Beginning Your Day With Movement: Creating A Lasting Habit
Beginning the day by connecting with your body can be incredibly valuable and I found the discipline of yoga to be a very accessible way in which to do this. Even if it’s just for ten minutes (which is sometimes exactly how long my morning yoga practise is), the very act of carving out this time just for you cultivates a relationship with yourself that is generous, loving and supportive. Before the external world seeps in, time alone with your body and breath is a moment’s pause to find out where you are at on any given day and choose how you want to start your day.
There are of course days when it is just not possible to do a morning practise, and those are the days that yoga off the mat comes in and what your really learning in your practise is revealed.
At the beginning of trying out this new start to the day, I found it extremely difficult to set my alarm earlier than necessary. Actually no, setting the alarm was extremely easy, it was getting out of bed the next morning whilst my partner slept soundly beside me that was difficult. Throwing off the covers is never easy; the bed is cosily warm and outside the bed is not! My eyes are always ready to re-shut at a moment’s notice...and sometimes they do...it is delicious and sometimes just what is needed...I know this now.
Tip 1: Choose a space in which to practise. Even if this space cannot be solely dedicated to yoga, create within it your intention to be there each morning. I practise in the living room, and keep a beautiful basket there stored with a yoga mat, blanket, candles, lighter, journal and clothes I love practising in.
Some say that it takes 21 days to form a habit whilst others say it is different for everyone. I believe building a new habit is definitely a personal experience; you are challenging only yourself and like the habit that eventually becomes part of who you are, it is unique to each of us.
For me the first month of aiming to do thirty minutes of yoga first thing was a huge challenge. Every morning I snoozed away five minutes at a time, some mornings I simply did not get up in time to do it and other times I did ten minutes. Looking back, I realise that this was all part of my journey to creating the desired habit. The inner dialogue that would take place each morning often included getting angry at myself; angry because I had decided to do this and angry because I could not do it. When I skipped the very thing I had set my alarm for, I often felt regretful, annoyed and even guilty; the opposite of a good start to the day!
Tip 2: Explore what kind of practise works best for you. I find first thing in the morning I really enjoy being led by a teacher. There are some amazing online classes to be found and many different styles of yoga. I love the focus on breath and energising effects of kundalini yoga (Kia Miller every time!). Hatha yoga can also be a lovely way to wake up and breath into every corner of your body . Other mornings ten minutes of guided meditation (again lots of choice online) is how I tune into my body and breath. Enjoy finding out whats right for you. Please feel free to contact me if you would like further suggestions and ideas.
Several times I got myself out of bed after not sleeping well or going to bed late. It felt unnatural and the yoga practise an abrupt interruption to precious sleep time. On those days I felt sleepy, irritable and could only think of bedtime! When I finally got to my bed, my body was so grateful that I was finally giving it what it had been asking for all along.
I gradually began to understand that listening to the body was an integral part of yoga and choosing to practise yoga was choosing to listen to the body both off and on the mat. I realised that if a daily morning practise meant bullying myself out of bed then I wasn’t really practising yoga.
Tip 3: Be kind and patient...towards yourself.
I gave myself a challenge; be nice! I resolved to be more forgiving of myself, more graceful, especially in the morning. I wanted my yoga practise to begin with truly listening to my body and trusting that it often knew best. Gradually I began to decipher between the chattering mind persuading me to stay in bed, and my body telling me it needed to rest right now. I chose not to get angry or annoyed and instead was supportive of what was needed on each unique morning I awoke. As a result I found that I was doing a morning yoga practise more times than not. Once I had given myself a choice and embraced not needing to do it every morning, I realised I quite wanted to do it.
Following the first month, I soon found a morning yoga practise becoming a habit that was naturally growing to be part of me. I accepted that getting out of bed would never be fun, but that despite this, my mind, body and heart began to gravitate towards this moment on my mat in the silence of the morning before anything else. (I promise that your first cup of coffee will taste even more delicious!)
As a beautiful side effect, I discovered recently that the soundly sleeping partner is actually only half asleep and rather likes hearing me breathing and moving on my mat; according to him I am creating a lighter and brighter space for him to get up to! Indeed, it can feel that after carving out this time for yourself that you are lighter, with a clearer mind and more available for those around you.
For me a healthy habit is something that is completely yours, something that is healthily selfish and ultimately allows you to serve others in your own unique way. It may take 21 days to cultivate the habit, it may take longer, it may take less. However long it takes, everything that is experienced along the way is part of the journey towards creating a new habit that is lasting, continually evolving and one hundred percent you shaped.