Happy New Year! Have you made any New Year’s resolutions this year? Time and time again, I see students start a new year on an optimistic note with a clear resolution to exercise more and do more yoga. Some manage to stick with it for a while, but most are lucky to get through the first month with their resolve intact.
I find that most exercise resolutions end up being short-lived for four main reasons:
- Too much, too soon. Many students are eager to get going and choose programs that are too hard or too long. If you do not have an existing habit of daily movement, committing to an hour of boot camp-style training every day is not likely to last. It makes sense to start with something simpler, shorter, but regular to build a habit first; you can always expand from there.
- Relying on willpower. Willpower is a limited resource and tends to run out just when we need it most. Willpower does not work when it’s up against our ingrained habits and a seductive call of a new streaming show. It is particularly difficult when doing something new (like exercising regularly) requires multiple steps, giving you time and space to bail out at multiple points. For example, if you want to go to the gym to exercise, you need to figure out a big chunk of time to fit it into your day, get off the couch, put on exercise clothes, gather your gym things, drive/walk to the gym, put your stuff in the locker, and only then you can begin. When you are trying to build a new, healthier habit, it helps to reduce the number of steps it takes to get started or to lower the barrier of entry. For example, it is much easier to get going if all you have to do to get started is to stand up. Doing small movement routines that don’t require much preparation or equipment at home helps lower the barrier of entry and get you moving right here right now.
- Disconnection from the actual experience of movement. I like to try different exercise programs for fun, and I am continuously surprised at how often movement instructors encourage us to disassociate from our actual physical experience. They will either tell you to “lift this, move that” without any pointers on where to direct your attention or even encourage you to think of something else while you are moving your body, as in, “I know your abs are on fire right now, just imagine yourself on a beach somewhere.” When we simply power through exercise (or yoga) without paying attention to our actual experience, we train ourselves to separate our bodies from our minds. How is that a good idea?
- A vague future benefit that leads to a loss of motivation. To successfully change a habit (of not moving to moving regularly, for example), you need to give your body and mind a Bigger Better Offer by consistently demonstrating to yourself that you feel better when you move. To be able to do that, you have to pay attention to how you feel before moving, during moving, and after moving. If time after time you feel better after than before, and you intentionally register it to yourself, your brain will get the message and make this new behavior the preferred one more easily. But if you simply suffer through your exercise routine in hopes of some future reward, it would be much harder to return to it again and again.
To summarize, forming a new habit of movement requires keeping that movement regular, doable (both in length and intensity), readily available, and conscious. With that in mind, we decided to offer you some short yoga practices to make it easier to infuse movement into your life and attend to your body, energy, and mind. Every two weeks, we will release a new short (around 15 minutes) practice that you can easily fit into your day. You can do it when you’ve sat too much, feel stiff, stuck, unproductive, distracted, or just need a break. Each practice is “come as you are,” meaning that you don’t need any equipment or special preparation to do it. We call them Yoga Boosts because they are meant to move your energy along its Vayu paths to relieve physical stiffness, promote smoother energy flow, and facilitate better health.
Each Yoga Boost will have a predictable structure:
- We will start with three deep breaths and simple arm sweeps to center ourselves and get grounded.
- We will continue with 5-7 simple standing body movements that are meant to loosen up your body and move your energy along its main channels (Vayus) in a logical sequence. We will take new energy in, process it, distribute it throughout the body, release excess, and then use it for our growth and evolution.
- After movement, you will do a short breathing practice to center and energize yourself.
- We will finish with a short meditation meant to recenter your mind, free you from distractions, and remind you of what’s important in the moment.
Yoga Boosts are meant to help you move through your day more productively, smoothly, and gracefully. We hope that you get into a habit of doing one of those practices each day, either when you feel the need or at specific points of your day (for example, after dropping kids off at school, before teaching a class, or to avoid a 3 pm energetic dip). Please sign up for the HappyU newsletter to get those practices delivered to you every two weeks. The first practice is available now; please give it a try and let us know what you think!
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