You know that feeling when you leave a good yoga class. You’re euphoric. Every cell of your body thanks you for giving it exactly what it needs. You tell yourself, “I’m going to practice yoga forever. I always want to feel like this.” And for awhile — three months, six months, maybe even a year — you’re committed to a regular practice and feeling wonderful.
Then something gets in the way — a short illness, an important meeting — and you skip a class or a home session. You justify it because you’re busy and you’ve been doing so well. Then it happens again. Soon, you’re out of your yoga groove and struggling to get motivated again.
Why resistance happens
It’s part of human nature that we tend to self-sabotage and procrastinate. Psychologists find that this behavior is often learned in early childhood and continues into adulthood, unless you take active steps to counter self-defeating thoughts and habits. But it is possible — and common — for people to overcome this type of emotional resistance.
How to counter resistance to your practice
The longer you’re away from yoga, the more daunting it can feel to come back to the path. But you will be surprised how quickly your body and mind remembers the joy to be found in your practice. You can try any (or all) of the thirteen techniques below to get back on your mat.
- Don’t beat yourself up. Many people are raised to believe that self discipline and a critical inner voice go hand in hand. In reality, being forgiving of yourself can help you break procrastination habits. A 2010 study of university students found that those who forgave themselves for procrastinating were less likely to procrastinate in the future. Cultivating a loving relationship with yourself supports good self care, including a regular yoga practice. And more yoga helps you cultivate a more loving relationship with yourself! Instead of berating yourself, name your behavior without judging it and affirm your intention to restart your practice.
- Don’t believe everything you think. Our minds are very adept at coming up with excuses. Just because your brain is telling you all the reasons it’s not possible for you to continue a regular yoga practice, doesn’t mean they’re true. Get back to yoga — and meditation — as soon as you can, it’s the best way to create new, positive thought patterns that support your practice and your life.
- Journal. Take out a journal and write down all of the positive effects you’ve experienced from yoga. It will act as inspiration to restart your practice. You can even post encouraging little notes to yourself: on your mirror, on the wall next to your desk, anywhere you’ll see them frequently.
- Get set up. Being organized can reduce resistance to hitting the mat. Make sure your yoga clothes are clean and at hand, along with your mat and props. If everything is ready to go, you can’t make excuses so easily.
- Commit with a friend. Sometimes it’s easier to show up when you know you’re expected. Ask a friend to join you in class once a week and agree to act as accountability partners for each other. Have a cup of tea together after class to make it even more fun and social. Be sure to choose someone you feel will keep you accountable, not someone who’ll simply help you make excuses!
- Track your progress. Research shows that the very act of tracking a behavior can help shift your actions into alignment with your goals. Keep a log of your yoga practice, so you can look back with pride at the times you’ve managed to attend a class or get in some home practice.
- Clean up your diet. Good habits have a tendency to foster other positive changes. You may have found that regular practice of yoga made you clean up your diet. It can work in the other direction as well. Eating healthy food can give your body energy and your mind the clarity you need to make the decision to head to class.
- Schedule it as “me” time. Though our modern culture is known for its relentless pursuit of material goals, for many, the pendulum is starting to swing back in the other direction. People are realizing that self care and setting aside time for personal growth is important. Consider yoga a sacred time that you set aside for your own well being. Put it on your calendar and honor that time as you would any other important commitment.
- Set micro goals. If you’re really struggling to get back into things, set a series of tiny goals to ease yourself back into a routine. Perhaps the first day, you decide you will wake up and practice five minutes of pranayama. The next day, you commit to two rounds of sun salutation. Make it easy to achieve and often, you’ll find you’re willing to exceed your micro goal. A small time commitment everyday will better help recreate your habit than a large time commitment that happens less frequently.
- Commit to a teacher/guru. Use your great respect for a yoga guru as a means to recommit to your practice. Commit to your teacher that you will attend class and you’ll find that your respect for him or her can lead you to do good things for yourself.
- Buy a class card. Making a monetary investment can help you overcome resistance to showing up at the studio. Buy a class card with a fixed expiration date and you’ll find that the thought of wasting money provides an additional incentive to show up.
- Make contingency plans. Sometimes another commitment is truly important enough to make you skip a class. Have a contingency plan ready for such time. “If I can’t make the Tuesday night class, I’ll go to the one on Friday evening.” Then if your plan A fails, you already know how to keep on your path without having to stop and consider how to get back on track.
- Double down on your commitment. Schedule a yoga holiday or even take a teacher training course to deepen your practice. Dedicating a significant chunk of time to yoga can reignite your commitment like nothing else.
Yes, modern life can get in the way of our practice. But you can always come back, and more easily than you think. This moment, and every moment, you have the choice. Your yoga practice is something you deserve and something you can do to benefit all beings. Dedication to your practice will help you bring forward values our society sorely needs, such as self-control, humility, kindness, empathy, and moral courage. Yoga is not just a gift you give yourself, it helps you bring forth your gifts to the wider world. Recommit today.