If you’re reading this then I don’t have to go through the various benefits of yoga. We all know how good it makes us feel, how it helps our health, our mental state and our spiritual growth. Yet, most of us at times will struggle with keeping up our practice.
I’ve been practising yoga for almost 20 years, and in a lot of that time I’ve had an on/off relationship with it. I would go periods (sometimes quite long) where I didn’t get my mat out at all. And when I finally did get back into it I would wonder, “Why the hell did I stop this? I feel great!” I would tell myself that I was going to do an hour per day and inevitably after some time things would drift again.
This is quite a common scenario. So how do we keep motivated? I don’t have all the answers, but I’ll share a few things that worked for me.
Important versus Urgent
A number of years ago I was reading a book about Time Management when I came across this distinction. I had always worked on the assumption that urgent things were important, but when I looked closer I saw there was a big difference.
I sat down with a piece of paper and wrote down all of the things that were important to me. Such as, being healthy, feeling peaceful inside, positive relationships etc.
From that followed some practical steps that would support those; regular yoga practice, meditating daily, eating healthily without interruption, meeting a friend for golf once per week etc.
It changed things for me. I’ll give you an example. I don’t answer the telephone during dinner now, because although that is something with urgency, what is important is that I eat my food well and enjoy the time with the people I share it with. If the call is important then the other person will leave a message and I can call them back.
Writing this down was a really cool exercise and it gave me a list of things that I could do on a daily, weekly or monthly basis that I knew would support what was important to me.
The trick of course is actually doing them, but it showed me that my happiness and health was the result of the little day-to-day choices I made.
It’s the little choices, made consistently, that give you the best chance of breaking through your ingrained patterns. So, rather than doing a two hour yoga blast at the weekend you may find it more beneficial to get up 20 minutes earlier before work and do some gentle stretches Monday to Friday.
Regularity of practice helps build routine which develops its own momentum. This is why finding a regular time to do things is helpful.
Most of us are pretty busy – I know very few people who have lots of free time on their hands. So it becomes a question of priorities, back to the What is important to me? question.
What are you making more important than your practice? TV? Surfing the web? Playing games? Will any of those things bring you what you say is important to you?
With this knowledge comes empowerment. We are each given the same number of minutes in a day, and, without being too anal about it, it’s sensible to make the most of them.
So, if yoga and meditation are the means to bring you what is important to you then make them part of your routine. I would strongly recommend getting a regular time set aside for practice.
When my daughter was a baby I knew that I could generally guarantee I could get an hour between 7-8am to do my yoga. Did I always feel like doing it? Absolutely not.
But I knew the consequence of not doing it and that became part of the motivation for dragging myself out of a warm bed, even when I may have been awake two hours earlier helping her with teething pains.
So, set aside a bit of time and write down what is important to you, then what you need to do to support that. As simple as it sounds the little choices are what is important, and the good news is that it’s in your hands to make them.
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