Want to know what the hardest part of yoga is? Showing up. If you're struggling to establish a regular practice or even just get to your mat, even though you know yoga makes you feel better mentally and physically, you're not alone. This is one of the main challenges I hear from my students.
People often say "showing up" is half the battle, and I would say that that's at least a very important part of it. Taking the first step is often the hardest part of anything. And what is "showing up" anyway? It's that first step. It's making yourself present. And showing up or taking that first step again and again, and again, over time, is the definition of consistency. Consistency happens one day at a time, step by step, but with a bigger vision in mind.
A lot of people tell me that one thing they want to improve in their yoga practice is their consistency. A common story I've been told is that someone practices yoga over a period of several years, attending a studio class or free classes here and there whenever they randomly come up. This inconsistency has resulted in them never really scratching under the surface of yoga, never truly understanding what it's about, getting better at it, or experiencing its deeper benefits.
For about ten years, this is how I practiced yoga. And I always enjoyed it when I went, but the real transformation didn't happen until I decided to dedicate more time to it and really dive in (thanks to all the introductory membership months I tried out at studios all around town for helping me get started with that!). I used to really struggle to be in some of the most basic yoga poses, such as downward facing dog and forward fold. And as the saying goes, "if you don't use it, you lose it." I've found this to be pretty true when it comes to my physical body. If i don't keep everything moving on the regular, and if I miss even a week of physical fitness, I often feel like I'm starting over from square one. So it wasn't until I started practicing yoga asana regularly that I began to feel stronger in my legs, stretchier in my hamstrings, more open in my hips, my posture improved. My overall balance and stamina improved, and doing vinyasas and chaturangas several times throughout a session now energized rather than exhausted me.
And this doesn't even include the benefits of incorporating the other elements of yoga more consistently into my life. Like how cultivating a meditation practice and bringing yoga philosophy into my daily life has helped me slow down, become more aware and present, thoughtful in my communication and action, and so much more. So, as much as I believe we should embrace change, I also believe we should embrace consistency.
One thing I've noticed about people these days is that they have a very difficult time with commitment. I'm not sure if it is because they are uncertain of what they want, don't want to let others down if they change their mind, are waiting for something better, or simply maintaining strong boundaries. Leaving room for being flexible and going with the flow, or honoring personal boundaries are important practices, but I have seen them also become a detriment if not balanced by some structure and responsibility.
By avoiding commitment to other people and things, you ultimately avoid committing to yourself and your personal development. Growth happens within the throes and depths of commitment, when you are riding that edge of challenging yourself just enough, but not staying totally in your comfort zone. When I think of commitment in terms of a yoga posture, I think about how taking a bind ( and metaphorically "binding" myself) allows me to actually go deeper in the pose, feel its nuances, and find more expansion within that confined space. Another benefit of commitment is that energy follows it. Commitments give direction to energy, whereas without it, it is easy to get distracted by shiny objects. Committing helps you establish priorities.
Improving your commitment, motivation, and consistency may require a mindset shift as well. Many people look at yoga as simply a fun social activity or luxury, which makes it easy to bail on your practice for something more “important.” Yoga’s benefits may not always be as immediately obvious, such as the soreness of a strong workout or the relaxation of a glass of wine, but the benefits are indeed there (if more subtly achieved over time). Yoga is a holistic therapy or “workout” for the mind, body, and soul. If you want to get in touch with your true essence and the purpose of life, yoga is a path that, walked consistently, can help you live the fullest version of your life.
But how does one actually get better at these things? That is the million dollar question. Here are my six tips for that. But remember, tips are nothing more without action behind them. These tips will only work if you actually show up and put them into play:
Set up a warm and inviting space that calls you in and inspires your practice. The more that your personal or spiritual practice has a dedicated home in your house, the more dedicated you will be to it as well. I recommend adorning the space with things that bring you joy or make you feel connected to your practice, such as natural elements like flowers and plants, or candles and essential oils that invigorate you. If you don't have a lot of room in your house, you can even just set up a small simple altar or place a photograph on a wall or corner that symbolizes your connection with your practice. Check out this video I made on building an altar for more tips on creating your sacred space. If you can, leave your mat rolled out and place props nearby, which will make it easier to get on your mat since it's one less step. Take Action: Find a space in your home where you could practice yoga and place one thing there to make it a little more special.
What do you want to amplify or cultivate more of? Or maybe you have a specific goal you want to achieve like being able to touch your toes or do a certain pose by the end of the month? Setting an intention or goal can help increase your motivation by giving you something to work toward. Your intention can be for one specific yoga session, one day, month, or even a year! And it is allowed to change, as long as you continue to stay true to yourself always. Specifically with setting a goal, you know that you will only see results if you stay consistent.
On a deeper level, have you ever actually asked yourself why you practice yoga? What does yoga do for you and how does it make you feel? What is the cost of not practicing? For example, you might want to practice mobility every day so that you can play with your kids and live a long life. Or you may find yourself much more irritable when you don't meditate and ground yourself each day, which has had a negative consequence on your relationships. Finding and holding onto this deeper "why" is one of the most powerful ways to stay committed to anything.
