New Year, New Habits
How can you bring your yoga practice into the New Year?
How can you set the intention of a regular mind-body practice while creating the habit of practice?
Practicing yoga is one way to enlist the wisdom of our minds AND bodies, to generate a lasting shift – if we stick with it. A lasting shift happens if we are able to create new patterns, consistent patterns of behavior we call habits.
James Clear has written a book about habits titled Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, a New York Times bestseller. In it, Clear lists four intervention points for habit management.
In order to encourage a good new habit, the intervention points are:
- To make it Obvious (visible)
- To make it Attractive (enticing)
- To make it Easy (convenient)
- To make it Satisfying (rewarding)
We might not be able to use all the strategies in developing a good new habit, but we can focus on the interventions that are most effective. I am intrigued, wondering how this meshes with one of the joys I find in yoga, that is, yoga is an enjoyable way to challenge our patterns of movement and patterns of mind.
How can we get into the habit of yoga for the New Year?
Here are 4 ways to bring your Yoga Practice into the New Year!
- Obvious Strategy: To enlist the obvious strategy, Clear makes the case for clarity in our intention. Intention is familiar to yoga practitioners. Clear states that people often don’t have so much trouble with ‘willpower’ as with clarity. In order to envision yourself following through, fill in the sentence: I will __(activity)__ on __(day)__ at __(time)__ in __(place)__. Now your imagination can see you actually doing it!
- Attractive Strategy: Make a date. Is there a friend who you would like to see more often, and/or one who you know shares your interest? By using a commitment device, you can make your clear intention more attractive in two ways. One, you enjoy the activity and enjoy the person’s company. Two, it is very unattractive to be perceived as the person who backs out.
- Easy Strategy – There’s a word for that in Sanskrit, sukham: comfortable, happy, easiness. It is used in Sutra 2.46, Sthira sukhamansanam: stable and easiness in posture and presence. There is a connection between being stable and being comfortable. By finding your steadiness you grow your comfort; by creating ease you grow more stable. We can make things easier for ourselves as we start to cultivate a habit by building the habit with a series of small steps, instead of making a giant leap. The first thing to do is show up. Step one: every day take out the yoga mat with the rule that you’re doing yoga for just five minutes. Grow steady in how you show up, and your practice can expand from there.
- Rewarding Strategy: I appreciated that Clear makes a distinction between types of rewards. He points out that bad habits tend to reward us in the short term (donuts taste so GOOD), and good habits (like avoiding donuts) tend to be more rewarding in the long run. Consistent yoga practice provides many long term rewards, but it can be difficult to recognize them because they develop very gradually. In the practice of yoga, we also take the time to notice the rewards in the now. In this moment, we sense gratitude for our breath, for our abilities and the connection between body and mind.
The beauty of developing a yoga habit is that the practice itself develops our ability to pay attention and expands our awareness. By giving ourselves a structured way to pay attention below the neck, we enroll the mind AND body in remembering our intentions.
Written by: Mary Kluz, MS & RYT-200. Mary Kluz is works in organizational health and leadership and is Associate Professor Emerita with the University of Wisconsin- Madison, Division of Extension. Mary is a Registered Yoga Teacher at the 200 hour level with Yoga Alliance and is a certified 200 hour Viniyoga Wellness Instructor through the American Viniyoga Institute/River Flow Yoga Teacher Training School. She teaches weekly yoga classes at 5 Koshas Yoga & Wellness where she focuses on stress reduction and centering.