Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about forming positive habits. As a health coach, it’s my job to guide my clients to their wellness goals. I find that all too often, we focus on the end goal, exercise willpower, get overwhelmed, and fall right back into old habits. We forget that our life is the sum of small habits that we repeat every single day (usually without thinking about it). The obvious question; how do we form new habits? James Clear describes the process wonderfully in his article the 3 R’s of Habit Change.
After reading the article, I understood how I had built a strong yoga habit years ago. It was the winter of 2011 and I was sick. My body had experienced a systemic staph infection, full body dermatitis, and severely compromised immunity in a matter of months. I was weak, tired, and often quite scared. Every time I did yoga I felt calm and confident despite the uncertainty in my life. I knew it was a really important part of my healing. So, I decided to get up at 6:30 every morning to do an hour & a half practice. My willpower lasted a week, maybe. I was trying to use willpower to do something I knew was good for me but I was tired and sick. On many occasions, I simply felt too weak to get out of bed at 6:30 for a physically demanding yoga practice. So, I’d roll back over and feel guilty when I got up several hours later.
At some point a thought came to me. Why 6:30 for an hour and a half? Yes, when I’d traveled to a retreat in India a couple years prior, this is what we did and it felt awesome. But was it possible that this goal was a bit out of reach right now? Perhaps, I simply needed to enjoy whatever yoga I did and let my body decide at what time and how long I would practice. I switched tactics from, 6:30 every morning for an hour and a half, to, when I wake up I will step on the mat. No longer was there a specific start time for my practice nor did it matter how long I practiced. I would wake up, whenever my body was ready, and step on the mat. I promised to listen to my body and congratulate myself whether I was on the mat for five minutes or two hours.
James Clear says that you have to make a new routine so easy that you can’t say no and that is exactly what I did. There were plenty of mornings where I sat down on the mat for five minutes of Pranayama, other mornings consisted of a round or two of sun salutations followed by a long Savasana, and yet others would end an hour and a half after I stepped on the mat. I was proud of myself no matter what I did and followed my bodies wisdom. As might be expected, over the course of several months, my health returned and with it came a longer practice every morning until the “impossible” happened. I started jumping out of bed every morning, excited to step on the mat. I had become the type of person who did yoga every day at 6:30 for an hour and a half.
Hana Renee works with young professionals whose health is holding them back. She guides her clients to mindful living and abundant wellness by giving them the knowledge to be empowered, the skills to be successful, and the support to stay on track.