By Olya Amburg
How do you stick to practising yoga?
This is, perhaps, one of the most common questions the newcomers in the yoga community ask. While some yogis engage with the practice quickly, the vast majority will fall in and out of the routine.
Perhaps, half will eventually stick with it.
The other half will abandon the practice altogether.
How to become a part of group #1?
By now it’s a well-known fact that to develop any habit we need an average of 66 days. But which strategies to implement in these nearly 2 months to not only follow but totally fall in love with the practice?
The answer might be hiding in the text of The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali – a collection of adages on the theory and practice of yoga compiled by Sage Patanjali hundreds of years ago.
One of the aphorisms states: “This practice becomes firmly rooted when it is cultivated skillfully and continuously for a long time.”
So we have three major components: practising skillfully, continuously, for a long time. It’s a slightly vague direction – so let’s break these down into some actionable steps:
1. Make yoga accessible
It might be tempting to get a yoga studio membership or a class package to achieve consistency in the practice. Then we are busy at work, travel or simply cannot drag ourselves outside to get to the class on a rainy day. In these cases not only are we wasting money but we are also blaming ourselves for skipping the class. Hence, from the very beginning, we start building negative associations with doing yoga. This for sure won’t support habit-creation process. So before making your mind and body flexible, create a flexible personal yoga plan. Get familiar with the schedules in the nearby yoga studios and make use of online yoga resources, like UDAYA. Benefits? Your yoga is always with you, no matter if you are travelling or hermiting at home a little. In addition, you can make use of those 20–30 minute classes, that are just saviours on the busy days when you still want to squeeze the practice in.
2. Just start
They say “letting go is the hardest asana”. On a large scale, this is undeniably true. But in our distraction oversaturated, chronic fatigue filled world “stepping onto your mat” might be just as hard. It is indeed tough at times to figure out if we are really tired, or lazy or just want to watch an extra episode of our favourite series instead of practising. It takes time to learn to truly listen and interpret the subtle messages of the body and the mind. Any quick fixes? Just step onto the mat and begin the class. No matter how long it is. Just promise that the moment you feel uneasy, you will stop without judgement. You’ll be surprised that in 90 per cent of the cases, you’ll finish class and take some extra sweet minutes in Savasana.
3. Listen to your body
Special attention to all the passionate planners out there! You can schedule a window of time to practice well in advance. But not the type of practice itself. Imagine you have an intense ashtanga practice scheduled and that day you are feeling under the weather. Most likely you will neither enjoy nor reap the full benefits of an intense physical asana flow.
On the other hand, you may have Yin yoga scheduled for a mellow Sunday evening but find yourself bursting with energy. That’s the time to turn your power vinyasa game on. Prioritize listening to your body over planning from day one. There are enough tasks in our daily list that are completed just to cross them out of it. Yoga is not one of them.
4. Find your tribe
This notion is a bit overused these days, but especially in a practice like yoga, where the student-teacher lineage is so significant, a community is one of the cornerstones of building a consistent practice. Thanks to the high-tech age we live in, you don’t even have to look for an actual studio. There are numerous yoga practice’s and discussion platforms online, just like UDAYA, where you can join the tribe, complete the practice, connect with your favourite teachers and share your journey with the fellow students. You can even find an accountability buddy to make sure you keep progressing.
5. Make the world your mat
It’s important to keep in mind, that yoga is not just an asana practice. It expands to 7 more limbs or steps of practice and beyond. We don’t live to do asana on the mat. We practice asana on the mat to make our lives better. So the days when your traditional class is not happening, bring yoga into the other aspects of your day. You might not have 30 minutes to move mindfully, but you always have 30 seconds to breathe mindfully. Sometimes you cannot spend extra time on a meditation cushion. But you can always be a bit more mindful taking your morning shower: focusing on the beautiful mix of sensations and not letting the to-do list in the head interfere.
6. Track your progress
No one cancelled positive reinforcement, in yoga, it works just as well. But before praising your progress it is more important to choose the right measure of it. It is appealing to note the changes only in your physical body, but try to go beyond this level of transformation.
Check if you are sleeping better, are you more productive at work, more mindful about your daily routines or expressive with your loved ones. No wonder T.K.V. Desikacharused to say “The success of yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures but in how it positively changes the way we live our lives and our relationships.”
7. Find your “fast” yoga
In other words, what is your go-to class that would feel good in the body most of the days when you are not in the mood to experiment and just need to do your yoga? Find a session like that in your local studio or online. At UDAYA, for example, you can utilize the “favourites” feature to make sure all of your go-to classes are saved in one place.
8. Educate yourself
This last one is more of a bonus but can actually work wonders. For some, practice becomes more fun when they know the stories and meanings of the asanas, the way the body works in each pose or the way an asana influences our inner organs and energy field. Don’t hesitate to ask your teacher questions or make use of the many online yoga resources. You can start with our blog and the lecture series, like the “Real Yoga Talk” with Daniel Scott or some of the 5-minute pose break-downs.
Overwhelmed by the variety of styles and different classes that are available? Stay tuned for our top UDAYA flows for beginners. The experienced yogis out there: how did you create a yoga habit, what helped your practice to stick around for good? Share with us in the comments below.
AND help one of your loved ones make yoga into a habit by gifting UDAYA 14-day free trial.