Do you practice daily? And for how long? And how do you manage to find the time?
The answer for how to go about “fitting it all in” is the same regardless of whether it is yoga or any other new habit you are trying to incorporate into your life.
1. You have to decide that it is a priority to you.
Which probably means asking yourself why you want to do it in the first place. Do you have a goal of being able to touch your toes? (That’s why I started.) Do you want to maintain mobility as you age? Do you want to be more comfortable in your body? Do you want to learn how to show up for yourself? Do you want to establish a practice that you can fall back on when life gets a little overwhelming?
Then come back to whatever your answer is when you don’t feel like doing it.
2. You need to realize that you don’t make time, you take it from somewhere else.
Once you’ve established that this is a priority to you, and if you are feeling like there just isn’t any extra time in the day for it, then you have to choose a place to pull the time from.
Consider what scenario would be the easiest to start with, and then ask yourself:
Can you do it as soon as you get home from work before you move on to dinner?
If you have some flexibility in your schedule, do you really need to work through your lunch every day? Could you take ~30 minutes or an hour?
(This change in thinking was a huge shift for me. I was so used to working through lunch. Eating at my desk. Then one year I moved on to a job where it was office custom to all eat lunch together for an hour. Around a conference table, just—talking. I defaulted to thinking: isn’t this a waste of time? Shouldn’t we be working? We’re just sitting here doing…nothing. That was the point. We got to know each other through those “nothings.” Talking and bouncing ideas off of one another became more effortless. It served as a reset for our brains. And the work we did became more efficient as a result, not less.)
Lastly, perhaps the hardest, but easiest-in-the-long-run solution: can you wake up earlier and practice before you start your day? Which might also mean going to bed earlier.
(This is what I do now, and it’s forever changed my mood. It’s turned me into a morning person. Whatever else happens that day, I at least know I’ve taken that time for myself, first.)
Whichever option you choose, try to pick one and stick with it for a while. New habits need time to become actual, thoughtless, habits. And that’s what we want to do next, remove some of the thinking (or overthinking, in my case).
3. Reduce decision fatigue
Decision fatigue is another way of saying that the more decisions you have to make, the more you deplete your mental and emotional resources, and the more difficult it becomes to actually do the thing you were trying to make a decision about in the first place.
Should I practice before work, or after?
What type of class should I do?
Should I practice at home, or should I go to a studio?
Should I eat before I practice, or after?
All seemingly little things, but if one thing is inevitable, our minds will come up with excuses and we can talk ourselves out of something before we realize it. The deciding back and forth gets to be exhausting, and, understandably, all of the energy that could have otherwise been spent on the actual yoga practice is now gone.
To avoid decision fatigue, try:
Committing to the same days and time every week (if this is too rigid, try just committing to 3x a week and making it happen)
Leaving your yoga mat out if you practice at home (or in your car if you practice at a studio)
Setting out your clothes the night before an early morning practice
Following a set schedule or routine for classes (if you practice ashtanga, that decision is handled for you)
4. Frequency over duration
I have an amazing friend, let’s call her Hal, who has been wanting to recommit to her yoga practice and start to practice ashtanga more regularly. She starts work pretty early in the morning, and her evening schedule changes a lot. She thought that if she didn’t have time for her full 1.5 hour practice, she shouldn’t bother practicing at all. Which led to her putting off the recommitting—for months.
The one thing anyone will tell you when forming a new habit is to start small. If you are looking to commit, or recommit, to a yoga practice, then practicing for 20-30 minutes a few times a week will serve you better than telling yourself you need to wait until you have time to do it “right” (in Hal’s mind, for 1.5 hours, 5 days in a row).
Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.
5. Find ways to hold yourself accountable
Maybe that’s finding a teacher you really enjoy learning from and signing up for their classes ahead of time.
This was actually how I taught myself to be a morning person. Based on my track record of sleeping in until 30 minutes before I had to be at work or school, I knew I couldn’t rely on my willpower alone to get me out of bed before the sun was up. I signed up for a class to hold me accountable. After a few months of doing this, I became accustomed to waking up that early, and now I actually prefer it.
It takes 66 days on average for a habit to form. Before you start thinking, wow that’s so long how will I ever hold up? Try taking it just one day at a time, knowing that the 66 days are going to pass anyway.
6. Remember that it’s not going to feel the same every day and that’s okay
…and shouldn’t stop you from practicing altogether.
Anything in the beginning is bright and shiny and new. Inspiration floods in. Motivation isn’t too hard to find. And then maybe, after a while, you hit a bit of a plateau where progress doesn’t seem like it’s happening or the adrenaline you received from finally showing up for yourself starts to wear off. If it doesn’t feel as good as it used to–it might actually feel worse–and you start to question why you’re bothering to do all of these hard things in the first place.
But the whole point of the yoga practice isn’t to feel good all of the time. It’s to show us what is there. Only when we see what’s there can we start to work through it. And when we work through it instead of denying it or ignoring it (or not even being conscious of it in the first place), we can start to find a little more peace with ourselves.
(Read more about this idea, from someone a lot more knowledgeable than me, here: https://timfeldmann.com/the-mistaken-expectation-of-joy-in-yoga/).