There’s an entire branch of psychology, Sports Psychology, devoted to sports and the study of those who exercise. A clarification here, yoga is NOT an exercise. The physical benefits are fringe benefits…they are not the main reason for the practice.
However, here in the West we tend to lump yoga in with running, weight training and a myriad of other physical activities. I think it’s fair then, to look at some strategies psychology has to offer to “stick to” a physical exercise program.
The Association for Applied Sport Psychology has several such recommendations.
#1 Keep it Fun
Over and over again this recommendation comes up. You are more likely to do something you perceive as fun and pleasurable. If it feels like, or you view it as, torture, the odds are you are not likely to do it for very long. Most people don’t enjoy the dungeon experience. This is not a judgment on those who do.
What is fun? Michael is fun.
Michael Jackson makes my butt move. It’s true. Put on “Beat it” or “Billie Jean” or any of a plethora of PYT infused songs and my hips, legs and feet can’t help but dance.
And I’m not alone. Last week when I was in Disneyland’s Captain EO—Michael’s 1986 sci-fi film created for Walt’s company—people literally cheered, applauded and shouted when asked if they like Michael Jackson.
At One Flow we regularly play Michael, J.T. and Gaga. We honor the elements Earth, Wind and Fire. We know Beatles and Stones are uplifting and Beyonce and Britney are infectious. We do this to bring awareness and a sense of joy.
Yoga is the direct experience of life. Yes we have our challenges, our difficulties, our fears, worries and doubts. And we have an amazing capacity for joy…joy expressed through movement, laughter, dance and song.
“The Yogis and the Sufis, in their meditation, have always had music. Today music has been made a pastime, the means of forgetting…instead of realizing.” Hazrat Inayat Khan [Sufi Teacher]
#2 Begin Easy and Slowly Increase Your Effort
True story. I once had a man who was brand new to yoga sign up for all five classes offered that day. He did them…and I never saw him again.
Yes he’s at the extreme end but many people take their first yoga class, “overdo” it and then are out for the next week or worse, discouraged.
This practice takes time to learn. It takes time to build strength and to bring flexibility into rigid areas. Yes the basics come pretty quickly…maybe six months to a year. But nuance and subtlety take a commitment of years to discover. Give yourself the time. It’s not a linear path but again you are not really learning about a physical practice, you are learning about yourself.
My own approach to yoga is this. It is a practice I will do for the rest of my life. I feel better, more connected, more joyful, more loving, more grounded, more vibrant, more alive, when I practice. Why wouldn’t I want to keep practicing?
#3 Practice with Friends
I love practicing with my friends and highly recommend bringing yours with you when you practice. Somehow it makes humble warrior just a tiny bit easier when you look over and your BFF is making a face at you. Many people “discover yoga” though their friends. It may be one of the greatest gifts you ever offer.
And when you fly solo, know that you are a part of a community that cares about you. I have seen many beautiful, rich friendships develop among people who met at yoga.
Simple. Grab a mat (or borrow ours), bring a friend (or make one), and we’ll put on the MJ. The chaturangas are up to you.