Yoga – habit v ritual

I love yoga – really love it, and I am often surprised by the difference it can make – not only physically – but also to my mood and frame of mind.

Even so it is sometimes a struggle to get out of bed early enough to fit a quick practice in before my day starts, or to make time in my evenings after a tough day. Therefore I have been giving some thought to how I can make this a daily part of my life and not yet-another item on the to-do list.

Doctor Tobias has a YouTube video providing six tips to help you create a habitual practice that you can follow even when you are tired or when it is a struggle to get to the mat.

These tips include setting goals concerning the frequency, length and appointed times of your practice – and also a regular sequence which can be performed almost without thinking.

Brad Powell writing for the Om Namo Centre blog quotes 71 year old dance choreographer Twyla Tharp who tells us that ‘Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is the result of good work habits.’ Brad explains that willpower is needed and like all muscles, willpower needs exercise in order to make it powerful enough to bring you to the yoga mat regularly.

Offering a completely different viewpoint is Alysha Greig of Lysh Thinks. Alysha explains that habit is something that is built by repetition and, once established firmly enough, can be done almost completely mindlessly.

This mindlessness is the opposite of what yoga should be and Alysha argues that rather than a habit, a ritual of yoga should be cultivated.

This can be achieved through the power of intentions – set for each practice in order to tie mind to movement through breath – allowing us to stay in the moment. In Alysha’s post she outlines several practical hints to help us use intentions for those moments when our minds start to stray during sequences of movements which have become almost second nature to us.

I really like Alysha’s perspective on this and I understand entirely that we will gain more through a practice that is executed mindfully without simply going through the motions. I also know that the more mechanical approach (offered by Doctor Tobias) has it’s merits, especially at 05.30 in the morning when a sequence I can do on auto-pilot is better than nothing at all.

Essentially though – movement creates energy and I know that having (barely consciously) gone through some sun salutations, my mind as well as my body will have woken up. At this point it will be possible to set a proper intention for my practice in order to reap the rewards of authentic yoga.

I would be really interested in how others get yoga into their lives. Is it something you cherish each day (and couldn’t live without) or do you need to set targeted practices in order to ‘get it done.’ Let me know what works for you.

  1. 5 years ago
    Jessica Dickerson

    Thank you for posting this insightful article. I’ve been ‘running into’ the word ‘intention’ left and right, ever since a good friend introduced me to the quote, “intention + motivation + action = manifestation” a few months ago. I agree with Alysha Greig’s philosophy on practicing yoga as a ritual instead of a habit. In the past three months, I’ve tried forming habits with various practices and I’ve stuck with all of them except yoga and I think it’s because I haven’t been stating my intentions with yoga day in and day out. The other habits I’ve formed are pretty mindless, like waking up at a certain time. So I will definitely reevaluate my goals with yoga and be more intentional and mindful of the moment.

    • Digital Panacea5 years ago
      Digital Panacea

      Thanks Jessica – it’s not easy cultivating something that is both mindful and habitual as it requires you to be fully ‘present’ all the time. I guess that is why it feels so right when it works. I certainly need to work at it as I often do my morning practice concentrating almost entirely on things like shopping lists – not the best approach! Thanks so much for your comments :)


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