This article originally appeared on Yoga Journal
Recently, I had an unfortunate incident that involved a can of chickpeas and a butter knife. I'll spare you the bloody details of the lunchtime incident, but I ended up with two not-so-pretty cuts and at least three layers of red tape on my middle finger and thumb. I now had an "Elmo hand," as my friend jokingly put it.
It became next-to-impossible for me to do any type of physical yoga practice. So, I skipped yoga class for a few weeks. What's a couple of missed classes, after all?
Well, this is where I have to confess: I had already been neglecting my practice for at least two weeks at this point. I had a variety of excuses: I was tired; my friend bailed on me; I had just spent all day looking at yoga content. In the end, I was spending more time outside the studio than is appropriate for an editor at Yoga Journal. (Or at least that's what my friends reminded me.)
The physical practice is only one component of yoga. Theoretically, I could still practice the other seven limbs. But as a loud, extroverted, fast-paced person, I find that the asana portion of the practice is what ushers in the other elements of the ancient practice. In the darkened studio, when my body is challenged but still and my mind is quiet, I’m able to consider something like pratyahara (a withdrawal from the senses) or dharana (concentration) when prompted to do so by my teacher. Those moments are sacred. I struggle to replicate those times outside of a traditional studio setting.
My time away from my practice proved this point--something I had been hesitant to admit to myself. I felt the ramifications. I was more jittery, scattered, and generally a little more lost in my day. Sure, I leaned on other self-care strategies--my runs along the river (my legs were good to go!), five-minute meditations, and phone calls to friends. But a small void remained.
I found myself taking the advice that I often give to friends in relationships (or more often than not, situationships): Sometimes you don't appreciate something until it's gone. Maybe I actually needed a break from my physical practice in order to realize its place and significance in my life. When I finally returned to the heated room and my beloved mat, I was truly excited for the first time in a while. It felt like I got to experience the practice for the first time all over again.
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