Tip Tuesday: Breaking Habits

Tip Tuesday is a weekly feature where I offer a few yoga tips that have worked for me in the hopes that they can help you too.

The process of changing habits sucks. Just ask anyone who’s quit smoking. Although the end result is positive, it’s an uncomfortable re-patterning curve to get there. It never fails to amaze me how much our habits on the yoga mat often reflect our habits off the mat. For example, if you slump in front of the computer, you’ll frequently find yourself unconsciously slumping in poses.

When you’re faced with the often daunting task of breaking a habit, the mat can be a good place to start. You can consciously make small changes that are easier and not as emotionally hard to do. By practicing less dramatic changes, it gets you in the “habit”, if you will, of riding through the discomfort of change to prepare you for the next leap off the mat.

A few ways you can do so:

Clasp your hands in your non-habitual way Interlace your fingers, then move your fingers over one. It will feel weird because you’re in the habit of doing the other way. But like breaking other habits, it’s going to feel weird for awhile as you start a new behavior.

Mix up what foot you start on If you usually start off on the right on one-sided poses, do your left side first or vice versa. If you are doing sun salutations, switch off what foot you begin with. Kicking up to handstand or forearm balance? Make sure you also do it with your non-dominant leg.

Take the down-level That goes for advanced students too. Purposely do the more basic version of the pose. Re-connect to the basic mechanics of the pose. Observe if your mind goes crazy because you’re “not doing it hard enough.”

Change your focus For example, in triangle pose, instead of aiming to get your fingers to the floor, prioritize getting length in both sides of the waist. Or pick an area of your body to work with and find how you can connect with your chosen spot through every pose.

Know that it will feel awkward and wrong and you won’t want to do it. But if you can break a habit successfully on the mat, you know you can take a small step towards busting those larger bad habits.

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