Friends, we all know that the benefits of yoga accrue based on consistent practice, this goes without question. (Here’s an excellent roundup of the considerations for how long-how often to practice based on goals.) No matter, though, what frequency meets your goals, I hear week after that week that most yogis find it very challenging to create a consistent home practice and find coming to class in the Studio the only way they do consistently practice. That’s why we offer affordable and flexible ways to come frequently to Breathing Space. Ok, you say, and thank you for that and that’s all good, but how do I get myself to the Studio consistently?
Take Three Steps
First step– Understand Habit. To change a habit (going from no or infrequent yoga practice to consistent yoga practice) takes time (not 21 days, but more like 60 days or longer) and intention (we know that intention is a powerful motivation for change).
Second step — Develop mindfulness. What of your current habits reinforce no or inconsistent yoga practice? Our minds are set up to take shortcuts, and so for example we could eat ice cream to make ourselves feel better (little effort, short-term relief – a shortcut), or we could begin a wellness effort to discover better ways to deal with stress or depression. Mindfulness helps us to non-reactively observe the actions that keep us from the new habit we want to create, and so is a key to making change. In other words, what is NOT doing a consistent yoga practice getting you? Perhaps more free time, less effort, or the ability to “catch up” with work? Are those alternatives providing you with self-care and wellness support? If not, the choice to change is clear, if not easy.
Third step — Plan for consistency. If you see through how you are diverting yourself from creating the habit of yoga practice, how can you take steps to change that? One idea is Pattern Planning! Take out your calendar – electronic or paper – and find those spots where you could take a yoga class each week. Write in the class, and make the intention “I will come to yoga class on (these days) at (these times) for (this period of time), and then I will assess how I feel. Is consistent yoga practice making a difference?”
Obstacles & Solutions
A plan is good, but I’ve made lots of plans, you say. How do I deal with the OBSTACLES that inevitably come up? Here are some common obstacles and possible solutions:
- Obstacle: I work during the day, and at the end of the day, I’m tired and I want to go home. If I go home, I end up staying there.
Solution: Don’t go home, come to class directly. Bring your clothes with you, change in the restroom, and come straight into class. Done.
- Obstacle: I’m hungry right before the evening classes. I know I’m not supposed to eat before yoga, but I eat a meal and then skip class.
Solution: You’re right, eating a meal directly before yoga is not advised. However, you can have a healthy, digestible snack before class, such as an apple, banana, or other fruit. You may have other ideas of easily digested food that you can have 60-30 minutes before class.
- Obstacle: I really need to finish my _____ project, help my _______, clean my _______, meet with _________, work on __________, and I’ll just have to skip yoga class this one time.
Solution: Remind yourself that creating a new habit takes time, likely 2-3 months. Review your intention to practice regularly, and see if you can postpone, skip, or shorten the time given to these other activities. This may involve inviting in a bit of “let the chips fall where they may” attitude. In many cases, the dire consequences we imagine if we let something go never materialize.
- Obstacle: I have to work until 6pm/I work at night/I am always at work when yoga is happening.
Solution: Talk to your boss. Bring in information and/or talk about the benefits of yoga for increased positive mood, health, stress release. See if you can get some schedule flexibility. Many workplaces are moving in the direction of preventative health care, and some insurances will even pay for your yoga classes (in Western Mass: CIGNA, Health New England, Tufts, MassHealth, others).
- Obstacle: Everyone else at the Studio is more flexible/knows more/is more “yoga” that I am.
Solution: The irony is that everyone thinks that, at least a little bit. Note that Breathing Space is a body-positive studio, and invites and supports all body types and sizes. It takes bravery to commit to yoga, but an incredible additional benefit is Body Acceptance. You _can_ love your body, your unique yoga style, and your way of practicing yoga. Remind yourself that comparisons are useless — there will always be someone who is “worse” than you, and someone “better” than you. Yoga is about letting go of limiting beliefs and finding freedom and wholeness. Stay with it!
Change is hard, zap programs don’t last, but you can accomplish a consistent yoga practice and invite in the benefits to your life. Please visit our Facebook page and let us know how you find your yoga groove.