If you’re anything like us, as we move closer towards the end of the year and the diary fills up with last minute deadlines, commitments and general busyness, it’s easy to let go of our yoga practice and swept up in looking forward to the holidays.
It’s at times like these though, that yoga can really work its magic. When we take the time to pause and come back to the present, we can find gratitude in where we are right now, and live peaceful, happier lives.
So, how do we do this?
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are a great place to start.
The Niyamas - ways of living - talk about this very thing. It’s called Tapas and can be translated as "self-discipline," "effort," or "internal fire," or even “austerities”. This Yoga Sutra suggests that when tapas is in action, the heat generated will both burn away impurities and kindle the sparks of divinity within.
There is recognition that this isn’t easy. Tapas is the willingness to do the work. To build the discipline, and the internal muscle of commitment. In yoga, we see it as commitment to your practice - to make time for the mat even when you don’t want to be there. Even if it’s just 10 minutes - make that happen.
We also experience tapas when we hold a pose that little bit longer than we’d like to! You’re restraining yourself from moving and observing what happens, testing your limits and building capacity to tolerate strong sensation or discomfort. The discipline to stay when you want to run away.
So when that feeling of wanting to skip your yoga practice comes up, approach it the same way as you do when you need to hold a pose. Notice what’s happening. And make a commitment to move through it.
The “if-then” technique
This tool is effective for when you really don’t want to do practice. It’s basically a pre-plan that you have in place as an alternative to opting out completely.
Columbia’s Motivation Science Center show quite promising results from the use of ‘if-then planning’ and how it ties into the brain’s preference for contingencies. For example, you could do the following:
If I feel too tired to practice an open class after work, then I will go to meditation instead.
This is a really simple but proven effective for those moments where mood, fatigue, and motivation begin to wane.
Avoid “what the hell” thinking
We’ve all done it. We get so far and then we blow it. And instead of picking ourselves up and dusting ourselves off, we say “what the hell” and eat the entire contents of our fridge or give up on going to class for weeks.
Accept the fact that you may not achieve all the steps to reach your goals, but don’t let that be the reason you quit! Similarly avoid being too hard on yourself for messing up. It simply isn’t healthy. Forgive yourself, be kind and try again tomorrow.
Reconnect with your “why”
Something inspired you to make a change, to start practising yoga.
Think about this decision and how you feel when you complete a class. If you’re like me, no matter how I’m feeling when I enter the yoga studio, I always feel a greater sense of lightness, peace and contentedness by the time I reach Savasana.
Through creating a powerful, colourful, bright and bold “why”, we provide ourselves an anchor to keep us rooted in our motivations for diving in in the first place. Just like a boat tethered to an anchor won’t ever stay completely in one spot, when the tides and the waves push it around it moves a little but it keeps coming back into its centre, held by the anchor. Your why is a little like this!
Reconnect with that and let your why be the bridge over the chasm of self-doubt and other commitments, and hopefully the lure of skipping class will fall away.
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