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.
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.
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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.
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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.
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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 uniquely. There’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.
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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.
6 Yogi Dads Inspiring Us This Fathers Day
Here are six yogi dads who inspire us to continue to cultivate deeper and more meaningful relationships with the children in our lives through their sacred fatherhood. Thank you, dads!
1. Jah Sun
“If you’re seeing this, it means you have a father. I had one too. He’s was a brilliant chemist of a top firm in NJ. Seen him twice my entire life. I’m thankful he made me. Truly! As much I longed to see him more as a kid, The Universe knew what I needed and having him more fully in my life could’ve been more damaging. Who knows? Doesn’t matter. What I do know it that’s it’s perfect – as is – and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I wouldn’t be me otherwise. So, today, I’m not simply offering up some generic “Happy Father’s Day” to all fathers. Because being a “Father” takes very little skill, 3 minutes behind a school bleacher at age 15-16 (some start younger than that) – if we’re keeping it real like adults. I’m raising the bar. Elevating the standard. I’m unwilling to continue to celebrate the bare minimum. Honoring men with zero, or little connection to their children and send money like they’re paying a car note. In and out, when it suits them, like a revolving door at a hotel. Instead, I’m standing up to SALUTE ALL DADS! Men who are there, present and CONSISTENT for their children (and being with Mom is not a requirement to be available for your baby). MEN who have taken up the mantle to raise another man’s child (that they left behind), and became Dad for them. I stand up and SALUTE ALL MOMS doing double duty as BOTH parents. I was a single dad for 5 years, so I don’t empathize – I sympathize because I did it too. Real life experience. The pain of that hurts on levels many can’t comprehend. So, I see you, and I’m proud of you! For the True DADS of all genders, skin colors and geographical location – SALUTE! Keep up the amazing work. Our children deserve nothing less!”
2. Aubert Bastiat
“3/8/2019. Today I’m celebrating Cairo’s 1 year on this earth. Today I’m celebrating beautiful @divinedavana who I love more everyday. Today I’m celebrating my mother, my sisters and the Sacred Feminine in all Her expressions.
I celebrate not by word alone but by holding the highest vision and I do so through love, intention and action. Although it’s only been a year since Cairo was born truly this last year has been the most EPIC of my entire existence. It was after becoming a father to Cairo at 33 that my vision became grounded to this earth in such a way that the manifold expressions of my service to this world crystallized into a singular focus – anchoring the Sacred Masculine to this earth. Because there is no greater gift that I can give to my family, community and this world than embodying the Sacred and anchoring it to this earth through every aspect of my life.”
3. Alonzo Nelson Jr. M.Ed
After 9 months and 41 hours of labor, my princess has arrived. April 10th at 6:43pm, Harper Renee Nelson made her grand entrance into my life. Fatherhood is my new favorite job. Sorry math!”
4. Brian Delmonico
I didn’t know what to expect when Mia Luna was born. Like any new parent to be I received a love blast like nothing else I’ve ever experienced before. Holding her, calming her, changing her, smelling her, and loving her is a feeling I don’t think I could ever put into words. [The first two weeks of her life] changed my world, and brought new meaning to every moment of my life.”
5. Adam Jackson
“Listening to music with Noah makes me hear it differently. I can hear it for the first time through him. We’re doing a little dance here. I want to show him everything. I can’t wait for him to show me everything.”
6. Peter Maldonado
My favorite girl. Being a dad to such a gentle delicate little kid like her comes with challenges. Sometimes I have no clue what I’m “supposed” to be doing with her. I just make sure she’s fed, clean, and genuinely happy. I feel like she teaches me way more about life than I teach her. Grateful that recovery has enabled me to be the best dad I can be to this kiddo. Because she’s pure love and deserves the best.”
5 Yogis Share The Lessons They Learned From Traveling the World
The Western Yogi's Guide to Traveling Through India
From the must-see places and pilgrimages to top tips on how to stay healthy on the road, here’s what you need to know before you plan your trip.
I started practicing yoga in a crowded New York City gym, my mat so close to the student’s next to mine that I couldn’t tell whose sweat droplets were whose. Like many Americans, I was introduced to yoga as a physical activity—I considered it a complement to the triathlon training I was doing at the time—and thought of it as only that for the first five or so years I practiced.
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Then, I started practicing with a yoga teacher who dropped lessons about yoga’s lineage into her classes. That led me to another instructor, who taught me even more about this ancient practice, the origins of which date to pre-Vedic times (1500–500 BCE) and are widely believed to have morphed into the Hatha Yoga that spread during British colonial rule of India and that Westerners practice today. The more I learned, the more I realized that eventually, I’d want to make a pilgrimage to yoga’s birthplace so I could understand more fully the practice I’d come to love.
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I had that chance three years ago. What I learned is that, similar to my journey on my yoga mat, a meaningful trip to India can’t just be about taking. Rather, it should be about studying up on the places you’ll visit and cultures you’ll experience, connecting meaningfully with the people you meet when you’re there, giving back through seva (selfless service) work, and, most important, staying open to learning. It’s my sincere hope that this guide will help you do just that.
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