We live in a busy world. We are plugged in, always contactable, spend long -hours commuting, working, consuming – even our rest time is filled with achieving. We are bombarded with information day and night, are aware of the negativity of the entire world in a blur of headlines. No wonder it can sometimes feel like there is nowhere to escape to.
Stress and anxiety have become such an inherent part of modern living that most of us have felt its effects at some point – an upcoming exam, a demanding working environment, family or relationship issues, an upcoming job interview, pressure to be thin, ambitious, successful, better. Often this constant sense of pressure leads to anxiety, a feeling of intense worry or fear that is difficult to dispel.
If anxiety takes over it can affect every aspect of our lives – we can feel powerless, no longer able to handle the normal ups and downs of daily life. At times like this mindfulness or yoga can help to return us to a state of balance, but it is also when we are most vulnerable to defeat, and it takes time and effort to cultivate this type of practice.
The time it takes to build a yoga practice may initially seem like it’s not worth the effort
When we first come to yoga, we come because we want to change something in our lives – we recognise that our lives lack balance, that we are working too much, or not taking enough time to relax, and we want to prioritise our health. Our new practice begins with enthusiasm, but we often set goals that are not achievable, or expect immediate results. In this world of instant gratification, where the things we want are readily available and we are conditioned to expect fast results, it is through no fault of our own we can mistakenly expect our physical and spiritual growth to be the same.
Before long, the reality of our new practice dampens our enthusiasm. Physically we feel tired, and our muscles feel stiff and sore. The physical practice requires effort and presence, and when progress is slow the time it takes may initially seem like it’s not worth the effort. Sometimes we skip a class because it’s easier than facing its challenges, and then begin to feel guilty about failing to live up to those unrealistic expectations we set out with. Our new practice begins to cause us more stress, and this is the point when our commitment to change can fall by the wayside and it becomes easier to slip back into old comfortable patterns. Remember, the ones we were so keen to change in the first place.
changing old habits can be difficult but it not impossible – all it takes is patience and perseverance
Fortunately, the story doesn’t have to end here. It is possible to change old habits, to succeed in developing new patterns of behaviour, to begin, nurture, and sustain a yoga practice that not only fits into your busy life, but helps to alleviate anxiety, relieve stress, improve your physical condition and create a place of inner stillness where you can escape to when everything becomes too much.
While beginning this new practice, and changing those old habits can be difficult it is far from impossible, and once the initial hurdle is overcome the maintenance of this new behaviour becomes something you look forward to, something positive and nurturing. The physical and energetic awareness that builds through the practice of asana and pranayama connects you to a deeper understanding of yourself, body and mind. These are the benefits of persevering through the difficult beginning weeks, when you are tired, struggling with the challenges of the practice, struggling with leaving the old you behind and welcoming in the new.
When you are facing life’s challenges it is not easy to look beyond the immediate difficulties to that bold new future where you have grown because of them, but facing physical and mental challenges on your yoga mat teaches you how develop this ability – you will replace the old stress response with a calm and practical approach that sees challenge as nothing more than a taller step to climb.
The ability to face and conquer challenge is about creating a new way of looking at it, of seeing it not as something outwith your control, but as something you can handle if you break it down to the sum of its parts, take a deep breath, and get to work. On and off the yoga mat the approach becomes the same. To create this change in your life begins with two things – the decision to start, and the determination to see it through.
Here are a few simple changes you can make to keep you coming back to your yoga mat time and time again:
It is tempting to jump into your yoga practice with too many classes too quickly. This can become overwhelming, and result in tiredness. Start small and allow growth to happen. Fit a class in where you can, and start there. When the time is right you will find more time for your practice.
Accept that it will take time
Making progress in yoga is slow and requires consistent effort, over a sustained period of time. To succeed in yoga you need a simple plan – practice regularly, keep going even when you feel like you are getting nowhere, accept that it will take time, and try not to focus on results!
Just show up!
Whether it’s 20 minutes or 60 minutes doesn’t matter, only that you show up. You can vary your practice to suit how you feel.
Set manageable goals
Develop a strong foundation, don’t be in a hurry to progress, allow your body time to strengthen, advance when you are ready not because you feel you should, and work with an experienced teacher who will modify your practice to suit your needs.
Find the right balance
Do less when you feel tired, do more when you have energy, and this way you will find the right balance, and will feel joy in attending your practice.
Choose the right class
There are many different styles of yoga and your success could depend on something as simple as choosing the right class. Ask questions, find what you are looking for in a yoga practice.
Establish a short bedtime routine
Sleep deprivation is a proven cause of anxiety and yoga can promote longer and deeper sleep, helping to develop a regular sleeping pattern. Establish a short bedtime routine consisting of one or two relaxing postures, and some yogic breathing. Get your yoga practice working for you outside of class time.
Find time to meditate
Meditation is not an easy practice, but the benefits are worth the effort. It can deliver a sense of self acceptance, a connection to a greater understanding of the world, and a sense of inner peace and stillness. It seems complicated, but really it is not. Find a class that allows some time for meditation and get started.