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Treating yourself with a daily practice is one of the best gifts you can do for your body, your mind and your soul. In a word: to yourself.
With a thirty-day online yoga challenge beginning the first day of the year, I began to build a daily practice. After going through the huge transformation of pregnancy, lactation and then ceasing to breastfeed my child, I was longing for a new relationship with my body. I had been following yoga classes before, but struggled to keep them up considering the fact that my weekly schedule was irregular and I didn’t live close to a yoga studio. Nevertheless feeling the need for a body activity, I figured out a simple plan to bring yoga to home by randomly following YouTube yoga sessions when I felt the need. This is how I came across a thirty-day online yoga challenge by Adrien Mishler.
Filled with enthusiasm, I applied and completed the month without missing a single day, unexpectedly to realize how much value I gained from it. More comfort with my body, flexibility and energy, yet unexpected was the impact it was having on my mind and my soul. In a single word, I felt grounded, as if I had roots running from my feet down into the earth, deepening throughout my day. I also felt more mindful, able to focus my attention, more present, patient. I was actually looking for building a healthier relationship with my body, but I’d found a lot more, impacting different layers of myself; mind, spirit, energy and emotions.
The one-month challenge over, I kept it up. Enthusiasm, (ephemeral as you know), helped me to stick to my intention for the first month, but then I had to tap into other inner resources to be able to stay in daily practice for an indefinite amount of time. Finally, I built a habit out of it, booked myself special time during the day, got myself nice, comfortable tools to make it easier and joined an online community of practitioners.
As time went by, I realized the need to adjust my activity and explore new things, slowly developing a mix of bodily activity which now included meditation. This I felt suited me more, especially after realizing the huge impact of the annoying hip pain I’d been struggling with since my daughter was born had disappeared, plus the healthy mix of grounding, wellbeing and presence that had boosted my self-esteem. I was really feeling fine and happy with myself!
So here I provide some tips and insights about how to embed a stable, long-lasting daily practice into a daily routine, no matter what it is; yoga, meditation, journaling, drawing, running… I’m now deeply convinced that having a fixed daily appointment with myself is one of the healthier gifts I can do for myself.
1. Make it realistic. Start with ten minutes every day. Pick a simple activity you can do at home with no special equipment. You will make it longer when you feel ready; do not engage in a five-year
strategic plan! Start simple.
2. Find what feels good to you. Start with something you really enjoy, something your brain will perceive as pleasant. If you find running hard and tiresome – don’t begin with it!
3. Book a special spot for it in your daily routine, the same time every day. For me, it really worked making it the first thing I do when I wake up, at 6.30am, when the rest of my family is still lying quietly in bed.
4. Choose a good place for it, a comfortable and tidy one. Could be outside if the weather is mild. When travelling, looking for the place you will use for daily practice can be one of the first things on arrival to do.
5. Tell your family/partner/co-sharers you are doing it. Explain that from today on you will devote this moment to yourself. Tell them you need their support to keep up motivation, and you need to be alone in a quiet environment. Let them know that you will feel very well thanks to this, and they will also benefit from your wellbeing.
6. Find a buddy or a group. A friend, an online community, a Whatsapp group; someone as motivated as you are to share how it’s going, the challenges you are facing and to support your motivation. You do not need to be physically together, but you will be surprised about how motivating the feeling of not being alone in this journey is.
7. An app could help. The benefit of an app is about keeping up your motivation and providing rewards. A habit-building app will: count how many consecutive days you are keeping up the practice, provide your brain with a juicy challenge, reward and remind you by letting you know that you are doing good and by providing notifications. App stores out there are filled with general to more specific apps that also provide content for your practice. When practising meditation I’ve been using Headspace, and I found it a good ally to support my daily activity.
8. Equip yourself well. Once begun, reward yourself with good equipment that will make your practice simple and pleasant – a yoga block, a meditation cushion, good shoes, etc.
9. Never miss twice. Missing is not an unforgivable sin, it can happen. But if you do, make sure to come back to your commitment the day after, otherwise missing becomes a habit.
10. Be kind to yourself. There will come days when you do not feel like engaging at all. Do not judge yourself for this. Make it shorter for that day, or plan a special reward for yourself if you can make it.
And finally, here’s an overview of the most common challenges you may encounter:
1. Not finding the right moment. If you do not book a special or sacred moment in your daily routine, you will soon end up realising that it’s already evening and keeping up the practice will feel like a burden rather than a pleasure. Book a special spot for it in your agenda!
2. Getting bored. Probably my biggest challenge. My brain craves for new things everyday, routine kills me. If this is your problem too, find a way to include novelty in the routine. Try a different yoga session every day or a new meditation; the web is full of good quality content you can tap into. Bad quality content is even more present, so make sure you have a list of trustful resources you can browse from.
3. Busy life. You are in good company! We all are busy – and if you have kids your day might feel like a constant rush. Ten to twenty minutes of daily activity won’t make your life busier – rather they will help you with grounding and feeling less busy.
4. Tiredness and fatigue. There will be days when you will feel tired or exhausted. Be very honest. If missing is the best, miss one day; but remember – never miss twice! Otherwise adjust the practice based on that. Make it shorter, milder, walk rather than run. Do it laying down rather than sitting.
What do you really enjoy doing but never find the time for?
Can you find ten to twenty minutes in the day to devote to this nourishing practice? Take out your agenda, open google calendar and book a daily meeting with yourself. Now.
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