When to Take a Day Off

In the Ashtanga yoga tradition, there is a strong emphasis on six day a week practice. Kino MacGregor explains the reasoning behind this:

In the Ashtanga Yoga method it is recommended that you practice six days a week. Traditionally the six day a week practice was meant to be done in what is known as “Mysore Style”. In this method of practice you follow your own breath and movement not the guidance of a teacher leading a class through the same movements. Named “Mysore Style” after the city called Mysore in southern India where the Guru of Ashtanga Yoga, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, lived and taught for his entire life, this method of practice is the safest and best way for students to practice. Memorizing the postures allows students to focus internally, which is the real goal of yoga. When you do not know what you will be doing next your attention will always be on your teacher rather than within yourself. Once you memorize the sequence of postures that your teacher determines is right for you the entire practice transfers deeper into the subconscious level.

When you are starting out, it can be a difficult balance to know how often to practice as it can be very hard for many people to start out at six days. In one way you want to push yourself a little bit, but you also don’t want to injure yourself. In her article,  Kino recommends starting out 3 days a week and slowly building up from there.

For me, I don’t have a formal schedule of how many days a week I practice. When I wake up, I ask myself  – can I practice today? This morning I woke up with significant muscle pain in my shoulders and upper arms. I know that with this soreness I wouldn’t be able to stick to proper form in Chaturunga, so I chose not to practice. A little soreness is okay and very natural, but any sort of significant pain will be a hindrance to your practice. Poor form will lead to further injuries.

In the beginning it can be exciting to start an Ashtanga practice and hard to take a day off.  On the days that you don’t practice, still stay committed. Wake up early. Do a few poses that avoid your sore areas (or just do Savasana). Meditate. Read a book or articles on yoga, spirituality, or mindful living. Remind yourself that you will get stronger and you will progress. All of these things are still furthering your yoga practice without hurting your body.

 

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