2 key ingredients for lasting change

With the new year comes the promise of new beginnings and the potential for change. Being a yoga teacher, it is easy to become jaded to the cult of self improvement that becomes the rage for just a month or so each year. Accommodating so many beginners who often come to classes that they aren’t ready for can be exhausting and takes away from the experience of those students who are there through thick and thin. Yet, there is a small portion of those people who start in January and actually develop life long habits. So I treat each new student as a potentially life-long student. We all deserve the benefit of the doubt. But what makes the people who stick with their new habits different from the ones who start strong and appear so passionate, only to drop off within a few weeks or months? I don’t beleive it is a lack of discipline or defect of any kind. I say this because I have managed to develop quite a lot of healthy lifestyle habits and I don’t beleive that I am particularly disciplined. Upon reflection, I have come up with two ingredients that I believe are essential for lasting change.

1. You have to be truly convinced of the benefit of your new habit. Changing for someone else never works because you will always rebel consciously or unconsciously. The change has to be for yourself and it has to have results you desire strongly. Sometimes this desire takes time to develop. Just because you tried to quit smoking three years in a row doesn’t mean that you won’t finally do it the fourth time.

2. Allow for imperfection. Perfectionism is the enemy of change. How often have You thought that you’d love to do something, but stopped yourself because you “wouldn’t be good enough”? Who ever got good at something without doing it? Think about how many times you fell down before learning to walk. This brings me back to those students who come to classes that are outside of their ability level and then get discouraged and never come back. It makes me so sad to see this. Not every class is made for every person, and even a class labeled as “all levels” requires a certain amount of agility (getting up and down from the ground with ease is a good gauge). This applies to every kind of habit that you might try to build.

Be realistic. Take baby steps. Allow yourself to goof and keep going.

Even after all these years, I get caught up in the energy of the new year. I have hope that each new person who comes into my class will find the practice they are looking for. And I take the time to evaluate my own life and where I can make changes. Life is a practice of constant refinement. We never reach the goal and in fact the goal changes and shifts with time. As one goal is accomplished, another appears. This is not a problem, it is the gift. The striving, the work, the journey… that is the real goal.

4 Comments

  1. Hi Mado, you were my first yoga teacher in Asheville, NC. My wife and I started attending your classes 2 years ago. I read this article and it reminds me so much of my own journey these past two years and my relationship with my practice. At first, I’ll be honest, it was the a New Year and I decidedto get my act together and go to a yoga class. It was amazing. But I rode that wave for a bit, went to a class here and there. My relationship was an on again off again thing. Well I took a brief break from it and didnt do any yoga for about 2 months. I got sick, I fell into a slight depression, felt stuck in my life. Then I just decided to get off my lazy a$# and go to a class. Naturally, I went all in and dove right back in, started feeling great…..then for some reason, stopped because I was in school again and couldn’t find the balance. My body suffered, my mind suffered and I suffered, thereby causing the one’s around me to suffer. So here I am 6 months into another run that I am feeling will be the change I was looking for. Anyway, my personal journey has been great. I have a wonderful relationship with my loving wife, I eat very well, I can honestly look ta myself in the mirror and see that I am a pretty healthy guy. I have changed my life into one based on the principles we learn each and every day on our mats. Yoga is changing my life. It helps me appreciate how beautiful each moment truely is and that by hightening our sensitivity and compassion our lives can be enriched more and more as can the lives of those around us. Have a healthy and happy new year! Namaste

  2. Lovely thoughts, Mado. I my own life, I’ve noticed that healing changes which last have been ones which were framed as a nurturing gift to myself, rather than a perfectionist-motivated critique of my flaws (“Yoga makes me feel wonderful!” versus “I need to get in shape and be more centered!”). With my diet I discover nourishing meals to add and gently let go of foods which don’t serve me well, refraining from mentally “punishing” myself when I eat something unhealthy. It is a tricky balance, and you are so right that motivation and perspective make a big difference. And these changes that may be initially based on more self-centered desires can have far-reaching positive effects in various ways: “improving” ourselves to make the world a little better…

  3. Yes! The self loving discipline is one that I talk about often in my classes. Rather than viewing discipline as something austere that we must conform to, we can find little ways to make our lives better. Step by tiny step we find ourselves transformed without ever feeling like we are sacrificing.

  4. Many people find that their practice has an ebb and flow. I’m sure that if I didn’t have the motivation of teaching, my own would fluctuate more than it does. Self-acceptance is a great place to start initiating change. If we beat ourselves up about not being consistent…we are actually less likely to find consistency because it becomes more of an obligation, a “should” than a “get to”. Life ebbs and flows. I’m not sure that a consistent practice is what is best for everyone. Sometimes people practice yoga for years and then stop entirely for a while, only to fall back in love later in life. There is no one size fits all practice… nor a one size fits all life. I’m glad you feel like you are in a great place… perspective is key. Those who find a way to see wherever they are at in life as a great place, to see the beauty in each moment as you say, are in my opinion the most likely to be happy. May you be happy.

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