Sticking to any wellness, fitness or health goals can be hard, but it doesn't have to be! People come to yoga for many different reasons, but the ultimate goal of yoga is to feel better. Whether you are practicing to gain more strength, to reduce stress or to be part of a community; feeling better in some area is ideally what we're looking for. Like anything, yoga doesn't work if you don't do it. You have to practice, and luckily with yoga it's just that, practice. The good news is it doesn't have to be perfect! There are SO many kinds of yoga and you're free to try them on all for size! Our bodies, moods and minds shift from day to day, from stage of life, from season to season and so should our yoga practice. That's why committing to your mat can actually be easier and less intimidating than it may seem. We can have the excitement of spicing up our practice or the familiarity of a tried and true flow and we can grow with this system of nurture and challenge, while we meet ourself wherever we are.
3 WAYS TO COMMIT TO YOUR YOGA PRACTICE
Why do you want to do this, anyway? It's different for everyone and maybe you have the same reason to come to your mat for life, or only for one practice. Your intention can even change multiple times within one practice, as you breathe from pose to pose. For me, one of my main intentions with each physical asana practice is to improve how I feel by the time I leave my mat. What I mean by feeling better, is actually more balanced. This doesn't always mean an elevated mood, sometimes we need to be brought down a notch with some restorative postures (you know when you had one too many cups of coffee and you're feeling a bit restless and jittery?). Sometimes we feel lethargic and need a stimulating, sweaty flow to pull us out of that muddy rut. When I practice I want to feel more open, more mobile and stronger. I want to feel and radiate kindness, compassion, patience, acceptance and body positivity. I also want to challenge myself. There are infinite intentions you can call in, but you have to steep yourself in what it is that you want. It's up to you, visualization and manifestation work. Plus, it's pretty hard to get into doing something if you don't know why you're doing it. It's the same if you're a yoga teacher. Why do you teach? Make yourself a manifesto. Who are you? What do you need? What are your desires? Put some skin in the game. I promise you will be more motivated to get to your mat.
Love Your Practice
You know the expression "no pain no gain"? There's a lot we can learn from the hard stuff, but in physical yoga, I respectfully disagree. Sure, we need to occaisonally put our muscles, joints and bones under a little stress to grow and become stronger, but not to the point of prolonged or chronic pain in our practice. A little strain can be a really effective way to transform the body and sometimes we need to drink a sip of the poison to find the nectar, but what if we could find the nectar right away and challenge ourselves from that sense of sweetness? When we come to our mats, it's common to shy away from the poses that are more challenging and repeat things that we actually like. I say go for it! Start there. Why not? Do the poses that make you feel amazing and work your way up to the tougher stuff when it feels right to explore. All bodies have a different capability for range of motion based on our skeletons. We don't need to do poses we hate. I HATE shoulder stand. It hurts my neck and makes me feel like I'm being suffocated to death by my own breasts, which I have to say would not be the most graceful way ever to go, so I DO NOT EVER DO THIS POSE ANYMORE. I stick a block under my sacrum and throw my legs up in the air instead. I do what is good for me. I love side bends, twists, and hip openers. I'll admit I don't really enjoy core work (does anyone?) but I do it because of how I feel afterwards - stronger and more confident. I'm not saying to avoid rubbing elbows with your edges a bit. I am saying look for "interesting" in each sensation. Do your practice not just for how it feels in the moment, but the after glow. If you're feeling bone on bone compression and nerve pain then chances are you're dancing on the edge of injury instead of opening. Listen to your body and love your practice.
Hold yourself accountable
Whether you're practicing at home or going to your favorite teacher's studio class, plan ahead. When I make decision to practice and write it down in my calendar, I feel accountable to myself. I plan on this like I would for a dinner date with a friend. The comradery created in a studio setting is a wonderful way to stay committed to your practice. You've got your kula, community of like minded people, you want to show up for. This makes the practice about something bigger than yourself. If you're just getting started, try a 30 day yoga challenge! You don't have to be in the studio every day or doing a 90 minute practice, a few minutes of breathing and sun salutations or stretching can be just enough. Challenge yourself to stay with it and keep track. If you're practicing at home, create a yoga space for yourself that you love so you'll want to come back to your flow. Leave your mat out! It'll be easier to jump on. At home or on the road, I love YogaGlo, and now they have 2 and 3 week programs in many different topics, where you can work towards a goal with 30 minute classes a few times a week. I find practicing at the same time every day makes yoga a necessary part of my day that I look forward to! When you hold yourself accountable you will feel so accomplished and yoga will become something you crave. It's easy to make excuses, but remember, sometimes yoga can simply be a long savasana. ;)
So, set your intention, love your practice and hold yourself accountable for getting to your mat so you can make your yoga a sustainable practice for life. <3