Transforming a new habit isn’t easy but it’s certainly possible (and often incredibly necessary). When we try to take on a new habit, it’s actually double the work, as we’re un-training ourselves from a previously programmed effort to take on the action of doing something “new” or different. Think about it: We’re rewiring our brains!
When it comes to yoga, there can be days when it’s easier to leave my mat on the side collecting dust rather than sweat. Yoga wasn’t always an easy habit for me to adopt but now that I practice almost every day, I’ve found it has transformed me far beyond the mat. It’s a spiritual and mental journey that has become a lifestyle habit more than a physical one. Here, a few tips that helped me turn it from a hobby to a habit:
1. GRAB A JOURNAL
It’s time to get mental, be still, and get some things down on paper to reference any time you need a reminder.
What kind of yoga habit do you want to create? How many days of the week do you want to practice? How long (ideally) will each practice be? Where will you practice?
Get clear on your intention - your WHY - for wanting this new habit. It’s important to be clear about what drives your actions.
Decide on a personal mantra to keep you connected to your intention. This can be something you repeat in your daily meditation, practice or life. Personally, I use the phrase “Yoga is freedom” because I see the space, the physical opening and the mental freedom that the practice offers.
2. SCHEDULE IT IN
Before you started brushing your teeth on your own, your parents scheduled it for you. You set a reminder on your TV for your favorite new series. My point: Everything needs to be a part of a schedule before it becomes the habit.
Schedule time for yoga in your planner or iCal. Just as important as a meeting with your boss about a potential pay raise, so is this crucial time for YOU and your new habit. Get that serious about it. Even better? Schedule and pay for classes in advance to hold you accountable for showing up.
3. LEAVE VISUAL CUES
You cannot avoid the unavoidable. Leaving a mat out with blocks, props, music, etc. is one of the most visual ways you can remind yourself of your vision. It’s like having a white elephant in the room - you can pretend it’s not there, but mentally it calls to you. And, in this case, that’s a great thing!
4. KNOW YOUR EXCUSES – AND GET SMARTER THAN THEM
The first step of change is being honest with yourself. Get to know your top excuses for not practicing - and get smarter than them. Write out the counterpoint to each excuse and reference it when you need to put fire under your own asana.
For example, when you’re “too tired” to practice, one side of the brain will say, “Let’s push this to tomorrow” but the counterpoint would say “Let’s begin to flow, just for 10 minutes, and see what happens.” Most of the time, showing up is more than half the battle.
The idea of this concept isn’t to push yourself too hard (there are plenty of fitness activities out there to offer that), but to gain greater self-awareness of your resistance tactics, and create better strategies to move beyond them.
5. REFLECT ON THE REWARD
After your practice, grab your journal and jot down any gleaned thoughts, emotions or reflections, especially in those that make you think “This is why I practice yoga.” Know that some times, these reflections will be positive but not always. That’s part of the yoga journey, with many highs, lows, tears, smiles and joy. In the end, it’s just you, the mat, your breath and where your mind and body can take you.