Hey Heather, it's me again.
I’ve hit a milestone. 1 000 consecutive days of yoga. I for one am unimpressed. It was never a goal. It’s incidental. And now that I think about it, it’s kind of irritating. What about all the other habits I want to do regularly? Why haven’t those worked? What gives?
Leading up to the regular practice, I learned about habit building in part from the episode Creatures of Habit by the podcast Hidden Brain. Here are some of the decisions I recall. Maybe writing it out can help me with the other habits I want.
Choosing a start date
Last week you said Monday. Yesterday you said tomorrow. When does choosing a date actually work? I still don’t really know. But I’ve learned that when your routine is disrupted by a significant change, that is an opportune moment to start a new habit. I definitely have bad habits from past disruptions, so why not try for a good one. I started the yoga practice on my first day at a new company. I was already going to shift my wake up time by 30 minutes, so instead I shifted it an hour earlier.
I will come up with an excuse for any, and every day of the week. From refusing exertion because it’s the weekend, to calling Thursday the weekend’s aperitif, I will convince myself not to do the thing. Knowing that from past attempts, I knew I had to set the rule: this is daily. No breaks. No more excuses. No more but it’s Cyber Monday.
Tell me what to do
A few months before I started the practice, someone mentioned the YouTube channel Yoga with Adriene. Had it not been for this channel, I don’t think I would’ve started. I didn’t know what sequence of movements to do or how to do them. It just looked like fancy stretching. Of course I knew there was more to it than that. Having a guide explain the sequences reduced the friction to start. My only prep work was checking out the list of videos, and making a playlist of a few shorter ones for the days I’d feel lazy.
Speaking of lazy. We all have days where we’d rather just not. I needed to preemptively address this. Mentally — because I don’t use a timer — I set a range I deemed acceptable. If I really, really don’t feel like doing it, I confront myself with Oh, so you don’t even have 5 minutes? Which is promptly followed by an eye roll and a ughh, fineee! from my inner teenager.
Setting a trap
The decisions I make are useless if I forget them. Years ago, when I had a gym membership, I used to schedule training in my calendar. If only I had consulted it. This time, I decided to set a trap. I placed my mat at the threshold of my bedroom. This way, the moment I stepped out of my room my thoughts would be interrupted and I’d be reminded of what I had to do.
No suit for you
Shout-out to those who get changed more than twice a day. It can’t be me. I used to be a runner. Suiting up was part of the motivation. This oddly didn’t ever translate to other activities. It was always such a drag. I don’t want to get changed again. So my sleepwear now has the added requirement that it needs to be comfortable enough for yoga.
Push-ups are a lie
I don’t believe in push-ups. I don’t do them. I don’t care. Attempts to convince me are unwelcome and frowned upon. If you like push-ups, that’s great. You do you. But I’m over it.
Stop. Collaborate and listen to what my body is telling me
When I began, I had no idea what I was doing. The videos would describe the movements, and then I’d have to hold a position for 200 years. I was weak and often failed. But in a moment of clarity I realized: (8)you do it to yourself, just you; you and no one else(8).
There is no one in the room but me. I’m choosing to follow the instructions. I can also choose to adapt them.