Several years ago I read something that said something along the lines of 'mastery' simply being the result of doing things you've committed to and decided you would master, even in the moments when you really don't feel like it. I resonate with this, and have often returned to the lightbulb moment this perspective gave me, on days when I do not feel like showing up on my yoga mat. When I manage to overcome the obstacles of getting onto my mat (which are usually made up excuses), almost always, I'm happy I practiced. Very seldom, if ever, do I regret taking the time to do yoga. Can you also relate to this?
The benefits of yoga are too numerous to list, and so rich for those that feel the effects of a regular practice on their well-being. Life can feel challenging sometimes, and having something to return to that brings a greater sense of peace, is priceless. I've learned that for whatever reason, the yogic combination of focusing on the breath while putting the body into these powerful shapes, has the ability to transform my thinking, and leave me feeling more relaxed, happy, and content, time and time again.
However, to reap the benefits of yoga, one must actually practice yoga. This can be the biggest challenge of all! When teaching yoga, I often tell students during the first few minutes of class, that they've already completed the hardest part, just by showing up to class.
With so many benefits, why can it still be such a battle to get yourself onto your mat? Whatever the reason might be, finding solutions to your excuses can make your yoga routine a more regular and beneficial occurence.
Here are 9 tips that make it easier to do yoga more consistently.
1. Enjoy Practicing
This might be the most important tip. If you don't enjoy yoga, you're unlikely to keep showing up. Keep trying teachers, studios, and styles until you find something you love. It's simple, we're more likely to do things repeatedly, that we actually enjoy, instead of feeling like we 'should' be doing them.
To enjoy the practice, it's often finding the right teacher that strikes the delicate balance of effort and ease for your unique body. When class is way too hard, it's easy not to want to go all the time. When classes are too easy, you can get bored and also be less motivated to go. When you find those perfect teachers for your body, where you leave feel perfectly worked, but also enjoy the process, you'll be more likely to show up over and over again.
Practicing yoga can feel tortorous if you allow it to, or you can have moments when moving with your breath is nothing short of ecstatic. Remember, you get to choose. Play your favorite music, find teachers that are lighthearted, don't take yourself too seriously, and remember to make your yoga fun.
2. Join a Studio (or Online Studio)
In his book Willpower Doesn't Work, Benjamin Hardy argues that it's the environment that creates motivation and drive, not merely our own internal willpower. When we've committed to an environment where we practice yoga, like a studio, we are far more likely to show up and practice. When you have a place you go, teachers you know, and a studio fee you've already paid for, showing up on your mat becomes more second nature.
Don't have a studio you love near you? Fortunately, online studios, like YogaDownload, where I teach, are virtual studios that you can access from wherever you are, and still build ongoing practices with a variety of teachers. Technology makes accessing yoga easier than ever, and it's amazing as a teacher to read reviews from students taking class and reaping the benefits of a regular yoga practice, all over the world.
3. Take a Teacher Training
Some people go to teacher trainings with the aim to teach, while others know they don't want to teach, but go through a training to take their practice to another level. One of the main benefits of doing a teacher training is that you leave with the understanding of how to structure and sequence a full yoga class as well as much more in-depth knowledge of healthy alignment.
This information makes it much easier to actually roll out your mat and know what to do, versus having to guess how to sequence the poses.
4. Develop An At Home Practice
Similar to the tip above, having your own routine to practice yoga at home is a difference maker in the amount of yoga you do. While a teacher training can help, you might surprise yourself with how much you can piece together on your own, just from the amount of classes under your belt. Again, if you don't like to practice without a teacher's guidance, you can still develop an at-home yoga routine with online channels!
5. Create Accountability
Accountability works. Whether you make your own accountability group with friends where you set weekly life goals (and practicing yoga can be one), make a yoga group where you go to class together once a week, or make it a more casual commitment with a friend, the bottom line is telling people you are going to do something, makes it more likely you are actually going to do it.
While it's not always easy, being in integrity with our word is crucial to begin to trust ourselves. So while you might be more likely to back out of practicing on your own, when you commit to it to other people, you will be more likely to go. It can be as simple as making yoga dates with friends!
6. Teach Yoga
While this might not be a practical tip for everyone, the accountability that teaching provides, might be the reason alone that I've kept showing up to this practice for so long. I highly doubt it, but who knows, maybe if I had not begun a path of being a teacher, I would have let go of yoga a long time ago for new passions and pursuits.
Part of being a good teacher however, is maintaining one's own practice. There's definitely worse things to have to maintain, than a yoga practice, to stay on point at your job! The difference in my teaching quality when I am immersed and showing up in my own yoga practice versus when I'm not, is noticable. If I get lazy, the fact I teach yoga to others, keeps me motivated to get back on my mat, and humbled at the never ending and lifelong relationship to this practice.
7. Mix it Up
Some of us are creatures of habit, while others are fans of variety. Many of us lie somewhere in the middle. Doing the same things in the same place day in and day out, can begin to stifle excitement about anything after awhile.
With so many unique styles of yoga, each with their own benefits and approach, you don't have to get into a rut of feeling bored or uninspired in your yoga. Try a new style if you're feeling unmotivated. When I'm practicing at my most, my practice is a mix of Vinyasa, Hatha, Ashtanga, Hot, and Yin. It varies, and sometimes for periods, I lean into one of those styles more.
What matters isn't the style, but the fact that we practice at all. Throw in a Yin class once in awhile if you need help in relaxing, you might really like it. This is again where the internet can provide many diverse options, and more and more in-person studios are offering a greater mix of classes on their schedule.
8. Set a Goal of Number of Times to Practice Per Week
Simply picking the number of times you want to show up for yoga each week, can give you the needed structure to practice more. If you've been stuck at one class per week, but know you want more, maybe pick three or four days a week to practice. If you're at zero, or once a month, even one or two practices per week has the power to make positive shifts in your life. If you practice regularly, but want to take it up a notch, challenge yourself to five or six days a week, or sign up for a yoga challenge, which supports you practicing everyday for several weeks to a month.
Remember, there's no rule on how much you need to practice, so explore what number is ideal for you!
9. Be Reasonable & Gentle with Yourself
We are not robots, nor are we here to be perfect. While we might aim to show up six days a week, if you find it's not really possible with your routine at all times, go for four days to start and add on from there. What's important, is you set objectives that are attainable, even if challenging. Don't make unrealistic goals and continually find yourself disappointed over and over. Set yourself up for success instead.
The same goes for how your body feels and the intensity of your practice. If you find you're overdoing it and your yoga is actually feeling more detrimental, than beneficial to your body, take it down a notch! Remember, one of the foundations of yoga is Ahimsa, which means non-harming, so always listen to your body to ensure the practice is actually benefiting you.
Conclusion: Regardless of your previous experience or preferred practice style, playing with some of these different tips can make yoga more of a regular thing for you. If you know yoga makes a difference in your mental and physical well-being, keep practicing and make showing up on your mat a priority in your life. Not only do you benefit from yoga's magic, but so can the people in your life.
By Keith Allen
Keith teachers Vinyasa & Hatha yoga and Meditation on YogaDownload. He also teaches 200-hour yoga teacher trainings in Thailand. Practice with him below, or contact him via his website or Instagram for more information on enrolling in a teacher training in the Thai islands.
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