Make a serious commitment to your yoga practice, but don't take yourself too seriously!
Back in December 2014, after celebrating a landmark, new decade birthday, I revealed that I had been practicing yoga for 45 years, since age 15. Why have I been able to maintain a home practice for so long? It comes down to three simple keys in my experience:
That is it.
Step one: What is commitment? Just as inspirational speakers have emphasized that "decision" means cutting off all other options, to me a commitment means a decision that comes from one's inner core, is heart felt, and unwavering. External factors have no influence. At age 15,when it was clear that I risked becoming an unfit couch potato because I was klutzy and not getting much exercise, I made a commitment to a gentle yoga practice which promised energy, flexibility, and serenity. I had always innately known that out bodies are "temples." I believed that a lifetime daily yoga practice would be an important way to "bless" my body temple. Ten years later, on the eve of turning 25, I made an additional lifetime commitment to daily aerobic exercise to optimize my health.
Step two: What is consistency? I define consistency - when it relates to yoga and other forms of exercise - as meaning at least 5 times a week. When I began yoga and later jogging (the latter has since been replaced by jumping on the trampoline), I made sure that I practiced these at least 5 times a week if not 6 or 7. But, it had to be 5 times minimum. Why? If you want to maintain a yoga practice for life, it must be part of your daily life - it must become an integral part of your lifestyle. Period.
You can benefit from less - no doubt (and a college classmate recently told me that attending a weekly yoga class has alleviated pain in her shoulders and strengthened her back), but I always believe in maximizing your benefits. For at least two months - 60 days - practice 5-6 times a week. None of the "21 days to build a habit" idea that has been bandied about by motivational speakers for years, I believe at least two to three months of consistent practice are essential for creating a practice you will maintain for life.
Step three: What is creativity? Well, life happens and sometimes your schedule gets blown to smithereens. Or a family member becomes ill and you have to tend to them and have no energy or time left to practice. Or, you suffer an injury (7 years ago I broke my left foot and 7 months ago, I tore an inner ankle ligament in that same foot).
How do you keep practicing in these situations? Well, if you have been consistent in your yoga practice for at least 60-90 days, missing a single day will not undermine your lifetime practice. You will FEEL like something is missing and the next day your body will be itching to roll out your yoga mat and stretch into bliss.
If your schedule is shortened on a given day and you have only 5 or 10 minutes to practice rather than your usual 20-30 minutes - no worries. Practice a pose or two, or shorten the holding times for your poses. When my schedule becomes abbreviated, I hold poses for 10 to 15 second each instead of 30-45 second each. Finding a creative way to do some yoga almost every day, no matter how challenging, ensures that your entire psyche stays geared toward keeping yoga in your life, for life.
If you become injured, you will have to be cautious. Depending on your injury, you may not be able to do any yoga or you may have to adjust your practice. I have suffered an injury in my left foot twice. During both situations, I adapted my poses and my practice. When my foot was broken, and I was not allowed to put ANY weight on it, I had to skip the left side of poses or keep my foot up in the air (kind of weird, I know - but I was determined!). I adapted. A year or two ago, I recall reading in Yoga Journal that a woman who had major surgery of some sort could not do any yoga for a few months. What did she do? She practiced yoga in her mind and her recovery was swifter than expected.
Maintaining a yoga practice for life does not involve a complex formula or going through major hoops. It just takes commitment, consistency, and creativity. And one other ingredient - a sense of humor and fun. Keep it light so you "keep on keepin' on!"
Laura Venecia Rodriguez, The Beginners' Yoga at Home Coach