Stick to your yoga routine by following these steps for building a healthy (happy!) habit.
So you’ve created your own yoga sequence with just the right combination of stretches and sun salutations to light your fire in the morning—or reignite it after an energy-zapping day at the office. Or perhaps you found the perfect yoga studio/teacher/class, and you vow to go X times a week. Now, the trick is to actually practice your yoga routine regularly, so you can enjoy yoga’s soul- and body-boosting benefits. As we’ve all probably experienced, life has a way of getting between us and our yoga practice despite our best intentions, but, fortunately, you can overcome those obstacles with a little clever thinking.
The following are a few tips for helping you establish a regular yoga routine, so that practicing feels as natural as other important healthy habits like brushing your teeth—though I think we can all agree that yoga is way more fun than oral care 😉
Remind yourself why you want to commit to a regular yoga practice (make an affirmation!). Throughout my teenage and adult years, I’ve tried a variety of sports and workouts—from softball to pilates to timidly hovering around gym equipment (it’s called “HoverFit,” and I don’t recommend it). The only workouts that I’m truly in love with are running and yoga. When I make a commitment to deepen my yoga practice, I remind myself why yoga is so important to me. Yoga makes me feel joyful, puts me in better touch with my body, and fills me with compassion. Reminding yourself why yoga sticks out to you is like putting down a sticky mat, i.e. laying a trustworthy foundation for yourself. Fill in the blank: “I practice yoga because _________.” Write your yoga affirmation somewhere you’re likely to regularly see it.
Create a daily/weekly reminder (whip out that iCal). According to The 3 R’s of Habit Change, setting up a reminder or a “behavior cue” is an important step in building a routine. Having a set time for your new habit relieves you of the mental work of always deciding when. You can also rely on a habit trigger. Appoint something that’s already a part of your daily or weekly routine to serve as your trigger. For example, just as eating breakfast is a trigger for me to make coffee, getting up in the morning is my trigger for padding into the living room and unrolling my yoga mat.
Make your practice as convenient as possible. Finding a studio close to home that’s open during your free time—or just having a designated spot at home to practice in—will make your yoga routine all the more feasible. In other words, getting to your place of practice shouldn’t feel like a chore.
Take mental notes of the joys that accompany your practice. As you’re doing your practice, say aloud or in your mind how good the practice makes you feel. “I love feeling so open.” “When I get into the flow, yoga fills me with euphoria!” Later, jot these down, and use them with your affirmation to cement yoga practice in your mind as something desirable.
Get social. This step may not be for everyone (it’s not really for me), but many find that making a pact with a friend (and holding each other accountable) to maintain an exercise regimen is a helpful incentive. Likewise, you can also update your friends and fellow yogis on your progress via a personal blog or social media platform. Posting about your practice is a fun way to keep track of your routine and meet people with similar interests.
Reward yourself. Of course, yoga is a reward in itself, but if you’re looking to establish a yoga routine—even on those days when you don’t expect yoga to feel like a reward—it’s helpful to come up with an additional incentive to get you moving. You can create daily and longterm incentives—just make sure they’re things that you actually desire. For example, an immediate reward could be a long soak in the tub following your practice (now that sounds like a nice ritual!). A long term reward could be buying a new yoga mat after a month of regular practice.
Thank yourself. After each practice, or anytime to you feel the afterglow of your practice, say “thanks!” to yourself. “Thank you, Mary, for taking the time to do yoga today.” It’s nice to feel appreciated!
Do you follow a regular yoga routine? If so, how do you maintain it?
Related: 5 Ways to Build a Healthy Routine
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Photos: Wikimedia Commons