Have you heard yogis talking about “maintenance mode” and wondered what the heck it means?
Well, ultimately, a maintenance practice is different for everyone, because what it looks like is determined by what it is you’re trying to maintain. With maintenance practice, you are essentially setting yourself up for better practices to come - later in the week, later in the month, and in the coming months.
There are many different situations where maintenance practice might be appropriate. I typically do a maintenance practice when I’m traveling or when I have a very heavy teaching schedule (for instance, when I am teaching intensive studies or workshop weekends). I’ll also often do maintenance practices during big life transitions like a move or starting a new job, as well as right before or after ladies holiday. In short, I switch to maintenance mode when the rest of my life is too chaotic or unsteady for me to reliably get onto my mat knowing I can push forward. Instead, I go into maintenance mode to keep everything working so that I can turn the heat back on when the time is appropriate for both my practice and my life.
We’ve all heard the yoga sales pitch before - what happens on your mat is a metaphor for your life. But it gets said so much because it’s the truth. You can’t look at your practice without looking at the rest of your life, and the rest of your life should be supported by your yoga practice. If you’re trying to work your way through a new series in the middle of holiday travel, family commitments, and impossible work deadlines, well, that practice just might not be supporting the rest of your life right now. Maybe maintenance mode would be most beneficial approach for the time being.
When considering what your maintenance practice might look like, think first on what it is you are trying to maintain. Some examples might be backbends, hip mobility, strength, Second Series, or your sanity.
I make sure to take my natural strengths and challenges into consideration. I typically lose my backbends more easily than other parts of my practice, so I make sure to include them in my maintenance practice. But I avoid deep backbends that leave me feeling emotionally jarred or that physically activate a cranky part of my body.
Here are some of my personal favorite practices for maintenance mode:
Again, it really comes down to the individual and what it is that you are maintaining. What might be maintenance for one person would absolutely never be a maintenance practice for another, so it really does depend on your body and your priorities.
The important takeaway is that maintenance practice is always available to you. It’s not all or nothing. If you feel tired, busy, rushed, emotional, or stressed, and it feels like practice is contributing to that in any way, now would be a great time to switch to maintenance mode. It’s not always about the practice at hand - it’s just as much about the practice down the road.
We all have to get through some periods of maintenance so that we can get to those times of transformation.
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