So you’ve made the leap to commit to a regular yoga practice this year?
That is brilliant.
Only it’s now almost February and that discipline you were absolutely certain you had, hasn’t kicked in yet...
Just the same as the body searches for a shortcut or a way out every time chair pose (or insert one you don’t like if chair pose is a favourite - you weirdo <3) hits the 2 min mark. You’ll find yourself making excuses, or avoiding practice if you can’t make it easy and enjoyable, or associate the great feelings you get after class with the tedium of getting there.
BJ Fogg from Tiny Habits and Atomic Habits by James Clear have done all the heavy lifting on the research but basically motivation and good intentions alone won’t see you through. You need to create habits, and here’s the kicker, that are within your ability. That is, they need to be easy habits that are realistic to your actual life.
Not the imaginary life. Where everything is under control, life, house, job, partner, all your socks match and you make your condiments from scratch without sugar. The people that have all that going on aren’t the ones that need yoga. Yoga is the tool for the messy brains with a million ideas that don’t stop thinking.
The real life.
How do you keep the momentum of a regular practice when that life gets messy and the project your working on blows out and you skip a class or two?
There is always a point where the novelty wears off and the motivation dips. The trick is to set yourself up in the way that by the time that dip happens, getting to practice is already a habit and doesn’t require any thinking or effort to follow through.
You wouldn’t go straight into a Bind and up to a Bird of Paradise without a warm up. Or you could, but it would be a great way to hurt yourself and put off ever doing it again. Gently, gently you’d open the hips create more space across the front of the body releasing the shoulders. It’s a step-by-step process.
Make it easy. Remove the barriers.
So to help you out. Here are 5 tips to remove some of the excuses for when the motivation starts to run dry. Set yourself up with some habits so there’s no thought needed.
Make it easy to get to practice. For this you need gear. Get yourself a great carry strap so you can take your own mat to class (check out the rest of the site for some suggestions, hint). If your mat is stuffed in a crumpled heap at the back of the cupboard or under the dog, it just got too hard. Have it wrapped up ready to go. If you’re working in an office you might stash your gear there, or if you practice in front of the telly keep it tucked under the couch so it's easy to grab. Habit - Pack gym gear and put mat by the door before going to bed.
Find a local studio. Choose a studio within your travel tolerances. Australia is a big place, some people have a four hour drive to the supermarket, they’re much more patient than I am. I also suspect they are better at snack management, but that’s beside the point. Find somewhere within your comfort zone - it may be your lounge room. Habit - Pick up the groceries after class. Bonus post yoga bliss will reduce your susceptibility to the treats aisle.
Choose a studio that you like. You may love the room and the teacher but find the car park scary at night. If you can’t make morning or daytime classes, find somewhere else. One studio I went to started doing a preggie bellies class right after mine. Walking out of class after savasana was like a punch in the guts when we I was going through IVF. Same goes for online classes. You may like the class but the intro music or ads cutting in drive you up the wall. Don’t deny yourself the post yoga bliss. Habit - Mix up your classes so you don’t get bored. Try Class Pass or Yoga Hive so you have back up options if you're out of town or your favourite teacher's schedule changes.
Get comfy. Buy gear you’re comfortable in. If you find your undies are going up your bum when you move, or the waist on your yoga tights digs in you’re not going to want to put them on. I find tops the most annoying, falling over your head in Down Dog if they’re too loose. Also get comfortable with you. Yoga is weirdly confronting in opening you up to recognise unhelpful patterns in our lives a regular practice can aggravate that - you’ve been warned. Habit - When you find a pair of tights you like get a spare as soon as possible. After class put them straight into a guppy bag in your wash basket to keep them nice and protect the oceans.
Enjoy. Put your classes in your schedule, A regular practice shouldn’t be a chore. If it is, find another activity. Yoga is one of so many ways to move your body. Any movement is good (though obviously I have a bias towards yoga). Habit - Put classes in your schedule. Instead of checking your messages after class put a note in your diary with something you enjoyed about the class.
If you find yourself still making excuses do some exploration into why. One of the yoga yamas is asteya, or non-stealing. Perhaps you feel your commitments to other people are more important? Be sure you're not stealing from yourself to meet their goals over your own.
One thing a great yoga teacher used to tell me "you never regret going to yoga".