Make yoga part of your year

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Perhaps you have made some New Year resolutions, or at least set some intentions around your vision for the year ahead. It’s great to have an idea of what you want to get out of your year, such as ways to improve your lifestyle, health, wellbeing and happiness. It’s even better to have a plan for how you will turn this vision into reality.

If taking up yoga is something you’ve been thinking about, here are some tips to help make it happen in 2017.

Why start doing yoga?
It helps to have some good reasons and motivations behind your resolution. The benefits of yoga are many and varied, and contribute to your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Take your pick from the list below for some extra motivation.

• Improve your range of motion / flexibility
• Develop holistic strength through your body
• Improve your balance and core strength
• Develop better body awareness
• Reduce your risk of injury by promoting a healthy balance of strength and flexibility, and improved range of motion
• Develop and maintain a healthy spine and posture
• Help care for and improve spine and joint issues (e.g. back pain)
• Tune your mental focus
• Learn to breathe better
• Learn to relax
• Develop your self observation and awareness
• Develop better balance and connection between your mind and body

What’s been stopping you? Overcome your barriers.
If there is something that’s been holding you back from getting on to a mat, you know that at some stage you’ll need to front up to it and overcome your barriers, be they real or perceived. Maybe some of the following resonate with you:

You feel shy / nervous / lacking in confidence:
– If this is you, you are not alone. EVERYBODY has had a first yoga class where they didn’t know a thing about what they were doing, and probably felt the same.
– Buddy up. Find a friend who is willing to come along with you. (This way, the worst that can happen is you can both laugh about it together later!)
– No, everyone in the room will NOT be watching you. You might feel self-conscious, but you can rest assured that everyone else there is also trying to concentrate on themselves and improve. They did not come to class to watch you or judge you.

You think you are ‘not flexible enough’ or good enough to do yoga:
– You do NOT need to be flexible to do yoga. Despite yoga’s reputation, it’s not all about being flexible. Think of developing flexibility as a side effect of doing yoga.
– Yoga is NOT a competitive sport. It is something you do for yourself and there is no reason to compare yourself with others.
– It doesn’t matter if you can’t do all the poses – no one can when they first start. Acknowledge yourself as a beginner who is there to learn, and every class will be an opportunity to improve at your own pace.
– Start at the beginning. You don’t have to throw yourself in the deep end. Seek out an appropriate class to start in, such as a beginner level class or course.

You’ve tried it before and it was not right for you.
– Maybe you had a bad experience. Don’t give up. Try again, and look for a different experience. Yoga studios, classes and teachers really can vary dramatically – so do a little research to find options that suit you better.

You don’t have the time and/or money to go to class.
– Time and money can be difficult to manage. If you are serious about a new commitment to your lifestyle it’s a matter or prioritising and scheduling. Look objectively at your schedule and ‘book in’ a regular appointment with yourself. Forgo a couple of coffees a week, and you’ll make up the money for a class that will energise you more naturally.

If time or money is too tight to get to a regular class, jump on You Tube where there are endless options for doing yoga at home. It costs nothing and you can do something worthwhile in as little as 10 minutes. Perhaps commit to getting up 20 minutes earlier in the morning for yoga.

Follow through
Yes, it’s true – most people fail to stick to New Year resolutions. But you don’t need to become a statistic. You can improve your chances of success by making your goals Simple, Specific, Measurable and Realistic, and by being accountable.

 ‘I am going to start yoga – soon,’ is too vague. A specific, simple, realistic and measurable resolution looks something more like this: ‘This month I will sign up for the ‘ABC’ class at ‘XYZ’ studio, on Thursdays at 5.30pm. I will start with one class each week for the first three months. I’ll book this time in with myself. I’ll give it three months and then assess how it’s working for me.’

Some of the following strategies may help you with discipline and accountability.
• Book your yoga time in. Make appointments with yourself by scheduling it in your diary.
• Use verbal and/or written affirmations each day to help programme your brain towards forming your new habit.
• Make a public declaration about your resolution e.g. share it on Facebook or in a blog; tell your friends and family.

The hardest part of the process is creating a new habit, and committing to the first month or two. If you can manage that, you should then be starting to feel the benefits of practising yoga. The more you do it, the better it feels, and the more you’ll want to continue. Then you’ll know you are on your way to a better body, mind and lifestyle.

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