“There is nothing you can’t do, if you get the habits right” – This is an apt quote by Charles Duhigg, the Pulitzer prize winning author of Power of Habit. It is a brilliant and insightful book on the habit loop, a neurological pattern that governs any habit. This loop consists of three components – a cue, a routine, a reward. Once these aspects are understood, one can play around with them to create the right habits that will bring fulfilment to our long term goals and desires.
To me, the element of routine truly hit home. Let me rephrase – a consistent routine. I want to place special emphasis on this element for the purpose of the following article. You may be wondering what I am going on about.
Let me explain what and why.
“Practice, Practice, Practice. All is coming” a quote by K. Pattabhi Jois is extremely popular in the yogic circles. All long-term practitioners and teachers have heard it and used it frequently to motivate themselves and their students. And yet it does not necessarily work on many beginners or those who are still exploring yoga as one of the many trending fitness modalities.
I see many people approach yoga as part of their window shopping for new and exciting ways to stay fit. And I completely understand this. It is hard to stay committed and consistent until one can fully buy in to a specific modality. One needs to be fully convinced. It is a real investment of time, money and effort.
But here’s the thing – once you decide to incorporate it into your fitness plan, it must become part of your daily or twice/ thrice weekly routine. It must become a habit for it to have optimal impact on your life.
This approach may be applicable not only for yoga, but for any other modality such as Pilates, Zumba, HIIT or others. However, as a long-term yoga practitioner and teacher, I must stress that yoga will work only if practised regularly, with dedication, and complete conviction.
While yoga is a robust fitness technique, it is more importantly a practice that needs time and attention. It needs to be cultivated and developed. Apart from the physical benefits of improved strength and flexibility, the mental benefits of improved concentration, reduced stress and anxiety and overall equilibrium of the nervous system have far greater, meaningful and transformative impact on our system than possibly other trending techniques.
I like to refer to it as a unique holistic fitness and healing modality.
I see people approaching yoga with gusto at the outset expecting quick results both physically and mentally. But many lose steam a month or two into the practice and slip back into their old routine. Why?
Often it is because many haven’t cultivated the patience to include it into their routine. It still weaves sporadically in and out of their lives. Many have not discussed with their teachers or instructors on what expectations to set and realistically within what timeframes they can expect the practice to start impacting them.
Long story short, lack of consistency is the biggest roadblock on the path to holistic fitness.
On that note, I would like to offer some simple tips and suggestions on how we can achieve this commitment and consistency towards our practice:
1. Routine is the key: I said this in the beginning and I say this now. Make it a part of your daily routine. Just like brushing teeth, taking a shower, eating meals or coffee/tea/beverage breaks are an integral part of your routine. Let a yoga break become part of your schedule.
2. Keep it simple. Some days you may have time to attend a full 60 to 90 min class and some days you won’t. Try to attend at least two regular classes a week and earmark at least two additional days when you can wiggle out a minimum of 20 min out of your schedule to do a basic practice. It could simply be a few breathing techniques and sun salutations or postures. Check with your teacher what you can safely practice at home.
3. Set it up on your calendar: Set a weekly calendar and highlight the days on which you plan to practice. Arrange your schedule for that part of the day around it so that your practice becomes a priority and not something that can be easily sidelined because someone called or made plans.
4. Engage family support: Let your family know about this routine and why it is of value to you. If you are tending to young kids, try to arrange for someone in your family to watch over them for this short duration. Family support and encouragement is integral in managing one’s health.
5. Don’t break the habit. The best part about yoga is that it is accessible even on days when we feel unwell or low on energy. Yoga has been adapted into many amazing styles such as Yin or Restorative and on days which feel like a drag you can slow down and take it easy on your mat. Stick to your practice on the days that have been marked, even if it means 20 minutes of simple relaxation in corpse pose or Yoga Nidra for deep relaxation. This way you continue to do your practice, even if at a different intensity.
6. Make a yoga buddy or two. Find someone to practice yoga with either at your local studio or online if you are practising from home. Share your practice updates and motivate each other through observations of how each of you may be progressing uniquely in your practice.
7. Set your practice space in a corner of your house. Ensure it’s clean, clutter-free and comfortable with access to some fresh air if possible.
8. Invest in good quality mat and props and arrange it neatly in your practice corner. Just like to carefully arrange your TV corner with the right lighting and seating arrangements, create an ambience for your yoga corner to bring in that regular motivation. Maybe light incense or add some fresh flowers to the space to bring in an element of freshness.
9. Stay focused. Irrespective of the duration of your practice, make sure you stay completely focused. Keep your mobile on silent, close that door and ensure no one bothers you during that time. It’s your personal space to rejuvenate and recharge. Treat it preciously.
10. Finally, and most importantly, enjoy your practice. Remember to smile occasionally as you relish that stretch or hold a challenging pose. Breathe through all that arises during your practice. The good, the bad, the pleasant or unpleasant.