Habits are powerful, unconscious patterns of behavior that once formed, play a large role in influencing the direction of one’s life. To a certain degree, our lives go where our habits take us. Our bodies, the vehicle; our habits, the chauffeur.
If you’re anything like me, then you may have noticed that the intensity of your yoga practice surges at times and then peters out at times. You practice regularly for a week or two, and then that drops down to whenever you can actually find the time. It’s a strong likelihood that this pattern of inconsistency affects not only your yoga practice, but other aspects in your life. It’s human nature. While this pattern is certainly natural, for many people it becomes a habit that hinders them from taking their performance and skill in any activity to the next level. For most people, myself included, it’s not that they one day decide they don’t enjoy yoga practice, it’s just that they have not taken the necessary steps to develop the yoga habit.
How to Form a Habit. Habits can be both good and bad, and interestingly enough, creating a good habit pretty much involves the same process as making a bad habit. Without delving into neurological explanations for habit formation, the bottom line is that habits form through repetition and reward. The philosopher Aristotle nailed it on the head: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”
If you want to consistently enjoy the benefits of yoga, then you need to take the steps necessary to make it a habit. One of the best ways to develop the yoga habit is to commit to a 30 day yoga challenge. The heart of the 30 day challenge is commitment. It means making a promise to yourself and following through on it. It means banishing from your life all your old excuses for failure. It means promising to practice each day. Don’t set unrealistic expectations, but commit to a goal that pushes you. Whatever you commit to, do it for 30 days and you will drastically improve your chances of turning your yoga practice into a habit.
Here are a few suggestions for succeeding in creating a yoga habit.
1. Make yourself accountable by practicing with a group of new friends or old. Another aspect of commitment is accountability. Set your goals with friends and hold each other accountable. Even though yoga is a personal practice, it's an amazing feeling to come together as a community and practice together. I still consider myself a beginner, but everything changed once I did a 30 day challenge. I made a great friend who is a yoga teacher at Hot 8 Yoga. We plan to take yoga classes together and we hold each other to it. At H8Y we have a Challenge board where you can place stickers for each day you complete and it's amazing how full the board already are!
2. Prioritize your life. If a 30 day yoga challenge is something you want to commit to, then make it a priority. Use these 30 days to simplify and streamline your life. Examine your current daily routine and activities and determine what really needs to stay and what needs to get the axe. Maybe that means watching less TV or cutting back on social media so you have time to dedicate to your practice. Most people have plenty of time, they just don’t use it well. Depending on how high the yoga challenge ranks in your priorities, you may also decide to temporarily give up otherwise worthwhile activities to create the necessary time. Chances are if you cut something out of your life, you won’t even notice it’s gone in a month.
3. Set a time and have a practice plan. A lot of our daily routine, i.e. when, where, and how we do things, is determined by our habits. Since you’re trying to make yoga a habit, figure out the best time in the day and reserve your spot in a yoga class. Morning or night doesn’t matter so much as picking a time and then sticking to it as best as possible. Plan for it. Remember, you’re trying to form a habit, and consistency will help with that. My advice is to go to bed a little earlier so you can practice in the morning before work. If you know your regular practice time won’t work one day, or something unexpected pops up, have a backup plan in place already so you’re not tempted to skip a day.
4. Educate yourself. Hot 8 Foundations class counts as a class for the Challenge. This is also a very important step in maintaining your motivation throughout the 30 day yoga challenge. Take the Hot 8 Yoga Foundations classes we hold each weekend. There is a different class every weekend of the month. They focus on everything from ‘what is yoga?’; to meditation & philosophy, posture breakdowns and chakras and the subtle body. Chat with your instructor before or after class. Look at the people around you coming to the 30 Day Challenge each day and get inspiration from each other!
5. Write about it. Keep track of your 30 day yoga challenge by writing about it in your journal or blog. You’ll be able to keep track of how certain classes made you feel, whether certain emotions came up, if you felt a burst of energy, if you prefer evening over morning classes, etc. Also, we have 30 Day Challenge boards at each studio where you will pop a sticker on the board for each day you complete! Some of our yogis even try taking multiple classes in a day!
Completing your own 30 day yoga challenge will require discipline, commitment, focus, and sacrifice. It won’t guarantee that you have a yoga habit for life – you can fall out of good habits just as easily as you fall into bad ones – but it will be a step in the right direction. So take the leap, start a 30 day yoga challenge, and enjoy the journey of a daily yoga habit.
Hot 8 Yoga's next 30 Day Challenge starts May 1st! Sign up at your local studio online or in-studio. If you haven't tried us out yet, we offer a free week at all studios!