I’m used to starting and stopping things. I’m either really into it or completely over it.
The sticky middle where you just stay with it is not my forte when it comes to work or activities.
While this may be a proclivity of mine no matter what, I’m pretty sure dieting cemented it in place. There’s nothing like starting and stopping 65(+) diets to get you into that cycle.
So when it comes to a regular yoga practice — well, let’s just say it doesn’t come easy.
Or, sometimes, at all.
My old approach to creating a regular yoga practice looked something like this: (1) commit to starting an intense, vigorous practice for at least 60 minutes every day. No exceptions. (2) Do that for 2.5 days. (3) Stop for 5 days. (4) Try again for 1.25. (5) Stop for good. (6) Beat myself up incessantly. (7) Repeat as above.
Yep, that’s also my old dieting cycle — pretty much verbatim.
Once I began to let go of that old dieting cycle, I started working with intuitive eating: noticing when I’m hungry/full, checking in about what I want to eat, nurturing myself with food.
Over time, I realized that I could make a similar shift with my yoga practice — connecting more with what my body wants than what my mind says I “should” do.
Some people fear that this will cause them to have their yoga practice only be Savasana. But I’ve found that isn’t the case.
When I really listen to my body, it wants a wide array of things. Some days it wants to flow through a bunch of sun salutations. Other days it wants to stay completely on the ground. Most days are a mix. And the more I check in with my body before, and during, my practice, the more likely I am to find what’s going to make me feel really good that day.
Interestingly, this also makes doing my practice on a regular basis much more effortless.
Because I’m not forcing it, I’m also not resisting it.
In fact, I usually look forward to it.
How to Give This a Try
If you’re interested in trying this yourself, here’s what I suggest:
Begin with Centering: Start with at least 3-5 minutes of centering. I like to do a seated meditation, but you could also lie down or do anything else you like. After at least a minute or two of breathing and settling in, I ask myself what I’d like to do that day.
Trust the Answer: I often scoff at the answer that comes up (no matter what it is). More sun salutations? How absurd. More supine leg stretches? Been there; done that. As soon as I get into that judging mind, though, everything goes off track. So I’m learning to trust the answer and follow it, no matter how ridiculous or unwanted it may seem.
Keep Checking In: As I continue through my practice, it’s easy for me to move out of my intuition and right back into that judging mind: “Wow; this is going great! Now let’s do Plank for 7 minutes!” Odds are pretty good that a 7-minute Plank is coming more from my achieving mind and less from my intuition. So I’m learning to continually check-in: once is never enough for me.
If You’re Going to Set a Goal, Make it Feeling Good: If it’s helpful for you to have the container of a goal, make it feeling good during and after your practice. What this means will vary from day-to-day, but it won’t let you down.
If you’re in a similar process with dropping dieting and doing what feels good for your body, see where else you can apply that principle. It’s amazing how many ways it applies.