Not another chaturanga

Published on July 22, 2014 by      Print
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By Lisa Morford

“There will come a day,” she said, “when you won’t be able to stand the thought of another fucking chaturanga. And that’s when yoga really happens.”

Three months into my yoga teacher training, my teacher said this. I’d been practicing yoga for almost two years, and usually hit the mat five to seven days per week. A sign on the wall at one of the earlier studios I frequented recommended a daily practice for the most benefits. This stuck with me, and I tried to “do yoga” every single day.

When my teacher said these words, I laughed outwardly with the rest of my fellow trainees. But inside, I scoffed. Cute, I thought. But she doesn’t know. Yoga was a part of my life. I couldn’t imagine that would ever change. This was more than just a hobby: it was a lifestyle. Yoga was something that I needed in order to feel normal.

Positive changes happened when I first started practicing.

I became stronger, more fit, more sure of myself. I felt beautiful and in awe that I could accomplish poses in my body I’d never imagined possible. Soon, though, my practice became so engrained in my identity that it often made other aspects of life difficult.

In short, I put yoga above all else. Above the days when I was tired. Above the days when I was sick. Above the people in my life (“Let’s make plans, but first let me check my yoga schedule…”) Above my relationships (“You want me to sacrifice taking a class for you? This one day? Stop stifling my freedom!”) When I planned vacations, I scoured the internet to find nearby yoga studios. I couldn’t go without my yoga.

Admittedly, I learned a lot those first couple years.

I practiced at many different studios in several different cities. I took outstanding classes and classes that I didn’t enjoy at all. I saw it all as part of the process. I loved feeling that I was a part of a community, wherever I went. No matter where I landed, I could unroll my mat in an unfamiliar place and find myself somewhere familiar. The strangers on the mats next to me were my brothers and sisters, people who understood the need to show up again and again, day after day.

Once, I attended a workshop with Bryan Kest. He said many powerful words, but this has always stuck with me: People bring their shit into yoga, and they turn their yoga into shit.

But my identity became so wrapped up in this need for yoga, that I really only felt good about myself when I was living up to my self-imposed standards. If I had a busy week and only made it to four classes, I felt bad about myself. If I didn’t take hard enough classes, I felt bad about my body. In addition to all the ways yoga had healed me, it had also become a part of my sickness. People bring their shit into yoga, and they turn their yoga into shit.

When I graduated from my yoga teacher training, I launched into teaching.

I accepted any class I was offered, which quickly led to an unsustainable schedule. Before I knew it, I was teaching thirteen weekly classes in addition to my regular job. I began to sacrifice my own practice so I could show up for my responsibilities. When I did make it to a class, I struggled to turn off the inner teacher (“Oh, that’s good, I’m going to use that” “What? That makes no sense” “This sequence is terrible”  “I need to remember this sequence!”)

Before I knew it, I had reached a critical point in my practice and short teaching career: I couldn’t stand the thought of another fucking chaturanga.

I stepped back. I stopped teaching. I accepted a fulltime job as an assistant manager at a yoga studio, so I could stay in the environment but work behind the scenes. I attended classes as a student again. My focus shifted from one of constant achievement to one of constant inquiry.

I also invested more time into my personal life.

I made the conscious decision to choose people over yoga classes. If I got a class in, great. If not, oh well. Yoga was meant to be a tool, after all, not something that defined who I was. Some days I didn’t feel like being in a studio, so I’d do something else. Run. Go to the gym. Take a nap.

One day, while running, my heart felt unusually present in the pulse of breath and movement. In that moment, I realized that yoga had allowed me to connect with myself more intimately—to learn what it felt like to savor the experience of being alive. But I also realized that I wasn’t limited to my yoga mat in order to have those experiences. Life was everywhere: In a run with the salt breeze in my hair. On a day spent at the beach, amongst the laughter of friends and the power of the waves. In bed with my lover and in the steam of lips and skin and tangled sheets. And yeah, some days, I still wanted to experience the way it felt to move on my mat. My decisions became conscious and empowered choices made in answer to this question: What do I need today?

