When I stop practicing yoga regularly, I begin to forget how good I feel when I am practicing regularly. On a physical level, my joints ache, my digestion goes batty, and my posture suffers. On a mental level, I can’t focus, I overanalyze and become reactive, and I worry needlessly. I then judge myself as a ‘bad’ yogi. Perhaps the most profound effects for me are on an energetic level. I fade much more quickly and on top of that I don’t sleep as well. Together, these effects of not practicing yoga compound upon one another. This makes it almost impossible for me to get on the mat. How could I? I have a ton of mental and emotional baggage with me — we don’t all fit on the yoga mat!
It’s not just yoga. The truth is most of us procrastinate improving our health. The most common New Year’s Resolution is, you guessed it, “Get fit and lose weight.” By June, most people who set resolutions have forgotten them (40%).
This cycle of setting resolutions, failing, and then setting them again each New Year is so common, that psychologists Polivy & Herman named it the False Hope Syndrome. Here’s how they describe False Hope Syndrome:
First, people undertake a difficult (or impossible) self-change task. In particular, as the statistics cited above indicate, attempts to rid oneself of undesirable but intrinsically rewarding behaviors such as overeating, gambling, smoking, and alcohol or drug use are common yet rarely successful. Although people may achieve some initial progress in this task, ultimately they fail to achieve their goal. Then, having failed, they interpret their failure in such a way that the failure is seen as far from inevitable; people convince themselves that with a few adjustments, success will be within their grasp. Alternatively, people acknowledge that the task is difficult (though not impossible) but believe that the rewards of success make repeated attempts worthwhile. Finally, they embark on yet another attempt, propelled by their memories of their previous, limited success and/or their positive expectations for the future. This cycle is liable to continue indefinitely.
When making a behavior change, it’s important to have confidence and hope, but not overconfidence. “People who believe that they can succeed are more likely to succeed than are people who do not.” (Polivy & Herman). Overconfidence occurs when we set unrealistic goals or try to achieve things that just aren’t possible.
Why You’re Not Practicing Yoga
We talk to a lot of yogis here at ShareYoga.com and we’ve noticed some common themes around why people don’t maintain a regular yoga practice. Some of them you may experience your self and some may be new.
- Strict Rules
- Not knowing how
- Not creating space (physically, time, & emotionally)
- Stuck in ego
- Limiting definitions of yoga
We explore each of these deeper in our first week of lessons at our online course Summer of Yoga.
How to Begin (or Begin Again!) Practicing Yoga
Some of the keys to practicing yoga consistently are to replace negative self-talk, find a supportive community of yogis, and create SMART goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based. We have created worksheets to help you do this and they’re available in Weeks 1 and 2 of the course.
For example, setting an intention is great, but let’s see how to turn an intention or resolution into a SMART goal.
Starting Intention: Practice yoga.
Make it SMART:
- Make it more specific: I want to practice yoga so that I will feel good each day and increase my flexibility.
- Make it measurable: I will measure it by checking it off in my journal/worksheet/app/schedule and having an accountability buddy/yoga coach.
- Make it attainable/approachable for where you’re at: I will start with half sun salutations for a minimum of 10 minutes & link my breathing.
- Make it realistic: When I’m traveling or working late, I will take a 10 minute break and practice yoga. That will count towards my daily yoga practice. I will celebrate this as my yoga practice.
- Make it time-based: I will commit to doing this daily by practicing compassionate discipline with myself. (We explore the concept of compassionate discipline in our course quite a bit. It’s really helped us understand our own limiting beliefs.)
We can’t wait to hear about your intentions and help you turn them into SMART health goals. We created Summer of Yoga to help you create a consistent yoga practice with the support, knowledge, and accountability you need. It’s all online and self-paced so you can start wherever you are. Class starts June 21st but we’re keeping enrollment open through July 15 for any latecomers. Don’t wait until the New Year to set a resolution to improve your health. Let’s get started today.