With any habit, we know that a regular and consistent yoga practice can be beneficial for our body, mind and overall well-being but despite these glaringly obvious benefits, it can be very difficult to nurture this habit. Over the past few years, I have picked up a few tips and tricks that help me maintain a relatively consistent yoga and meditation habit and I thought it would be useful to share these with you.
1. Don't let perfect be the enemy of the good
The above quote from Voltaire is a good jumping off point for this article. I think it is useful to highlight that as a teacher of yoga, I am by no means an example of perfection. My own personal yoga practice has gone through peaks and troughs and was almost non-existent when I first started out as teacher. This is a common occurrence for new teachers and not often talked about. There is a perception, perhaps mostly imposed by teachers themselves, that they need to be the optimum example of what a personal yoga practice should look like and in reality, especially when you are beginning your journey as a teacher, you are devoting a lot of energy to the practice of teaching itself and have little energy left for your own personal practice. Even if you are not a teacher, I think this is an important point to remember. As soon as I let go of the concept of perfection then it made it easier for me to ask more of myself and to take the time to devote energy to the habit of yoga.
Your daily or weekly yoga practice does not need to look the same every time you arrive on the mat. It does not need to be the same length, the same style or the require the same level of physical or mental energy. Next time you roll out the mat, take a few moments to listen to what your body and mind need and adjust accordingly. I find that different times of the month, day or year, different weather conditions, locations and life circumstances will all impact what my yoga practice looks like. If you add this element of flexibility and variety then yoga will keep you interested whilst acting as a tool to support you rather than deplete your energy. The aim of yoga is to help us become more mindful, to increase our health and vitality and to help us recognise our connection to the world around us and if our practise is fluid and flexible rather than prescriptive and regimented then it will be an anchor and tool to support our overall well-being.
3. The two-day rule
I have pinched this tip from Matt D'Avella who is a YouTube creator who specialises in minimalism, lifestyle design and habits. You can watch the full video here but in a nutshell, he found that never missing a workout two days in a row revolutionised his own exercise habit. It gave him the flexibility to have a rest day if he was tired/ill or if his schedule didn't quite allow for exercise whilst helping to keep the momentum of consistency for a habit. The mind is extremely malleable to habits (as discussed in the books I reference below) and the more you practice a habit, the more it will become ingrained in your routine and the more it will become second nature.
There is a lot of fascinating research into how the brain forms habits (check out the books below) and creating a feedback loop of trigger, habit and reward is key to cementing a habit. For example, the loop can be wake up, go to the loo, get changed into yoga clothes, drink water, yoga, breakfast and morning coffee (reward). The reward is simple and doesn't need to be ostentatious but it can be an extremely effective way to incorporate yoga into your everyday routine. By doing yoga at the same time everyday, blocking out time for it in your calendar, adding a simple reward and creating a dedicated space in your home, you can create a ritualistic aspect to your yoga practice and fully embed yoga into your everyday life. The space in your home doesn't need to be extravagant either. I usually do yoga in my kitchen in front of the oven and beside the fridge!
I hope that a few of these tips help you on your journey to build a yoga habit. You do not need to try out all of them either, you can simply take the ones that you feel suit your personality and your lifestyle and give them a try. I have loads of other tips to share and I will save them for future posts. I also recommend having a read of the books listed below:
- Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin
- The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
- Atomic Habits by James Clear