How a Sattvic (Pure) Diet Brings You Into Balance + 2 Ayurvedic Recipes

To start feeling more empowered, sexy, and content in your life and relationships, try this 8-pose sequence. Each posture is paired with an affirmation to inspire you to become the best version of yourself, both as a lady and a lover, so you can create the sex life and the spiritual life you deserve.

Then, join me for a free “Sattvic and Sexy” webinar on April 10 at 2:30 EST. I’ll share more tips for developing a healthier relationship with yourself, your sexuality, and your partner. Register today!



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Balance

A Mindful Parenting Practice to Help You Be Present—and Enjoy the Daily Moments of Motherhood

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By exploring mindfulness you can learn to be present through the magic (and chaos) of raising kids.

Learn how to be more mindful and present with your children daily. 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could start each day alone, overlooking the ocean with a cup of coffee or meditating quietly in your garden? Or maybe journaling while cozied up in bed with a cup of tea sounds like perfection to you. Whatever your ideal scenario — if it were possible, it might help you have a deeper sense of calm to carry with you throughout the day.

If you’re a mother, your mornings probably don’t start out quite like that. Instead of calm there’s chaos, instead of peace there’s exhaustion, instead of timeliness there’s rushing. And while it might not be feasible to take a few moments alone, you can bring mindfulness into your day and practice the art of being present:

Set a goal to be mindful today and throughout this week. Notice (without judgment) how your body feels upon waking. Are you tired or achy? Are you feeling great? Allow yourself a few deep breaths — in and out — before your feet hit the floor, and remind yourself that today is a new day.

See also The Gift of “I Don’t Know”: How Mary Beth LaRue Is Embracing Life’s Uncertainties

While you explore this concept of being present, what are you recognizing about your child?

No matter how overwhelmed you feel or how long your to-do list is, you can set aside this time to observe your life and your children and to simply notice.

Notice your child’s first facial expression of the morning. Notice the warmth of your first sip of coffee or tea and how the steam feels on your face. Notice the feeling of your child’s body and weight in your arms. Feel the warm water and soap on your skin as you wash your hands for the first time today. While the big firsts in your child’s life play a significant role in making memories and reaching milestones, you’ll discover many other firsts if you allow yourself to be in the moment.

As you shift into mom mode for the day, observe your child through the lens of curiosity. Does she want to be close to you or to play independently? Is he trying something new and waiting for your encouragement?

While you explore this concept of being present, what are you recognizing about your child? Do her facial expressions change when she is really focusing on something? Do his eyes narrow as he scans the pages when you read books together? Does his voice change when he gets really excited?

See also Yoga for Moms: Letting Go of Mom Guilt

Try this meditation for mothers this week. 

As mothers, we need these mindfulness skills to refocus our attention where it is needed most.

We all need those gentle reminders to live in the now. In difficult times, stop and ask yourself, “Am I here?” “Am I experiencing this moment?” Sure, some of these moments will include piles of dishes and unfinished tasks at work, but when you are fully experiencing your life, you see with a new level of depth and awareness.

We invite you this week to take the time to find stillness each morning and create a rhythm of coming back to the present and noticing what’s before you . . . in all its guts and the glory.

Your attention may wander, and you may forget to call upon this practice, but that’s exactly why it’s called practice. At any point in the day, mindfulness can help bring you back to the present and provide a new opportunity to spend beautiful, undistracted moments with your children and your life. It’s these everyday moments that make up our entire lives — may we revel in them together.

Give yourself fifteen minutes to pause and revel in this experience of noticing the wonder that is your life.  

  1. Find somewhere to sit or lie down where you can feel relaxed. Take a second to get settled and then begin by taking three or four deep breaths.
  2. Close your eyes if that feels natural to you. Allow yourself to appreciate the silence. Appreciate how good it feels to be by yourself. Appreciate the space you need away from the day-to-day to be able to honor the beauty of your life.
  3. Now, sort through some memories. Bring yourself back to the very minute you came face-to-face with your child. Allow yourself to feel that wonder again. Remember saying to yourself, “Is this real?”
  4. Recall when you heard your child say “Mama” for the first time. Where were you? What season was it? Let yourself revel in how special that made you feel. These moments will forever be yours.
  5. As you take this time and settle into your meditation, reflect on the wonder and magic of your life and simply breathe. With each inhale, breathe in the beauty of all these sweet memories and hold the inhale for an extra moment while you savor them. With each exhale, smile softly and allow these precious moments to soothe you. Repeat, slowly inhaling and exhaling.

Come back to this meditation any time you feel like you’ve lost the magic of motherhood. Bring back the joy-filled, real memories of your journey and open your eyes up to the small, everyday moments of wonder around you. The magic is always here.

See also 4 Breathing Exercises to Help Kids (and Adults) Manage Their Emotions

ABOUT OUR AUTHOR

Rachel Gorton is the business development director at Motherly, and a contributor to the new book, THIS IS MOTHERHOOD: A Motherly Collection of Reflections + Practices (Sounds True, on sale March 12, 2019) by Jill Koziol and Liz Tenety, edited by Colleen Temple. She lives outside of Boston with her husband and three children. 



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