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How to Get Back on Your Yoga Mat (When You Have Zero Motivation)

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I’m guessing you’re here because the idea of doing a yoga practice sounds like a hill you don’t want to climb right now — even though you know it’ll feel good once you do it.

Have no fear. I’m here to tell you that periods of no motivation are totally natural, and you can get over it quickly. I’ve done it countless times.

In the meantime, I’d encourage you to EMBRACE this phase and trust that healing and growing are happening — even if it doesn’t feel like it. 

Periods of being unmotivated are PART OF the bigger picture of your yoga practice, not separate from it. Still, no one wants their yoga mat getting lonely. That’s why… 

I’m going to share exactly what I do when I find motivation lacking. 

Let’s get you back to your inspired and delightful yoga habit.

Hi, I’m Leigha Butler 👋🏽 I’ve run a yoga membership site since 2018 after running two yoga studios and my YouTube channel for many years. 

As I’ve told many trainees over the years, periods when you lack the desire to get on your mat are INEVITABLE and nothing to worry about.

As consistent as I have been with my own practice over the years, there have been MANY TIMES when it felt like I had to claw myself back to the mat. 

I’ve developed many tricks for staying in love with my yoga — and they work!

Ultimately, yoga is such a wonderful part of my life that I never want to see it slip away. And I want YOU to keep tapping into the grounding, enriching energy that is yoga too. 

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This is what I do when I have zero motivation to do a yoga practice.

Maybe it'll help you too.

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1. Toss out the word "should"

And free up so much mental space as a result

The idea that you “should” do your practice is so… HEAVY.

That’s why I love to put that idea right down when an amotivational phase strikes.

Inevitably, there’s such a feeling of RELIEF when I realize that the world is not going to crumble — and frankly no one cares!! — if I don’t do my yoga. 

This step alone helps me to literally breathe easier — and hey, you know what? Breathing is a huge part of yoga, so three cheers for that small but oh-so-important accomplishment. 

2. Speaking of Breathing...

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Forget rolling out the mat, BREATHING I can handle

Forget the mat and props.

Forget heading to my designated yoga space.

And definitely forget putting on my yoga clothes (unless I’m already in them, which is probable). 

There are days when even these small things feel like insurmountable hurdles. 

So I when I’m feeling unmotivated, I START WHEREVER I AM, and I’d encourage you to try this too. 

On the couch? Your living room floor? Doesn’t matter. 

Just start to pay attention to the quality of your breathing.

Then once your focus is inward like this, make note of these three things (you could do this right now): 

    1. Can you get at least one satisfying breath? 
    2. Where in the body does it feel like your breath is located? Yes, lungs. But where does it feel most concentrated exactly?
    3. Can you EXPAND the locus of your breathing?  Allow your breath to take up more and more internal space, and let your exhales feel really complete.
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Begin in a cocoon and end up transformed. You can take this class on Leigha's member portal.

3. Breathe a little bigger by moving just a little

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Even a neck stretch counts

Move ONLY FOR SAKE OF BREATH and only if you feel like it

Here’s another chance to drop every “should” in your book.

Let’s not even THINK about asana at this point (unless your body is wanting that).

Let’s just continue the BREATHING  by figuring out which tweak, which angle (or wiggle or stretch) helps you get a more satisfying in & out breath.

It sounds so simple, but on those days when you’re really lacking motivation, moving your body for sake of a deeper breath can feel like a big accomplishment — and honestly, it is.

In my own experience, there are days when a cat-cow is enough to awaken my appetite for the practice.

But there are also those days when I lie down on a couple of yoga blocks with a bolster under my legs and don’t budge for 20 mins.

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Try this class on Leigha's online yoga studio

ALL OF THE ABOVE IS YOGA!

Maybe you’re actually learning here that you’ve been doing too much lately. 

Maybe, just maybe, your body and mind are begging you for rest and healing right now — and that is okay. 

I’d go so far as to say, this HONORING of your fallow period (whether it’s a day or a year) is a deeper sort of yoga that will ultimately bear as many gifts as the sweatier sort. 

Which leads me to the next step I take to get myself back into the groove…

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Click the image to take this class and others.,

4. Get SO COOL with your own "laziness"

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Because the parasympathetic nervous system needs lovin' too

Oh dear, we judge ourselves, don’t we?

I mean, maybe YOU don’t. But I for one catch myself thinking I need to do more, more, more pretty much all the time.

The yoga practice is NOT a thing we need to be evaluating ourselves for. On the contrary… it’s there to buoy us in EVERY MOOD AND SEASON — even when the yoga mat hasn’t called your name in days (I mean, the ancients didn’t have Manduka mats and they managed).