Intentions, goals, and your "why" all act as a guiding North Star for your practice. They help you see what is important and give you purpose for showing up. Take Action: Write down an intention or goal you have for your practice, or your "why" and place it somewhere you can see it every day (or even in the yoga space you created from #1!).
Some people find they work better by simply following their intuition when moving through their daily activities. But I would say that most people strive with a little more structure, or even sticking with the same routine from day to day. If you haven't yet tried it, pick a time to put on your calendar to dedicate to your daily practice. Setting time aside for something shows that it is a priority to you, and it also allows your brain to begin to create a habit, because once you get used to it, there is less thinking and planning involved. You can simply look at your calendar and follow exactly what it says to do! In fact, I recommend to schedule anything and everything that is important to you into a calendar (even better if you can set it to notify you!). A great way to set time aside for something is called "habit stacking" where you stack the thing you want to become a habit next to something else that already is a habit. For example, if you make coffee every morning or go out to take your dog on a walk, you can pair 10 mins of yoga asana or meditation with that activity, doing it right afterward.
You don't even have to practice every single day. The goal is just to practice on the same consistent schedule or about the same number of times each week, over time. Swinging like a pendulum intensely in and out of practice is simply a very hard way to improve or achieve long-term benefits in anything.
It's okay to be a little protective over your time. Having boundaries and prioritizing your self-care is not selfish. Practice saying no to other people and things so that you can say YES to yourself. In turn, you will show up as the best version of you. Take Action: Right now, take out your calendar or planner and schedule 10-60 mins into your calendar at least once a week. Make sure to set a notification or alarm to remind you when it's time!
One of the most common and untrue excuses we humans make is "I don't have time." In most cases, the reality is that it's just about what your priorities are. If something is truly important, you will re-prioritize and make time for it. When it comes to your spiritual and self-care practices, a little bit can go a long way and make a world of difference (especially when done over time!). Even just a few minutes of movement or meditation each day can really set the tone. One of my favorite concepts is that the subtlest shift in the compass needle can change the course of a ship by miles.
One idea is to stick with a set sequence (sun salutations for example). This could ease the pressure of having to be creative, and instead allow you to focus on staying consistent. When you keep things short and sweet, expectations low, it's a lot easier for you to stay committed and not make excuses or cop out. It's also easier to make time for it, and once you've carved out a little space in your life and planted a seed, you can slowly begin to nurture that seed and watch it grow, adding on a little more time and space as you go.
Ultimately, it's not about how long or intense your practice is, but rather the fact that you show up, follow through with your intention & commitment, and give it your best (another of my favorite concepts, from the book the Four Agreements). Take Action: Pick one simple thing to do the same every day for the next week. This could be one yoga pose that you practice, one meditation you find on Insight Timer, or anything else that comes to mind.
There are many different ways to practice yoga. Poses, meditation, breathing exercises, thinking about how you can bring philosophies, teachings, and class themes into your daily life. Even rest can be yoga if done with awareness and intentionality. Alternatively to what I suggested in #4, switching things up and trying a new style of yoga could help re-awaken your inspiration and motivation, because sometimes we just need to look at things from a different perspective. Additionally, adding variety or finding a balance of different things can help avoid burnout and boredom. Cultivate your "beginner's mind" and get curious - try reading or watching a video about yoga, trying a new teacher, or letting a certain "mood," theme, body part, or song guide your practice for a boost of inspo. In some cases, for some people, it might work better to simply get on your mat, turn off your thinking mind, and let your body move you. Be flexible and accept that what happens is exactly what you needed that day to nourish yourself. Take Action: This week, explore one of the 8 limbs of yoga that you've never explored before. Google, watch a video, or read an article about that limb and see how you can incorporate that into your daily practice.
First, start by taking this quiz to find out what your accountability style is. Everyone is slightly different in what it takes to get yourself to do what you want. For many people, having an accountability buddy - another person who can do the thing with you (things are always more fun when shared!) or remind you to do it - is one of the most helpful things! So invite your friend to a yoga class or join an Instagram or email challenge. Make your goals and intentions public if you don't mind having a little social pressure to help you follow through. Sharing your goal with someone whose opinion you respect is even more powerful. Research also shows that when you write down your goal, you are up to twice as likely to follow through with it. Another way to keep yourself accountable is to track your progress with photos, videos, journaling, or even simply marking days off on a calendar so that you can look back on how far you've come. Giving yourself a reward every time you do your practice can also be very reinforcing!
Money is another huge motivator. The more money you invest, the more committed you will be. Studies have shown that being in a membership program or community also helps with this. When you pay for something in advance and are part of something bigger than yourself, you are more likely to show up for it, give it your all, and get as much use out of it as you can. If you are interested in seeing how this strategy would work for you, check out my Living Yoga Membership.
Consistency has so many benefits. But I think there's one more important thing to say. Showing up for yourself, for your self-care practice - consistently - is the basis for showing up how you want to in life. We can only serve others and create a positive ripple in the world when we are showing up to nourish ourselves first. And that is what your consistent yoga practice is.