Yoga Is Challenge Day 1: Commitment
Yoga is Commitment—
How to commit to yoga, whether you’re beginner or advanced
You, like many others, may be thinking of starting or recommitting to yoga as part of your new year’s resolutions. With the best intentions, you may declare to your friends and family that you’re going to get on the yoga mat right away. But, as we all know too well, the best of our intentions often fall away to sidelines of life, leaving only guilt and the feeling of unfinished business behind. There is a way you can truly commit to yoga (or anything for that matter) and build on your successes to take on even more.
I should say that I’m naturally quite good at discipline. Even so, I often find myself procrastinating and wasting countless hours of the day. Sometimes those wasted hours eat away at my practice time. I’ve been practicing yoga six days a week for over 20 years now. It doesn’t make me a saint or an enlightened person. But I can certainly testify to the fact that days when I practice are almost certainly better than days when I don’t. That fact alone keeps me coming back to the mat over and over again.
You will keep practicing when the benefits of yoga outweigh the costs associated with not practicing. You will keep practicing yoga once the practice is not something additional that you add to your life, but a ritual that is integrated into the very fabric of your being. You will keep practicing yoga when it is no longer something exotic and interesting, but a daily discipline much like brushing your teeth. Then, the practice becomes a part of who you are. Until then, here are some helpful tips to get established in the practice.
Set small attainable goals. So many people bite off way more than they can actually sustain. Starting off the new year with giant proclamations of how many hours per day you’ll spend on the mat just sets you up for failure. Instead of going from no-yoga to practicing for an hour every day, try something like committing to get on the yoga mat three days a week for five to ten minutes. You can always surpass your goals and be pleasantly surprised. Setting the minimum level that you can actually sustain builds momentum rather than leaving you feeling defeated for failing to rise up to the soaring heights of your dreams. This can work well if you feel overwhelmed with the length of the practice. Set a goal that you’ll practice for five minutes and then check in with yourself to see if you want to continue. If your body says no, then stop. But, usually, once you get the yoga groove going it’s easy to coast along. Check in with yourself at regular intervals so that you don’t have to commit to a full hour. Instead you’ll be committing to small attainable five or ten minute intervals.
Good Planning Makes for Easy Discipline.
Make it easy on yourself by planing your day and night routine well. If you aim to practice first thing in the morning, lay your yoga clothes out next to your bed and put them on first thing in the morning. Once you’re already in your yoga clothes it will only feel natural for you to complete the practice. Sometimes just starting can be really difficult. If that’s the case then I recommend to just go and stand on your yoga mat. Once you find yourself there it naturally makes sense to do a little practice.
You don’t need to go all in right from the beginning and buy all the gear. Spending money won’t help you commit. Instead, try carving out a little niche in your home that is dedicated just to yoga. Even if it’s just enough space for your yoga mat and a candle, claim the space as sacred and build the energy there. You don’t need a ton of props and objects to practice. You just enough space to unroll your yoga mat (or even a towel or rug if you don’t have a mat). If you have the luxury of having enough space, then leave your mat unrolled and in place. Just walking by your unrolled yoga mat will pull you towards practice.
Setting repeating alarms throughout the day to keep you on track can help too. If you know you need to get to bed at a particular time, then you could set a prepare for bed alarm. If you know you get lost reading the newspaper in the morning you could set a stop reading alarm. If you find that you end up practicing at random times throughout the day, set a practice alarm and try to practice at the same time each day (doing your practice at the same time each day really helps establish a routine).
Routine and Ritual.
Instead of reinventing the wheel each time you get on your mat, ritualize and routinize the practice as much as possible. Eat meals around the same time each day. Go to bed around the same time each day. Practice at around the same time each day. Organizing your day helps train the body and rest the mind. If you need to decide when to practice, what to practice and how to practice each time it can feel overwhelming. If you practice at a studio, add the classes to your calendar so they are included in your appointments. If you practice at home, try joining a challenge or course that builds from one day to the next so you’re on a program.
Whether you practice at a local yoga studio or at home, having a sense of community really helps. If you’re a yoga pioneer it can feel lonely and hard to keep a sense of inspiration. Recruit family and friends to walk the path with you. If you’re joining a yoga challenge and plan to practice with online videos, see how many of your family and friends will join you on the journey. If you can practice together as a family it will set up a fun ritual of spending time together. Or, connect with other yoga practitioners online who are joining the challenge with you and support each other.
Yoga is as much about training the mind as it is about training the body. Work with your thoughts each day to celebrate your small successes and actively practice gratitude. Do this while you’re practicing and then take your gratitude off your mat into your every day life. It may seem insignificant to be happy about a downward dog but in yoga it’s the small stuff that makes up a lifetime of practice. Rather than waiting for a perfect pose, just practice and learn to love your journey. It is easy to harp on the negative and rehash the mistakes of the past. Instead, train the mind to focus on what is actually working in your practice (and maybe also in your life) and then watch it grow.
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