Some days, yoga or a run or a gym session is what I need. And others, it’s a cold beer on the patio with my roommates. Or a pint of ice cream shared with my boyfriend while we binge-watch TV shows on the couch.

Yoga has taught me how to savor the moments, how to get into my body and be unabashedly myself. Because for me, the practice is about learning how to live most fully. To love myself without condition, whether I “do yoga” or not. If I run or not. If am skinny or not. And I am learning to take those lessons beyond the scope of the yoga mat. Because it’s there, in the daily moments, the moments that matter, the moments I am there for, the moments I am alive and a part of the world and connected to the people in it, that the real yoga happens.

About Lisa Morford

Lisa MorfordLisa is a writer, yogini, and spiritual nomad currently nesting in Carlsbad, California. Living boldly, taking chances, and laughing
loudly top her list of aspirations. She has found a guy who inspires, encourages, and motivates her to be the best version of herself every single day—but best of all, they have fun together.  She’s a fan of running, yoga, green smoothies, craft cocktails, dark beer, cooking at home, chocolate, coffee, and red lipstick. She is pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing from UC Riverside’s low residency program in Palm Desert. Her list of books to read grows at a much faster rate than she could ever hope to consume in this lifetime, but she keeps adding to it anyway.

Find Lisa at:

Her blog: The Saltwater Record
Twitter: @lamorford

Filed under: Or How About This? | Zombie Yoga and Tagged:


  1. bunny c says:

    Thank you for this brave and honest article. You echo my exact sentiments and more. I am at a ‘sluggish’ place of my practice. And, when I do make it to class, I cannot get out of my head. All I think about his how to incorporate the good stuff into the class I am teaching. In fact, I am envious of my beginner students, who take the class and breath and do n’t have to think.
    I am happy for you and I am proud of you for taking step back to enjoy life. You took the most important element of practice- to be present and mindful.

    • Lisa says:

      Hi Bunny! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I know what you mean. And I definitely remember that feeling of being jealous of my students—both because they could just let go & enjoy, and also because they had so much time to practice without having to think about teaching! There are still days when I miss the pure enjoyment and innocent vigor with which I used to approach my practice—in the beginning! I sometimes have to gently remind myself that I am not less of a person just because I don’t go to a yoga class every single day anymore.

      Even though my practice isn’t the same, it is still there, just expanded and differently express. My practice is my life. And I don’t mean in that “live your yoga” kind of way. I just mean that I’m starting to realize that I don’t have to get on a yoga mat and do a certain type of movement every day in order to be validated as a person. Everything I do can have meaning & purpose.

  2. Bob B. says:

    Spot on Lisa! I remember, not so long ago I highly contemplated doing a TT and declined as I could not figure out a away that would make my work, family and yoga life all hang in good balance. Plus the economics just absolutely suck nor did I want yoga to be my life but rather just part of my life but still a driving force. It was at that point where my practice went to an entirely different level and I became much more focused and aware of what I needed on my mat and when I needed it. As a result, I found yoga (and not just asana, mind you) in so many more places than a yoga studio or a rectangular piece of rubber. I applaud you candor and your honesty. But mostly I applaud the fact that you have come to grips by leaving you shit off the mat and in so doing you came to realize that yoga is not all of life but merely a part of it and a tool to enhance it. Be well!

    • Lisa says:

      I know, it is so tempting, when you get so into yoga, to want the next step to be a YTT. Not that that’s a bad thing, but it’s not always necessary! People ask me if I want to teach again, and some days, I think I might, others, I’m not too sure. All I know is that right now I am loving just allowing my practice to be for me again. I don’t have the schedule anymore to get to a yoga class every day, but when I do get to go, it’s a total playful exploration. It’s such a different way of moving on my mat than before—some days I feel like trying every hard thing, having a totally power experience, and other days I crave a much more restorative experience. It’s weird because I no longer feel like I’m trying to “get somewhere” with poses…instead it’s all about just being there and feeling it! As nerdy as that may sound. ;)

      Thanks for taking the time to read & comment! <3

  3. Shawn says:

    As yoga teachers pushing people to show up in our class all the time, how quickly we forget that yoga has nothing at all to do with yoga studios. Studios are just gimmicks designed to sell yoga to the unsuspecting masses so we teachers can scrape together enough cash to pay our rent, and possibly buy one of those green juices that our studio sells for $10 a shot.

