I know so many people that would love to practice yoga, but can’t seem to make it work when it comes to fitting in into their routine. I can totally relate. After starting and stopping many times over the years, I’ve now been practicing consistently for 2 years, so I thought I’d share what has worked for me and hopefully you can apply it to your practice as well.
Here’s what I did to fit yoga into my life in a way that was practical and realistic:
1. I started with baby steps
I started with just one day a week. While I didn’t think one day a week would produce dramatic results, I really wanted to incorporate something more mindful and calming into my life. In previous attempts, I always aimed for at least 3 classes per week, then I’d fall short, get discouraged and eventually give up. Ironically because I was actually meeting my goals this time, I was feeling good about it, rather than beating myself up for not doing enough. That created a positive momentum, and gradually led to more classes. So just start with one class. That’s it. No big monumental promises, sweeping resolutions. See what happens.
2. I let go of the gym
Let me just say, I still go to the gym regularly, so I’m not advocating giving up all other workouts in favor of yoga. The letting go was in my head. I realized that I was mentally addicted to the idea that when I was at the gym, I was getting a “real workout”. I was trying to maintain my regular workout schedule and add 3-4 yoga classes on top of it, and I simply couldn’t find the time. Little by little I would substitute a yoga class for a traditional workout and still felt great, actually better. I began listening to my body and doing what felt right. Which meant sometimes more yoga and sometimes more gym. But I had to get over that initial belief that I was missing out on a better workout. (Not all types of yoga provide the same physical challenge – see my post Why I Love Yoga to see what type of yoga might be best for you).
3. I learned to ignore my ego
Nothing brings a consistent practice to an end faster than injuries. The lower back, wrists, and knees are the most common, followed by shoulders, hips and ankles. Why so many injuries from yoga? The main reasons are usually 1) incorrect form; and 2) moving into advanced poses too soon. We can get caught up in comparing ourselves to other people in the class, trying to “keep up”, and judging ourselves and our practice. It’s important to remember that the person beside you may have been practicing for 10 years, or maybe they don’t know what they’re doing or, perhaps they are creating injuries that will show up in a few years. The point is, you need to focus on where you are in your journey and what your body needs. ”How we show up on the mat, is how we show up in life.” So if you are competitive by nature and/or tend to be hard on yourself, this will show up in your practice. By being aware of it and observing yourself on the mat, you can prevent it from taking over your practice. Seek out teachers that correct form and are mindful of safety. You can also use blocks and modify poses.
4. I learned to be flexible
A consistent practice doesn’t have to look a certain way. In the past, I would have stopped going if my practice didn’t look the way I thought it should, especially in terms of frequency. Now I work with the ebbs and flow of my schedule, energy and mood. One of the best things that have helped me be flexible in my practice are yoga DVD’s. I use them when I’m traveling or when I can’t make it to my favorite classes. The challenge is finding a DVD you actually want to do. This may take some trial and error. Luckily, Gaiam has just launched a new website called GaiamTV . It’s an online subscription-based model where you can have access to a variety of teachers and classes, all downloadable through their website. It’s a great way to avoid boredom and try different styles and teachers without buying dozens of DVD’s.
Personally my favourite DVD right now is Body by Bethenny (yes… Real Housewives Bethenny). Whatever your feelings about the Bravo! reality world, this DVD is actually quite good. While Bethenny bring the celebrity factor and some humor and banter to the experience, the yoga instruction is done by Kristin McGee – a popular teacher in New York city. Her instruction is clear and not at all annoying (which can happen when you do the same workout over and over again). It’s not too spiritual, and at 40 minutes, is very compact to fit most schedules. Most importantly… I find it to be a solid workout for beginner to intermediate levels. It’s challenging without being super advanced (no headstands or anything like that). Lots of poses to work the lower body, as well as the core and the arms and they give tips on how to make things easier or harder, depending on your level and how you’re feeling.
5. I found my yoga style
This is one of the most important things. Over the years I’ve tried many different types of yoga and when I was doing ones that weren’t working for me, it was difficult to find the motivation and the classes seemed slow, boring and frustrating. I started my yoga journey with Ashtanga and loved the flow, intensity and challenge of these classes. I experimented with Hatha and Iynegar but found them too slow. I really wanted to like Moksha and Bikram because so many people swear by these hot styles, but I found the heat too intense and too much emphasis on still, balancing poses. I’ve realized that I prefer more movement and dynamic flow. So just because you’ve heard a lot about a certain style, or your best friend is hooked on it doesn’t mean you’re going to love it. Find the style that suites your personality and preferences.
As you can tell I’m very passionate about yoga. A regular practice feels amazing. I can’t imagine not having had yoga in my life these past few years. When you create a practice that works for you, it can become part of your lifestyle, not just another health kick or fad. So in the spirit of spreading the zen, I hope that some of the tips I’ve shared may work for you.
Enjoy the journey.