Flexibility and Habits

I have been learning a lot about habit formation lately. It seems like it may be the key for me in putting my self-care and healthy habits front and center. Although, it may not seem to make sense, I am learning that some flexibility is required when creating habits. Let me explain what I mean.

A couple of the habits I am working on are daily meditation and daily physical activity. When it comes to my meditation practice, it has come along pretty easily, this time. Past attempts have not been as successful. I believe this to what I have learned about habit formation.

From my understanding there are 3 main parts to a habit. The trigger, the habit, and the reward. The trigger is the thing that lets your subconscious know it is time to do the habit. The reward is what you get for preforming the habit. When it comes to my meditation habit, my trigger is when I wake up in the morning. I go to my designated meditation space, light my meditation candle (a reward) and mediate for 20 minutes. At the end of my mediation, I track my mediation in my Adidas running app. (Side note: I love this app, it will track all kinds of activities and allows for live tracking as well as manual entries.) Tracking my meditation in the app is my reward. From what I have learned instant rewards are best. If we have to wait too long for a reward our brains won’t associate them with the habit.

So where does flexibility fit in? In order to create a habit you must do it consistently. I can’t say, “I don’t feel well” or “conditions are not perfect”, I have to find a way to get it done. For example: when I travel for work, I do not have my designated space or my candle with me. I have to allow for flexibility in my practice. I meditate with out theses things.

As I have mentioned in previous blogs I am working towards running a 5k. I am using the C25K app from Zenlabs. I love this app! It works great. I prefer to run outside. The fresh air and beautiful scenery are a part of my reward for running. This past week it has been cold and icy. I have severe osteoporosis and can’t afford to slip and fall on the ice. This past week I had to do my running on a treadmill. Running on a treadmill and running outside are not even close to the same experience. I am dedicated to creating a habit of daily activity and training towards the more far off reward of running a 5k again. I have to allow for the flexibility of running inside on a treadmill some days.

Another thing I have learned about habits, is that they are easier when stacked, habit on top on habit. For example: trigger – I wake up, habit – mediation, habit – run or yoga, habit – shower, habit – brush teeth, and then it is time to go to work. By stacking habits I am gaining momentum from things that I am doing anyway. When I choose a hike as my daily activity, I can’t get that done in the morning before work. It has to wait till the workday is done. I can not benefit from my morning habit stack. In this way, I must also allow for flexibility that on the days I am going to hike, it will not happen at the same time as my running or yoga will.

What healthy or self-care activities would you like to add to your life? What existing habits could you stack them onto? Where can you see the need for flexibility and grace in you habit formation? What will you choose as rewards?

Thank you for reading my blog today! May you develop many helpful habits that support you taking care of yourself.

Books to learn more about habit formation:

Atomic Habits by James Clear

Healthy as F*ck by Oonagh Duncan

Hello Habits by Fumio Sasaki

A 40 Day Practice

Kundalini Yogis love their multi-day practices. Some commit to a 40 day practice but others commit to 90, 120, or even 1000 days. 1000 days equals 2.7 years and if you miss a single day of practice, you have to start over at day 1. Wow, what a great motivator to not miss a day! Especially once you get a ways into it. When I did my teacher training in Kundalini Yoga, I did a 40 day practice. That was a number of years ago and I do not remember a lot about it; other than really committing to myself seemed to be the hardest part. I now feel compelled to again do another 40 day practice.

During our retreat we did a very motivational YouTube video of Nahbi Kriya. I had already been feeling drawn to start a 40 day practice of this yoga set, so when we did it together that Friday night on the boat, I knew I had to keep going. Emy and I decided we’d both commit to a 40 day practice. We text each other each day as we check off completing our practice for the day. Tonight I completed day #12 and that puts me a little over 1/4 of the way to the finish line. According to 3HO, a 40 day practice, “Will break any negative habits that block you from the expansion possible through the kriya or mantra”.

There are days that seem more difficult and some days when it takes every ounce of my strength to begin again. The thought of having to start over at day 1 again though,  gets me onto my mat and fulfilling my commitment to myself. I have learned some things along the way already, and one is that I am a driven person. I am not good at sitting and resting. I always want to get to the goal as quickly as possible. As I reflect on the 40 day commitment, I realize that I can’t rush this. 40 days is 40 days! I can’t do it 2 or 3 times today to get to the goal sooner. I have to commit to myself and complete each day and then patiently wait for the arrival of the next day.

Another thing I have learned, along the way, is about my nature to attempt to be perfect. My form is not always going to be perfect. Some days my practice is going to be better than others. Some days I will have time to do the full 45 minute versos and other mornings where I am needing to get to the airport; so the 25 minute version may just have to do. I have to trust that adjusting the practice to fit my life, while still maintaining the commitment to myself, is okay. I know that even if today’s best is not the same as my personal best or someone else best, that it is still okay.

Tonight’s practice was done surrounded by family. The grandchildren and a couple of the adults joined me. It was not as peaceful and meditative as it usually is when I perform it in my hotel room; with the toddler was bopping around from person to person, but tonight it was filled with joyous energy and love. Tonight I learned that I can keep commitments to myself even while spending time with those I love.

What commitments would you like to make to yourself? How would you see this taking place in your life? What do you think you might learn from it?

Thank you for reading my blog today. I love you! May your life be filled with fulfilled commitments to yourself, as if by magic.

*Photo was taken on New Smyrna Beach

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