Yoga is a daily renewal, a practice of stopping, slowing down, breathing and moving consciously, witnessing thoughts, and setting or renewing intentions. This daily renewal might be just 5 minutes of conscious breathing, 10 minutes of meditation, or a 20 minute yoga posture practice that helps you prepare for or unwind from your day. Whatever you commit to practice will often have de-stressing effects that stay with you for 24 hours and help you strengthen will and change habits.
Adopting a new healthy lifestyle habit or changing a less-than-desirable habit is not easy. The road to a new habit is often paved with forgotten promises, temporary setbacks and re-lapses.
What does it take to strengthen will and make a change? We need good health in the form of energy and vitality. We need a fairly steady emotional state so that we’re not derailed by temporary dramas. We need a clear and discerning mind to recognize what helps us and what may hurt our attempts for change. And we need ways to link to our goals. Yoga has many tools to help.
• Yoga postures (asanas) build physical vitality and extend the breath.
• Breath practices improve physiological vitality (good digestion, better sleep, consistent energy through the day), stabilize emotions, and cultivate a clear and discerning mind.
• Meditation provides the opportunity to witness and transform thought patterns that may sabotage healthy habits.
• Intention-setting or renewing our commitment to ourselves on a daily basis strengthens will and helps us remember a goal that we are orienting toward.
Starting a yoga practice may weaken a less-than-healthy habit or give you more energy to take on a new healthy habit such as exercising. People often have a hard time pinpointing exactly how yoga helps. They just know that they feel more energy, sleep better and feel more even-tempered. And those changes in vitality and temperament can pave the path to change.
It’s often best to start with one small change that you can sustain for at least 6 weeks before adding any more complexity to what you expect of yourself.
Renew your commitment to yourself every day by taking a few minutes at the end of your practice to remember your goal or intention and how you are manifesting it through the day. As you work with that change and it becomes integrated into your routine, you’ll feel stronger for taking on another small step.
Mary Hilliker is a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist and Certified Viniyoga Teacher and Yoga Therapist. She teaches group classes, individualized Yoga Therapy and yoga teacher training in Wausau, WI. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.riverflowyoga.net.