Getting Started and Keeping Going in Your Yoga and Meditation Practice

Creating Habits of Health and Happiness through Yoga and Meditation

“... This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the  chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.
I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: 
          Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. 
          Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!’
 W. H. Murray in The Scottish Himalaya Expedition, 1951(the whole quote was formerly ascribed to Goethe)

Over the twenty years I have been teaching Yoga, the most consistent obstacle to students receiving the benefits they seek is beginning the journey. Once the search has begun the next obstacle is finding the practice that will address their needs and intention. In that regard all Yoga classes aren’t created equal and the search can be part of the fun. So I invite you to remember amidst this process of change that Yogis remind us that “Yoga practice {maybe}begins as chore, becomes and habit and transforms into a joy”.

As great as Yoga generally makes us feel, maintaining consistent practice can often be a struggle. Energy level, moods, doubts,  going out for ice cream, guilt about taking time for oneself, conflicting activities and home life all seem to conspire to undermine our intentions to add Yoga to our lives. As a consequence, it is often hard to get ourselves to practice until we make a fundamental commitment to ourselves. Motivation and commitment to any practice is the basic challenge to be met in order to achieve any success, yet Yogis have long acknowledged that the degree of involvement is at least partially dependent upon your life stages and goals.

Authentic commitment can occur when the question you ask yourself is not whether you will do Yoga, but just how will the Yoga you do fit into the  fabric of your life in a sustained way. As the quote from Murray infers above, at this point creative avenues open to help develop your yoga practice despite of or even utilizing the apparent obstacles the had blocked you before. Therefore the skilful approach to any discipline, Yoga included, involves developing ways to compassionately sustain involvement as better habits slowly replace lesser ones, until joys increasingly replace the moments of doubt, struggle and drudgery.

Some suggestions to sustain a Yoga or meditation practice in your life include:

  • Decide to do  it—commit by affirming the direct benefits Yoga has for yourself enumerating the indirect ways those benefits also impact those in your  life—better health and mood, less stress, more overall energy, etc. You don’t yet need to know how this will happen to set the intention.
  • Set short term and longer term practice goals that address what you want to get from Yoga. Many motivation experts suggest “SMART” goals that are Specific, Measurable(and meanigful to you), Attainable, Realistic and Timed.  Even if you aren’t a one to nermally set specific goals you can take some time of crystalize one or more intentions that will help steer your course. Frame them positively; for example:seeking tone and flexibility as opposed to gettin rid of this fat or stiffnes. I believe this is most effective as it opens thing up to allow for more enjoyment and gains both in the process and in the long run. Let yourself be surprised and pleased if you get more good stuff than what you planned!
  • Yogis have stated “The best and most powerful Yoga practice is the one that you will actually do.” so balance determination with compassionate  acceptance of your present situation. Don’t over promise (length of time, frequency, etc) and set yourself up for failure, don’t underestimate your   capacities and limit the benefits you can attain.
  • Create a spot for yourself in your living space to practice and set consistent times to practice as best you can.  Acquire appropriate “tools of the trade”—mats, blocks, music, etc. that make the space comfortable and pleasant to be in.
  • Keep inspired—read books, use videos and tapes to support practice, bring new ideas and re-invigorate your practice.
  • Find a class; go to workshops, retreats, etc alone or with friends. The phrase “community over willpower” asserts that group energy can be reinforcing and fun in any endeavor. It can get you started and keep you going. Honor and  communicate difficulties and resistances with a teacher or fellow student  worthy of trust, every question or issue that comes up can be resolved.  Often resistance undermines us at significant points of our unfolding and  provide opportunities for healing to happen as they are resolved.
  • Stay with it—when your enthusiasm wanes go back to step one and recalibrate your efforts and commitment to your present circumstance.

Let yourself find your  own favorite approaches on this list and your own list of things you do do succede in your other endeavors. The basic skills of success are the same in most of our endeavors and a good deal of the excitement of Yoga practice early on is seeing these successes mount and learnign to look at any difficulties as lessons learned along the way. Good luck and I hope to see you down the road!