Starting a new habit can be a daunting and difficult process. How many times in your life have you created an intention to make a change to better yourself but then failed when it comes to its application? This is a common story for us all, whether it’s to eat healthier, exercise more, or pick up a new hobby. For some reason, our own motivation is often our greatest barrier.
It is widely accepted that humans are creatures of habit; our lives are run and are dictated by the habitual patterns we accumulate over our lifetimes. The best way to introduce a new practice into your life, such as the practice of yoga, is to little by little turn it into a habit – to make it intrinsically part of our daily lives. Learning to integrate a new habit into our lives can be challenging, the following 5 steps can help you to simplify this process and introduce the practice of yoga and all its benefits into your daily life.
Know The Benefits
The first step to introducing a new habit into your life is to become extremely familiar as to why you want to introduce it in the first place. Yoga has become somewhat of a buzzword in recent times and everyone seems to be talking about its effects on overall well-being. Amidst all this overwhelming information, it is best to find one or two benefits that really work for you and to use them as your focus.
The physical benefits of yoga are almost incomparable to any other form of exercise. A regular practice will simultaneously stretch, tone and strengthen the muscles in your body, whilst also be improving your circulatory and cardiovascular health. Physically, it gives you pretty much everything you would want from a form of exercise.
As well as physical, yoga also offers many mental benefits. The focus on the breath that accompanies the practice provides a deeper sense of body awareness. It helps to relieve stress and anxiety by bringing you deeper into the present moment. Through a regular yoga practice, you can learn to slow down the fast pace of life and further explore what is possible in the here and now.
Obviously, yoga is a practice, meaning that your relationship with it is constantly developing and evolving. With this in mind, it is important to start small, slow and simple. Just as we do not expect to walk before we can run, don’t expect to be able to execute the difficult asanas without putting in the work first and don’t expect to be able to practice with clarity without first undoing the habitual thinking patterns of the mind.
Start by creating a calm and quiet space in which you can practice, and schedule time into your routine to be there. It is worth attending a few beginners classes or watching some youtube videos to familiarise yourself with the movements and terminology. Once you have the basics covered you can build on your practice, learning what works for you, exploring and expanding the limitations of your body and mind – helping you to get the most out of your practice.
Do it with a Friend
Undoubtedly one of the best ways to hold yourself accountable to starting a new habit is to get someone else to do it for you! Perhaps you have a friend who also wants to introduce yoga into their lives?
Choosing to embark on this journey with a buddy means you can plan together, practice together, and even attend your first class together – take comfort in safety in numbers! You can hold each other responsible for making sure that you stick to the rules you set yourself. Check in with each other about when and how often you are taking time to practice, share with each other your thoughts and feelings as your own way of moving starts to develop. As you grow and learn through your yoga practice, sharing this experience will also become a great bonding experience for both of you.
Do it for Yourself
Everyone who starts practicing yoga, take it’s up for a specific reason. They may want a calmer mind and more control over their internal world, or they may want to stretch and tone their bodies to complement other forms of exercise that they engage in. Whatever your reason is, remind yourself of it whenever you feel unmotivated or apathetic towards your practice.
Envision how you and your life would look if you took the time to incorporate yoga into your routine, and encourage yourself by recognizing that you are taking the steps to achieve that, however small they may seem at the time. Every time you step onto your mat you are that little bit closer; every discipline can also be seen as an act of self-love.
Be Kind to Yourself
Introducing a new habit into your life is difficult, especially if you are starting completely from scratch. It is important to give yourself credit where credit is due and forgive yourself if you miss a practice – or even if you miss a few practices. No one is perfect and we are all guilty of not always putting our best interests first.
Know that slipping up is all part of the process, in order to achieve you must first fail a few times to learn the best and most efficient way to reach your goals. The practice of yoga is also the practice of non-judgment and that includes not judging yourself! We can be our own worst critics when it comes to trying to master a new skill, but the difference between those who do and those who don’t is how they chose to interact with their internal critics.
Being hard on yourself won’t help you to integrate yoga into your life. Encouraging yourself how you would encourage others on your journey is key to finding fulfillment through yoga. Practice encouraging yourself, practice kindness to yourself and practice forgiving yourself. After all, how we treat ourselves will pave the way for how we treat others throughout our lives.
Kosta Miachin is the creator of VIKASA Yoga method – a unique, challenging and effective approach to yoga. He is also the founder of VIKASA Yoga Academy. You can find him online: www.vikasayoga.com