Back to the step-by-step action plan here…

Assuming I’ve followed the first three steps, and I now find myself swaying about trying to get a satisfying breath, I let this mantra-of-sorts slip through: “This is exactly what you’re supposed to be doing.”

 

If downward dog suddenly sounds appealing, cool!

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But if a cocoon feels more my speed right now, I’m going to cocoon — and I’m going to feel fine about it. 

Over the years, I have learned to trust the wisdom of my body at least as much as the wisdom of my mental chatter (okay, maybe I trust my body more).

If I am needing pigeon pose for 15 minutes, I’m going to take it, and I’m going to ACCEPT that for some reason that I may not understand right now, I am requiring a bit of a chill.

In these moments, I envision my cells repairing and my resting brain coming online to fortify neural pathways for growth and healing. 

Thank goodness for Yin in these times. But hey, even Yin has parameters to abide by. I personally get through these periods best when I give myself ALL THE FREEDOM to do a little yin here, maybe a lunge sequence there… whatever strikes my fancy (Remember, we’ve dropped the shoulds).

This section is getting a little long, so let me wrap this part up with…

Some ideas + mantras that have helped me EMBRACE the feeling of not wanting to move a whole lot:

  • Healing
  • Recovery
  • Relief
  • Trust
  • Acceptance
  • Being with What Is
  • Meditation
  • Natural
  • Intuition
  • Kindness to Self
  • Nourishment
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Leigha Butler Yoga, the member portal
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Take this class on Leigha's membership site. Click the image to sign up for a free trial.

5. KNOW that the fire will return

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Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow... But it'll be back at exactly the right time

I like to remember that the interplay of elements and gunas operate according to a wondrous and natural intelligence that is far greater than my own.

No matter what this moment is presenting as I sit coiled doing whatever and focusing on my breath… I try to put trust in the fact that the more fiery and rajasic (energetic) aspects of my nature are bound to return exactly when they are supposed to return. 

Now, if I so happened to go months and months without motivation — which to be honest has never actually happened to me except when I was sleeping and drinking too much in college — I might turn to more fiery external forces. 

What do I mean by turning to “fiery external forces” for help with motivation? Well… 

  • A cup of coffee is fiery and rajasic — maybe it’s medicinal today. 
  • A buddy of yours or a teacher of yours is more fiery and rajasic than you are. Call them up to get a bum-fire lit. 

If these two above don’t work for you, then it may be time to examine some of the more stagnant and tamasic (unmoving) aspects of your nature — and ask yourself how you can actively manage them. 

I’m not here to tell you what to do. I can only tell you what tends to sap my own energy:

  • alcohol
  • pot 
  • screens in excess
  • stress
  • too-little movement (darn inertia)
  • lack of sleep
  • dehydration
  • lack of fresh air

It may not LOOK like “yoga” to take an active role in shifting these parts of life, but this kind of life management DEFINITELY IS yoga. 

TRUST that your motivation is bound to return soon, but if for some reason it doesn’t, you have options! Even if that means starting a totally different hobby. 

Shoot, I picked up a trail running habit during one period of particularly strong yoga-reluctance and ended up running a half marathon (slowly, haha).

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Flow intuitively. You can take this class totally free for 14 days.

Last Words on Motivation for Today

Far from going all drill sergeant on myself when I’m lacking motivation, I try to take a radically kind approach — and it’s worked! 

I roll out my mat on most days, and on most days I look forward to practicing with all the enthusiasm of a puppy wagging its tail. 

I’m definitely not immune to feeling unmotivated here and there, however, so I’ve learned to hold myself tenderly during these times. 

All of this is to say, this dip in motivation is natural, it’s okay, and it might even turn out to bear fruit you didn’t even know was coming. 

I’d love to hear from you. Did this help? What do YOU do when you’re unmotivated to get back to your yoga practice? 

Leave a comment!

Leigha Butler

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Leigha Butler is the founder of LBY, an online portal for yoga lovers who want to take their practice to new heights. Stay superlatively supple and strong for life. You can learn more or sign up for a free trial right here.

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4 thoughts on “How to Get Back on Your Yoga Mat (When You Have Zero Motivation)”

  1. all i can say is it was a RELIEF to hear this. I go through more inertia than rajasic days, and i beat myself up during those phases because i ‘should’ be on the mat and it makes everything worse. It is hard to be kind and loving to yourself esp at times like these. I will remind myself that the fire will return and everything is as it should be.
    thank you for your blog.

  2. Thank you for the recommendation of Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor. Informative, practical and extremely interesting.

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