As you may have seen from my previous post, I’ve just completed a 30 Day Yoga Challenge. The goal of this challenge was to grow my yoga practice, but moreover it was to develop the practice of consistency. I want to teach myself the benefits of doing something every single day – not a few times a month, not a few times a week, but every day. Yoga was the perfect vehicle for me to do this because firstly and most importantly, I enjoy it; it’s something I can do on my own, at home; it’s been part of my life for nearly fifteen years, and it’s something I always come back to. And yet somehow, despite all these things, I still find myself resisting practice! I feel resistance coming to my mat every morning despite feeling the benefits of the practice almost immediately; despite the commitment I made to myself and others; despite how the practice positively reverberates through the rest of my day. This is not new for me. There have been periods in my life when I have totally abandoned my yoga practice because I was going through something that I wasn’t yet ready to face. The beauty and the pain of doing yoga is that it brings you back to yourself, and if you’re in a period of your life where you are running away from your thoughts and feelings, the thought of doing yoga and coming back to yourself is just too hard. It can be scary to be in your body, to be in your breath and to get out of your own head. This of course is all just my humble opinion from my own experience as someone who practices yoga, mainly on my own at home. Over the course of the thirty day challenge, I used small rituals to help move out of resistance and onto the mat. The rituals I use change sometimes daily, and sometimes I don’t perform them at all if I don’t need the extra prompt before practice. Below I will share what rituals I tend to use and how they help me. These rituals can be tailored to suit you and whatever habit you are working on cultivating.
Why create rituals around a practice?
I find that I experience the most resistance to practicing a habit during the transition time, whether it’s before yoga, practicing piano, writing, the time between activities is when I experience the urge to procrastinate, stall or talk myself out of whatever it is I’m planning to do. Performing little actions before the actual practice eases me into the activity. Rather than going straight from waking up, to sitting myself down at my desk and writing, I make a cup of coffee, I drink some water, I put on warm socks and a cozy sweater. These are all sensory actions that help me to transition into writing. It’s the same with yoga, though the rituals are different. If something feels like a chore, even if it’s something you actually enjoy doing, think about the little things you can do to ease the transition period.
Engage your senses
Performing little rituals that give you a bit of pleasure and comfort help to calm your mind and get into your body. These rituals don’t need to and in fact, shouldn’t take a lot of time from whatever it is that you’re about to do, but they can heighten the experience by providing a sense of calm and comfort. I find that rituals that engage the senses help to get you into your body, out of your thinking mind, and back into the present moment.
Scent: I like to light a candle and burn some palo santo or sage before I write or do yoga. The scent is soothing and lets my brain know that it’s time to settle into something new. I also like to diffuse essential oils while I’m practicing yoga. My favourites tend to be energizing oils like peppermint, lemon, or cinnamon.
Sound: Putting on instrumental or meditative music is a big part of my writing practice and yoga. I like to listen to either classical music, usually piano music, or meditative music while I’m doing yoga. For meditative music I like to use the Insight Timer app.
Sight: As I said, I like to burn a candle – watching the flame even for a few seconds is soothing; watching the way the smoke burns off the palo santo can be mesmerizing. Another thing that I tend to do before I practice yoga is tidy up the apartment. I make the bed, pick up any clothes that are on the floor, put any dishes that are out into the kitchen. I’ll even fluff the pillows and fold blankets on the couch. Generally this only takes about five minutes and I will do it while I’m waiting for the coffee to brew. I must admit sometimes I do tidy as a means of procrastination so I need to watch that I don’t get too carried away, but making my space calm and organized is a necessary part of my practice because I have a hard time focusing and relaxing if I’m in a messy space. The five minutes that I spend tidying also helps me get into my body before doing yoga.
Touch and temperature: This is all about making yourself comfortable and cozy, whether it’s putting on a really soft sweater and a warm pair of socks, or turning up the heat a little bit. Being comfortable is very important if you want to be focused during your practice.
Taste: I always like to have a nice hot cup of coffee or tea to sip on while I’m getting ready to write. When I’m doing yoga, a tall glass of water, maybe with some lemon in it if I’m going to go the extra mile, keeps me feeling fresh and hydrated. I’m someone who derives a lot of pleasure and comfort from food and drinks, maybe to a fault. But there’s no need to deny myself something as simple as a cup of tea or coffee if it means that I enjoy the writing process a little more.
I’m sure there are many other types of rituals or little actions you can take to transition your brain and body into a new activity, these are just the ones that I’ve found help me to get into the space where I’m ready to practice. I think there is a lot of emphasis on hard work and hustle, especially in the realm of self-improvement or accomplishing goals, and it’s easy to be hard on ourselves, and then conversely to experience a lot of resistance and self-sabotage because you’re forcing yourself into something. These rituals help to bring focus and enjoyment into whatever activity proceeds it.
I’d love to read about any of your rituals you’ve created and how they make you feel before and during your practice in the comments :