People often ask me how to really ‘get into’ a regular yoga practice. My reply is usually to introduce it little by little as a new habit into your daily life. I have written this article as a kind of guideline of how to do this – its is from a yogi perspective but it can be applied to any new habit you are trying pick up (or let go of).
It is widely accepted that humans are creatures of habit; our lives are run and are dictated by the habitual patterns we accumulate over our lifetimes. Starting a new habit can be a daunting and difficult process.
How many times in your life have you created an intention to make a change to better yourself but then failed when it comes to its application?
This is a common story for us all, whether its to eat healthier, exercise more, or pick up a new hobby. For some reason our own motivation is often our greatest barrier.
Know The Benefits
The first step to introducing a new habit into your life is to become extremely familiar as to why you want to introduce it in the first place. Yoga has become somewhat of a buzzword in recent times and everyone seems to be talking about its effects on overall wellbeing. Amidst all this overwhelming information, it is best to find one or two benefits that really work for you, and to use them as your focus.
Obviously, picking up a new habit is a practice, meaning that your relationship with it is constantly developing and evolving. With this is mind it is important to start small, slow and simple. Just as we do not expect to walk before we can run, don’t expect to be able to execute the difficult asanas without putting in the work first and don’t expect to be able to practice with clarity without first undoing the habitual thinking patterns of the mind.
Start by creating a calm and quiet space in which you can practice, and schedule time into your routine to be there. It is worth attending a few beginners classes, or watching some youtube videos to familiarise yourself with the movements and terminology. Once you have the basics covered you can build on your practice, learning what works for you, exploring and expanding the limitations of your body and mind.
Do it with a Friend
Undoubtedly one of the best ways to hold yourself accountable to starting a new habit, is to get someone else to do it for you! Perhaps you have a friend who also wants to introduce this new practice into their lives?
Choosing to embark on this journey with a buddy means you can plan together and practice together – take comfort in safety in numbers! You can hold each other responsible for making sure that you stick to the rules you set yourself. Check in with each other about when and how often you are taking time to practice, share with each other your thoughts and feelings as your new habits start to develop. As you grow and learn together, sharing this experience will also become a great bonding experience for both of you.
Do it for Yourself
Everyone who wants to pick up a new habit, does so for a specific reason. Whatever your reason is, remind yourself of it whenever you feel unmotivated or apathetic towards your practice.
Envision how you and your life would look if you took the time to practice a little everyday, encourage yourself by recognising that you are taking the steps to achieve that, however small they may seem at the time. Every time you step into this space you are that little bit closer; every discipline can also be seen as an act of self love.
Be Kind to Yourself
Introducing a new habit into your life is difficult, especially if you are starting completely from scratch. It is important to give yourself credit where credit is due and forgive yourself if you miss a practice – or even if you miss a few practices. No one is perfect and we are all guilty of not always putting our best interests first.
Know that slipping up is all part of the process, in order to achieve you must first fail a few times to learn the best and most efficient way to reach your goals. The practice of yoga is also the practice of non-judgement and that includes not judging yourself!
We can be our own worst critics when it comes to trying to master a new skill; but the difference between those who do and those who don’t is how they chose to interact with their internal critics.
Being hard on yourself won’t help you to integrate new habits into your life. Encouraging yourself how you would encourage others on your journey is key to finding fulfilment.
Practice encouraging yourself, practice kindness to yourself and practice forgiving yourself. After all, how we treat ourselves will pave the way for how we treat others throughout our lives.