Making yoga part of your daily routine is more difficult than it sounds, and it’s easy to slip off the bandwagon. The good news is that once you’ve cultivated the right mindset, finding time to get on your mat will be effortless. The myriad of physical and mental health benefits will keep you coming back for more and ensure that you don’t miss a single day. Creating a strict routine and adhering to it becomes simple when our expectations are realistic. Set attainable goals that won’t cultivate unnecessary stress but still challenge you to some degree. Incorporating yoga into your day means more than just maneuvering through the physical poses. Act according to yogic philosophy and let that wisdom extend to all aspects of your life.
There’s nothing better than the accomplished feeling you get when a personal goal is reached and rewarded. Sometimes the reward stems from the goal itself and isn’t so obvious right away, but other times it’s predetermined to make the commitment worthwhile from a short-term perspective. We exist in a world where results are preferred to be fast and the amount of energy minimized. Therefore, it’s important to set attainable goals that can regularly be rewarded to stay on track. Try implementing a ‘cue, routine, reward’ system for creating a healthy habit. The cue is a regular time where you can squeeze in practice, or perhaps an alarm set to remind you. The routine represents your actual yoga practice and where the work takes place, followed by any reward that speaks to you. This reward can be introduced daily or weekly depending on how often you’d like to treat yourself.
Yoga In Bed
Morning is the perfect time for yoga because the veil between our conscious and unconscious states are the thinnest. It’s a time of transition between simply being to moving about our active day. By allowing time to check in with the body and cater to our own needs before tending to anything else, we’re enhancing the connection to our true selves. Yoga is a great way to facilitate that inner conversation and establish the link between mind and body. Before leaving your bed, try a few simple stretches to wake yourself and greet the new day gently. Happy baby, bound angle, and supine twists are just a few of the many postures available to practice in bed. You can explore these same poses before going to bed at night to help achieve a more restful slumber.
Find Your Mat
Goals are easier met when we make the process seamlessly part of our daily routine. If your yoga mat is somewhere collecting dust in a corner, then it’s not likely to be in the forefront of our mind every day. Try rolling your mat out beside the bed or anywhere in the path of your regular morning activities so your attention is automatically drawn to yoga. The same goes for your yoga attire, whatever that means to you. If you’re pinched for time, have your clothes set aside and make a plan for the following day in advance.
Having ambitious goals is entirely different from setting strong intentions, and it’s difficult to follow through if they aren’t in unison. It’s good to know what you’d like to achieve, but it’s equally important to understand why this is something worth working hard for. Set clear intentions and reflect on what makes them compelling in your life. Don’t hold any judgment when asking yourself these questions, be truthful about what it is that’s driving your goal. This broad understanding of why you’re implementing a new habit into your lifestyle will make following through that much smoother.
Squeeze It In
If your goal is to practice for an hour every day, it may be challenging to stay committed when life inevitably gets hectic. Having realistic goals leaves room for a more extended practice without the guilt of not meeting your hefty goal. Acknowledge that what works for you one day may look entirely different the next day, and that’s fine. Be open to shifting your practice to meet wherever you’re at in each given moment. Be reasonable with your expectations and kind to yourself as you create a new habit; start small and work your way up. If you can devote ten minutes to stretching and bringing your attention inwards today, that’s great, and if tomorrow you have an hour-long practice, that’s great too.
Enjoy Your Practice
It’s relatively common to attach a negative connotation to our practice when we feel it’s something we have to do every day. It becomes a chore in our mind, and we lose sight of why we’re choosing to do it. Continuously reinforce your intention and remember to enjoy your yoga practice and the plethora of benefits it offers. When you make it to your mat, try not to rush the moment and appreciate whatever the practice brings. Tune in to what’s currently happening and take your mind off the imaginary to-do list that weighs so heavy on us. Doing this involves separating yoga from being just another item on your list and acknowledging it as a privilege.
Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself
So you missed a day, and now you’re feeling guilty about it and beating yourself up. Remember that you’re only human, and obstacles pop up out of nowhere. It’s no reason to be hard on yourself since you’re trying to incorporate something new into your routine in the first place. Let this missed day demonstrate how the body feels when you don’t practice yoga. Notice the difference between days when you do practice and use this knowledge to fuel your motivation for the next day. Part of extending yoga to all aspects of our life is being compassionate, not just towards those around us, but also towards ourselves. Make sure you’re not overly-critical, but if several days pass and you haven’t stepped on your yoga mat, and excuses begin to pile up, it’s time to call yourself out and get back on track. In addition, try not to focus too much on attaining a certain pose or rigorous practice milestone, yoga takes time and consistent work. Keep your attention on the process of practice and the end goal will happen naturally in its own time.
Play With Different Styles
The glory of yoga is that there’s something for everyone, and you can cater a practice to meet whatever your body needs on any given day. Sometimes we get caught up in one style of yoga because we’re so focused on a specific result that we’re overlooking what our bodies truly crave. Leave space for experimentation in your practice and indulge in different styles based on how you’re feeling. Find something that excites you, keeps things interesting, and leaves you wanting more every day.
When your alarm goes off indicating it’s time to practice, but there’s a voice in your head telling you that yoga can wait until later, try Yin. There are few things more enticing than a restorative, slow practice where you can softly transition from sleeping to waking. So instead of dozing back off, slide onto your mat and melt away in a juicy yin posture. Yin yoga is also incredibly beneficial for unwinding at the end of the day. If you’re not feeling a vigorous practice, or maybe any practice at all, try holding some deep hip, heart, or shoulder openers to calm the nerves. When all else fails, hit up child’s pose and simply breathe into that shape.
Sometimes we just need to sweat it all out and leave our troubles behind in a flurry of vinyasas. Power yoga grants us the opportunity to connect our breath to movement in a compelling way while detoxing the body. Enjoy this style of practice only when the body feels capable and wanting of it, don’t push yourself into a hot class if what you’re genuinely craving is something more restorative.
Staying mindful of your thoughts and actions will enable you to observe potential excuses and move past them. Holding on to negative feelings is in our nature and can become destructive to our well-being when not released. Mindfulness makes us aware of these habits and how they influence our lives in a real way. Enlighten yourself on why you’re choosing not to practice and then do it anyways and bask in your persistence. The more yoga you do, the easier it will be to maintain mindfulness and stay cognizant of our thoughts as they come and go.
Track Your Progress
Yoga is an outstanding vehicle for witnessing changes in the body and effectively demonstrates how far you’ve come through consistent practice. Use your practice to celebrate the small victories you encounter down the pathway of yoga. Maybe you couldn’t touch your toes a few months ago, and now you’re getting close. Relish in those small accomplishments and allow them to feed your desire to continue on this yogic journey. Perhaps take some photos to document your progress so you can see the shifts as they occur.
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After spending nearly two decades as a relationship therapist, Patricia journeyed down the path of writing as a vehicle for sharing her wisdom. Her work reflects a sincere interest in readers’ wellbeing and is abundant with helpful advice and fascinating insight.
Originally published at https://yogapractice.com on August 29, 2018.