    I’m not surprised that you followed in the footsteps of so many other burned out, sweat stained, tendonitised yoga teachers. Letting go of your own yoga practice is the first sign that your breakup with yoga is around the corner. It’s like what happens when you convince yourself that it’s okay for your partner to hit on the waitstaff at your favorite restaurant … bad times are coming.

    I still teach yoga, but not 13 to 18 to 25 classes a week. And only after I’ve gone to the mat on my own terms. No studio. Just me and my breath. Every chaturanga is new and beautiful. And they no longer control my practice. There’s room for other beautiful poses. That keeps it fresh, which means my teaching is still fresh.

    I’ll keep you in mind when I start to grow sick of chaturanga … and steer clear of the hypnotic lure of the yoga studio’s coconut water cooler.

    Namaste, shakti, manduka, and all that yoga speak.

    • Lisa says:

      That is the other big thing I have learned—I don’t need a yoga studio to practice yoga! And also it is just amazing to feel how poses work in my own body. To know that certain commonly taught alignment principles don’t work or feel good in my body. To feel the freedom to modify based on what feels intuitively good & right in my own skin.

      Anyway thank you for your wise words & for reading! Namastaktishantiom. ;)

  4. vanessafiola says:

    Lisa, I really love this and totally related. This speaks to much of why I quit teaching asana. Thanks for writing!

  5. Yekta says:

    Thanks for your clarity. I went through the same yoga hangover a while back. All I knew intuitively was that I couldn’t teach any more, I was stagnet in my own practice. I developed a lot of anxiety while teaching. I kept judging myself and pushing myself to teach .
    I finally gave up teaching. Now years later, I can see how it was a blessing in disguise. I identified with being a yoga teacher and such a hot shit and I needed to back off and just be amongst Other what I though ordinary people.
    Now I only teach some ordained as a volunteer at the temple I belong to and I am loving it.
    Reading your post made it more clear to me of why it was a blessing in disguise.

    • Lisa says:

      Hi Yekta! I am so glad that this spoke to you. I feel like this happens to a lot of people. Yoga burnout….yoga hangover as you put it (I love it!) It’s funny because I used to think that if I missed a day of yoga or didn’t go as often as I wanted, I would “lose it” (as in, my abilities…my practice, etc.) I thought it was a set back. Now that I am practicing 1-3 times a week, I feel my physical practice is actually stronger! Anyway, basically my focus lately has been to incorporate yoga as something that benefits & enhances my life, rather than having it be just another one of my addictions.

      Thank you so much for reading!

  6. Ivette says:

    OMG!!! It’s like you are in my head. Although this is an older article (just found it), I have to say it just saved me!!” I am glad I am not a lone on this. I am still a baby yoga teacher, just teaching less than 2 years and already feeling the need to step back and BE A STUDENT AGAIN!!

    I too miss the times where I could just be in that moment in class and not start to wonder what or how any of what my teacher is saying can aid my classes; what to memorize and what not too; To truly enjoy my savasana instead of trying to remember with my teacher just did!! . I am to the point where I am resenting teaching because I don’t have enough time to get on my own mat – for MEE!!. I have a full time job, a hubby, a puppy and family I never see because all i try and do is teach/market me yoga, gain more students and grow in this crazy yoga fad world we now live in. Not to mention, compete with all the new teachers/yoga-lebrities (yes that’s what I call them, LOL) that pop out each day.

    Then feeling guilt of how I got here is also driving me nuts; Doubts about myself, my decisions etc etc….and then I stop and think, wtf??! this is not Yoga!!

    Anyhow, as you can see, it’s more complex and overwhelming than I can share here…but again thank you so much for writing this. You gave me some light today.


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