Habits

January 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

Went back to practice on Friday, yesterday and today, with the intention to keep this momentum going (i.e., a daily practice). It struck me a few weeks ago…must have been before the holidays, that there really is no excuse not to get up and practice yoga everyday. Save for the obligatory LH and Moon Day breaks, I realized that I was the reason why my practice wasn’t happening six days a week, with the gazillion excuses I gave myself at 6am in the morning on a cold winter day: “I’m too tired” “I shouldn’t push myself so hard” “I didn’t have a full nights’ sleep”….and so on. I needed to feel 100% before I was ‘ready’ to practice, and tied to this attitude was the aspiration to have a ‘perfect’ practice each time I get on the mat. Of course, we all know that the ‘perfect practice’ exists nowhere else but in our own minds, and the longer I wait for the external conditions to be ‘ripe’ for achieving this ideal, the further away it is.

This insight was an important one for a couple of reasons. First, it showed me how my mind and ego worked to both preserve my comfort (staying in a warm bed on a freezing morning) and protect my pride (not wanting to see how imperfect my practice is and the areas I need to work on). It’s the perfectionist in me that wants everything to be ‘right’ the first time. Do it well or don’t do it at all – that’s the mantra I was brought up with, and the fuel of low self-esteem because, as we all know, without regular effort, it is hard to get good at anything.

Second, it showed me how I was causing myself to ‘suffer’ by struggling with the ego and giving it enough space to cause me to hesitate on my decision to practice, to snooze for another nine minutes, to roll over and avoid turning on the bedside lamp. I’ll be the first to admit that the hardest part of my day is waking up, but once it’s done, it really is not a big deal. This realization that there is no excuse not to have a daily yoga practice showed up the kind of mental drama I was creating for myself at 6am, caught between what I knew was good for me and what felt the most comfortable.

Third, to put an end to this drama, all I needed to do was to make my practice a non-negotiable, as essential as drinking water/brushing teeth/taking a shower, everyday. Transform it from a ‘sometime’ activity into a daily one, to the point where it starts to become a habit. When I started in November 2009, I went for practice two mornings a week. After about a month, it dawned on me that if I wanted to really see progress in this practice (beyond just getting a new pose at every class), I would have to start going more often. And so it became three times a week, up to four usually, sometimes five, and once, six. After 14 months of practice, I’m beginning to see that a six-day week is really the next logical step to take if I want to deepen my practice, really dive into that mind-body connection and seriously start getting a grip on the incessant mental chatter.

Do a little bit everyday and it becomes a habit after a while. It’s as simple and as difficult as that.

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