One of the most common questions I hear from new and old students alike…. how did you become so disciplined? Were you always that way? I always answer HECK NO… nor would I consider myself all that disciplined. We all have stuff we could be working on. I may be able to stand on my head & touch my toes for hours on end, however saying no to that second (or third) cup of coffee is rarely accomplished in my daily routeen. Some things are easy to make a habit, while others habits require a little more Tapas, or right effort. During the first decade that I took yoga classes, I generally needed a stiff drink to get me thought the door…. I hated Yoga! I knew I needed it, so I stuck to it and here I am teaching you to get over the hump… preferably without needing a double martini before class.
How to start forming good habits to replace old bad ones: as a person who is a seasoned veteran in bad and good habits, I feel I have some insight to share on this topic. One of the oldest written texts on yoga, The Upanishads, says it a whole lot more eloquently than I ever could, so lets start there:
Watch your thoughts; they become your words. Watch your words; they become your actions. watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become your character. Watch your character; for it becomes your destiny.
Apparently some things never change and a few millennia after this was written the same rules apply. Changing one’s self begins by acknowledging what we want to change. Wether you drink, smoke, eat or do nothing too much…. first you have to be honest with yourself and own it. Stop with the justifications and excuses. Take responsibility for your behaviour. Figure out what needs to change, and set about a realistic plan.
By realistic I mean BE REASONABLE. don’t allow unrealistic expectation to sabotage your intention of change. Here are some rules to being realistic when starting a home yoga practice:
# 1. Ask yourself “is a home practice the best option?” For students very new to yoga I would rarely think the answer is yes. Find yourself a good teacher, a time and a place that works with your schedule and come hell or high water don’t miss the class. Add additional classes to your routine when you feel ready for them, you will soon see that you have more time then you think, because the action of doing yoga will soon become a habit. Like all good habits from time to time you may find yourself straying off the path of discipline, but dont give up!!! Remember if you are going to do yoga for the next 80 years, you will from time to time take breaks. Always remember that you’re not going to wish you had done less yoga when you’re 85…. so get back on track and hit your mat!
#2. For those of you who indeed feel it’s time to start a home practice, well done for this is when you take over as being your own guru. Set aside a time that works with your lifestyle and current habits. For example if you are a night owl, 6 am before work is not a good time to schedule your practice. If you’re hoping to achieve a 5 -7 day a week home practice right off the bat you’re most probably going to fail. Choose a consistant time and day(s) every week, for example every Tuesday and Thursday at 5:30 – 6:30pm right after work. No excuses… Go straight home, phone off, and before you do ANYTHING, do your practice.
#3. Get material: You may have done a gizilion classes over the years, but put yourself on a mat in your living room and what the heck are you suppost to do??? Ween yourself off group classes slowly and as your home practice takes off you may find just one day a week with a teacher sufficient. I have found students who come to me for a series of privates to develops a home practice specifically for their needs have the least amount of trouble transitioning to a home practice. Generally it takes one hour private sessions per week over the coarse of a month to memorize a one hour routine. If privates are not an option for you try memorizing a pose per class or studying online videos, then practice that pose repeatedly until you feel you know it well. A few weeks of learning one pose per week and you’ll have a routine in no time.
#4. Stay positive: Like with anything, be happy with where you are at and be gentle on yourself. There is not a human on this planet who is perfect so don’t expect to be the first to attain perfection. Developing a home yoga practice is not an easy habit to create so acknowledge what you accomplish. I personally found writing my intended practice times on the calendar and highlighting each practice after I completed it to be helpful in getting a home practice started. It’s very satisfying to look back over a month and see all the yellow lines which symbolize my commitment to myself. By focusing on the days you did practice instead of the days you missed, you’ll ignite the fire to keep trying. With time you will no longer need the calendar because your practice will simply become a part of your routine, much like brushing your teeth only more enjoyable. How many kids rush to the sink before bed and brush their teeth without being coaxed and yet here we all are as adults brushing daily without a thought of hesitation (right?). Remember before we become truly great at something we must be okay with being medioker at it as we learn what is needed to excel.
#5. START NOW!!! One thing I know for sure about Yoga is that nobody else is going to do it for you. Use the space you have, wear the cloths you own, and if you don’t have a yoga mat use a rug like they do in India or take it to the grass and start NOW. When your eighty you will be so glad you did.
Good luck on your path to discipline!