How Do You Stay Inspired?

A common question that comes up for yoga teachers is “how do I stay inspired?” Inspiration is key to great teaching and as such is vital for teachers of yoga, but it is equally important for students of yoga as inspiration is what keeps you coming back to your practice despite the busyness of life or the challenges it may present.  I have lived in a small town for the last eight years where I did not have access to a senior teacher and so this is a question I needed to learn how to answer for myself. How can we stay inspired and committed to a life of practice while also juggling all the other demands of our lives? Pondering this question today I’ve created a list of suggestions all of which I have used, and continue to use, to keep my practice and my teaching fresh and new.
Practice Self Care
It may surprise you that I list this first but I have found that it is almost impossible for me to be inspired if I am not attending to my daily self care practices or am not well rested. These are the practices I must do in order to engage the deeper work of my life

  • Do the practices that nourish you most. Identify what those are and prioritize them as they are important.
  • Get enough good quality sleep. This is easier if you turn off all screens one hour before you want to get in bed.
  • Eat good food. One of my primary self care practices is to cook one good meal per day for myself and my family, if I can’t do this I know I have over scheduled myself.
  • Make space for creativity, play, and stillness in your life. We tend to undervalue these things but they are critical in helping us to feel alive and in the flow of inspiration

Get on Your Mat
The first and foremost way to stay inspired about your practice is to practice. It seems so obvious but I think this is one of the key areas that yoga teachers and students overlook when they feel uninspired. When it comes to teaching there is a limit to what you can learn in a teacher training, the rest must be learned through personal experience and then articulated in your own voice. Great teachers teach from a place of personal experience and as they are continually refining that experience through practice their offerings are never stale or repetitive. As well regularity of practice, done with focus and intention, will allow the dedicated yoga student to continue deepening their understanding of both the practice and of themselves. Here are some tips for practice,

  • Commit to 10-20 minutes a day no matter what. Set a timer if need be, let go the idea that you need 60-90 minutes to do anything of value and just start moving (most days you’ll end up practicing longer when you have the time just because it feels so good).
  • Schedule in your practice time in the same way you schedule in lunches with friends, important appointments and all the other details of your life. Poor time management is the main reason most students and even yoga teachers are not getting on their mats enough.
  • Go to class. If you are not disciplined enough to do home practice yet make sure you schedule in time to go to classes. As well try a variety of styles and teachers throughout the month so you can learn new things- this is so helpful if you teach yoga as it gives you new ideas.
  • Buy some videos or try online yoga resources such as  Yogo.TV. While learning yoga from a video is not recommended this is a great way to keep up your practice at home.
  • Create a welcoming yoga space in your home so you will be drawn to it and keep your yoga gear out where you can see it. At the same time don’t let the fact that you don’t have a dedicated space in your home for yoga be an excuse not to practice! I have only ever had the space of my own mat on the living room floor and though I dream of my own yoga room one day I still get on my mat regardless.

Read a Book
Many yoga students and teachers I know overlook the value of simply reading the books they already have on their shelves. If you have books on yoga practice, meditation, philosophy or anatomy that you have yet to read all the way through or could use a review of then this is a cheap and easy way to get inspired without having to invest a lot money or time. Here are a few tips to get the most out of your home studying,

  • Treat study as you would your yoga practice and set aside time for it.
  • Do your studying at a time of the day when you will be alert and can focus, for me that is early morning but for you it may be different. Avoid trying to study in bed before you go to sleep, as you will probably not retain much -though if you are reading yogic philosophy it will elevate your dreams!
  • Do journal work on the topic you are studying to ensure that you have digested and comprehended what you have read or start a study group.
  • Don’t let yourself read too many books at one time. Not only is it crazy making but it will lessen the impact of what you are studying. Read one to two books max at any one time and don’t buy any new ones until you have finished the previous one. Watch that you don’t mindlessly consume knowledge- digest it and make it yours.
  • Here’s a list of some of my favourite titles related to Yoga Philosophy, History, Ayurveda & Mythology

Meditation is a key practice for me and the one non-negotiable that I have identified to keep me in the flow of inspiration. Meditation is simple, but we like to over complicate it!! The key thing is to make space within the activity of your every day to simply be. To listen and receive rather than act and do. Simple, like I said, but surprisingly hard to do. So if you are new to it then consider these resources

Write or Teach
One of the best ways to really deepen your understanding of a topic is to write about it or teach it to someone else. If you are a yoga student, rather than a teacher, keep a journal where you write about your practice and record your insights, or teach simple poses and relaxation techniques to your friends and family members. For teachers of yoga here are some of my favorite suggestions.

  • Start a blog, write articles for your local papers or yoga publications, or be a guest writer on someone elses blog.
  • Teach a Master Class or afternoon workshop on a specific subject. This will get you to study the topic and articulate what you already know, which will help you to deepen your comprehension.
  • Teach an ongoing learning series for a certain group of people such as Yoga for Back Pain, or Pre-Natal Yoga, Yoga for Teens or Yoga for Depression.
  • Teach a workshop series with a specific focus such as the The Seven Chakras, the Yamas and Niyama’s of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, or any other philosophical teaching you want to deepen for yourself and your students.

Sign Up For a Workshop or Do An Online Course
Through online learning this year I will deepen my studies of both Ayurveda and Anatomy without having to leave town or schedule time away from work. There are so many options available these days for online learning from shorter courses to longer yearlong offerings on a seemingly endless variety of subjects that everyone can take advantage of. This is great news if like me you live in a rural area without access to senior teachers or a yoga community. However if you do have access to live yoga workshops and learning series than decide on a learning budget for the year and deepen your learning by attending workshops, yoga immersions or pre-registered series.  The value received in a workshop setting compared to a regular drop in yoga class is incomparable and I have noticed that when yoga students start attending workshops their commitment to their own practice really shifts to the next level. As well here are a few great ideas for online courses for students or teachers of yoga that are looking for more inspiration.

Indulge in Good Company
I have identified that I need good company in order to stay inspired. Good company for me means being in conversation with others who have similar interests and values. And it doesn’t need to cost you money!!

  • Start a local study group with other yoga students and teachers and work through some of the inspiring texts of yoga and the mindfulness traditions
  • Create a monthly gathering where you get together to share in practice with other teachers and students and support and inspire each other in your practices
  • Start a discussion group where you gather once in a while simply to engage in conversation about key topics related to practice, living a life of yoga, and the challenges on the path- you will learn so much!!

The main point with all of this is to engage your practice and your studies whenever you find yourself feeling uninspired or stuck in a rut. This can happen to anyone from the newer student to the most seasoned teacher so don’t despair when it happens to you but rather get out your mat, brush off your stack of books, or sign yourself up to learn something new.  Just keep learning, keep growing, and keep sharing!