Yoga: Staying Dedicated

Something that many people struggle with when they begin practicing yoga is simply staying dedicated to their practice over a period of time. Starting up a new habit such as yoga can be a real challenge, especially if the habit is something very new and unfamiliar - which a new exercise routine could certainly be and this can lead to a lot of distractions and ultimately a giving up of the new habit or practice.

New habits can be very difficult to develop. They require a great deal of time and dedication and will power and without those things it’s very unlikely that new habits will become long term ones unless it’s by accident or some outside force. New habits require a tremendous amount of perseverance within the first month that they are beginning to be developed because this is the period that those habits are least ingrained into your life. This is the time where people most easily succumb to distractions or temptations or forgetfulness so it’s during this time that it’s most important to stay focused on your new goal.

With yoga, like any other exercise routine, it’s really easy to not want to get out of bed early enough to fit your routine in or to just come straight home from work instead of heading to a class or the gym. It’s also easy to make excuses like not having enough money or time or energy to keep up with your yoga practice. These kinds of excuses, while they may seem valid at the time they are being made are never really anything that can’t be worked around or rearranged to keep you focused and dedicated to your yoga practice.

The best way to keep yourself on target with your yoga practice is to use a combination of two different tools to make sure that you stay committed to the goals you’ve set for your yoga practice. These two tools are motivation and willpower.

Willpower is sheer force - it’s what gets you moving when you really really don’t want to be. It’s a big burst of energy that pushes you forward and keeps you going for a little while. It’s like the initial launch of a rocket - it’s the fuel that pushes you through the biggest resistance (the gravity field) and past any big obstacles that might prevent you from taking on your goal.

Motivation is like the ongoing fuel burners of the rocket. They don’t have enough power to push you through your gravity field but they’re enough to keep you going after the first tough parts are past. Motivation is what keeps you focused on your goal after your willpower has burnt out.

So the idea here is that you implement these two tools in kind of a rotating sort of a basis. You use one and then the other and change them back and forth as the situation or circumstances call for it. When one tool runs out or doesn’t have enough to keep you going you use the other to push you forward. After a while these tools will also being complementing each other in such a way that they sort of fuel each other as well as you.
For example lets say that your goal is to do a half hour of yoga every day for thirty days straight. That’s a good straight forward goal with measurable results. Now if you just head right into this goal without any planning or preparation the odds are that by the end of the first week or so you’ll either have missed a day or two or you’ll have given up on your goal entirely. The reason is that without planning or preparation you’re likely to give in easily when distractions or temptations come along. So if your friend has a party that just happens to be right when your yoga class is one night you’re bound to blow off class and go hang out. Or if you stayed out too late to that party the night before the odds are pretty good that you’ll sleep in and skip your yoga practice in the morning.

Life has plenty of little obstacles that can throw us off course from our goals if we let them. However with some willpower you can push through those obstacles and keep focused thus increasing the likelihood of reaching your goal. The way you employ willpower at the beginning of a new goal or project is by using it to set up an environment that makes the completion of your goal more likely. So when you’ve got that big burst of dedication going do all you can to prepare for your goal. Put your yoga mat right by your bed, set your alarm for a half hour earlier, enroll in a months worth of classes and pay for them in advance if you can - whatever it takes to get you ready. Once you’re all ready your motivation from being prepared and making changes will keep you moving through the first stage of your new habit.

Now eventually there will come a time where your motivation wanes, you aren’t that interested in doing yoga for thirty days straight (or whatever your goal is) and you feel like quitting or giving up. This is where you begin a cycle of using those tools and your willpower kicks back in. Your willpower is what pushes you through the little periods of time where your motivation isn’t enough to keep you moving towards your goal. Now when this cycle begins eventually a few things will start to happen. Your motivation will build up your willpower by strengthening your resolve in your goal. If you’re motivated and excited about doing your yoga consistently you replenish that supply of willpower just by moving forward with your new habit on a consistent basis. Now when that motivation drops out again and you begin to push with that will power to keep moving something will shift because this is usually about the time that you start seeing results. Once you get to see some of the results of your goal (whether it’s weight loss, more energy, becoming stronger or whatever the case may be) your motivation will kick back up because you’ll be excited about your goal all over again.

So this cycle of willpower and motivation is really an amazing way to make sure you stay on track with your goal and as long as you keep leveraging these two tools there’s no reason why you can’t achieve your goals.

Eventually, once you’ve made it past the stage of creating goals for your yoga practice, you’ll be in the stage of creating a habit out of your practice which is the most important stage to get to. If you can turn your practice into a habit then you eliminate any resistance you might have to sticking with your routines. Instead of having to drag yourself out of bed in the morning to practice you’ll just do it -because it’s a habit. And instead of wondering if you should just take a night off from your yoga class you wont even think about it because you know you have class that night.

What will have happened is you will have used the process of first setting goals, using various methods to achieve them, and then eventually building a habit to keep you dedicated to your yoga practice. I’m sure it’s not difficult to see how much easier it is to establish habits in your life if you have a map for success showing you the way to do it.

So when it comes to your yoga don’t take a flimsy approach to it and just hope that it will work out for the best and that somehow (magically) your yoga practice will ingrain itself into your life without you having to put in any effort. The best things in life are worth a little work and that’s exactly how it is with yoga. Take the time and dedication to make your yoga a habit and in the long run you’ll be grateful that you did.