2. Mindset reset: creative tips to inspire your yoga
This set of steps is arguably the hardest and can dredge up a lot of icky stuff. Here, I am asking you to take a look at some aspects of yourself that you may rather not see.
Though it may not sound like it, these steps are actually a great opportunity to uncover some of the obstacles we put in our path.
These steps are important, as they are the most effective way to really get to the bottom of why a yoga routine can be so difficult to establish.
We often think that the beginning of class is the hardest part. We are at the precipice of the unknown and completely at the will of the teacher.
However, one of the most difficult elements of establishing a yoga routine actually occurs well before the beginning of class. That is our inherent excuses, misconceptions, and limited beliefs. Let’s look at each one in turn.
Before we begin, let me emphasize: this work can be mentally and emotionally taxing. Be sure to check in with yourself to see if you need to take a break. Take as many breaks as you need. Promise yourself to come back to it when you’re refreshed and reenergized.
FUN FACT: It might not feel like it, but by doing this exercise, you are actually doing yoga. There is a concept in yoga philosophy called “Svadhyaya” which translates as “self-study”.
I am asking you to analyze parts of yourself in great detail – essentially you are doing yoga by practicing svadhyaya!
Day 2: Excuses, excuses!
Think back over the past week. What excuses have you made to let yourself off the hook? This doesn’t have to be yoga related but can give you an idea of the things your brain tells you to stay in your comfort zone.
Make a list of them. Then, circle the ones that you made to prevent yourself from starting something new (or recent). Highlight the ones that you made to prevent yourself from doing something hard or bothersome.
Some examples from my list include:
- Debating whether or not to go for my daily walk: “I can double up tomorrow, it’s too cold today”
- Deciding whether or not to study or watch the next episode of Love is Blind: “Well, it’s already started, so I’ll just watch the first ten minutes”
- Considering if I should get out of bed and onto the mat: “I think I’ll have more time to practice tonight after work. I’ll do it then”
- Sitting down to research a new blog post: “This place is filthy, it really needs to be cleaned”.
When you’ve made your list, try to identify some common themes that appear. For example:
- If I perceive something to be bothersome, I make excuses that essentially delay the action I need to take. It always ends up falling into the “I can do it later” category, and later never comes.
- When I perceive something to be hard, I make excuses that essentially distract me from starting. It falls into the “I can’t do X until I’ve done Y” category.
How about you?
Day 3: True or False?
After you’ve identified your excuses and the themes they embody, it’s time to take a look at their veracity. For each excuse you listed yesterday, get really clear on how true they are.
For example, I often tell myself I’ll have more time to practice yoga later in the day. In truth, that never happens. Later in the day, my to-do list has doubled in perfect correlation with my level of tiredness. If I am really honest with myself, my mornings are when I have the freest time.
How about you? Next to each excuse, write down what is actually true, no matter how hard it is to admit to yourself.
PRO TIP: If you find yourself making excuses for your excuses, look back at your notes from Day 1 and remind yourself of why this is important to you. Day 1 will eventually become your own self-pep-talk (this is what I mean when I say you become your own teacher).
Day 4: Conquering your excuses
Now we know the general themes our excuses take, and the veracity of each excuse, it is time to reframe them.
For each excuse, consider how you could reframe it into a gentle, loving encouragement. (You can do this just for the ones about yoga, or, if you have the time, the whole list from Day 2). Write it similar to how you’d say it to a dear friend or loved one.
- “I’ll have more time after work to practice yoga” is a delaying tactic with a veracity level of zero.
- Instead, let’s say “Love, work tires you out every single day. Do yourself a favor and practice now, so you have more energy and clarity for the day. Invest in your future self”.
Whatever works for you, reframe it, and write it down.
Day 5: Getting clear on misconceptions
This step is fairly simple, and may only take thirty minutes or so.
First, take some time to list out all the beliefs about yoga you hold.
Do you think you need to be thin to practice yoga? Write it down.
Have you ever believed that you need to be flexible, young, or spiritual to practice yoga? Write them all down.
When you have exhausted all possible misconceptions, grab your phone or computer and get friendly with Google. Start with the search phrase “Is it true that….” and finish the sentence with your misconception.
Read a couple of articles that come up and decide if they validate or invalidate your long-held belief about what you should or shouldn’t be, do, or have to practice yoga.
Some examples might include:
“Is it true that…
- I need a mat to practice yoga?
- I need to be religious to practice yoga?”
- yoga is only beneficial for young people?”
To get started with your search, take a look at this article about yoga mats.
FUN FACT: At no point in any text on yoga philosophy does it state that you need to be thin, flexible, or young to practice yoga. Yoga is for everybody.
Day 6: Limiting Beliefs
Let’s now take a closer look at some of the reasons we can self-sabotage when it comes to maintaining a yoga routine.
Here is where we really get into the practice of svadhyaya (self-study). Uncovering our limiting beliefs can cause some discomfort, maybe even pain. It is important to take this step at a pace that suits you. Part of svadhyaya is being able to recognize when it’s becoming too overwhelming, and letting yourself take a break whenever you need it. If you feel it is necessary, seek professional help from a licensed therapist to help process some of the things that come up for you.
What are limiting beliefs?
Limiting beliefs are deeply held, often mistaken beliefs we hold about ourselves. They serve as a form of self-protection, likely stemming from events that happened in our childhood. Some may take the form of “I’m not good enough” or “I’m not worthy”. They are there to prevent us from feeling too vulnerable, or from experiencing humiliation or rejection.
However, according to this article, “Taking time to unpick our limiting beliefs can free us up to live fuller, more fulfilling lives, full of confidence and purpose”.
Take a few minutes throughout the day to jot down any limiting beliefs that come up for you.
They might take the form of:
- “I’ll never be able to….”
- “I’m not…”
- “It won’t…”
It might even take the form of a question, such as:
- “What’s the point?”
- “Who would listen to me, anyway?”
Reframing limiting beliefs
At the end of the day, look back at what you noted and take some time just to sit with them. These beliefs are the voice of a younger version of you that experienced rejection, humiliation, or being taken advantage of by someone or something, no matter how big or small. Your brain, always there to protect you, created these beliefs to keep you from feeling like this again.
Take time to thank that voice for being there, always looking to protect you. Perhaps, if it helps, write down next to each belief something to reassure that voice, like you would a child or beloved pet. Maybe even give that voice a name (Dr. Daniel Amen does this, in his book “Change Your Brain Every Day”).
If you need to cry, cry. If you need to shout, shout. Let whatever comes up out. Then, go do something you enjoy.
Day 7: Freeing Beliefs
Yesterday was likely quite intense. Today, perhaps less so.
Take a look at all the limiting beliefs you wrote down yesterday. Our job now is to reframe them. Why? Because limiting beliefs, though in place to protect us, actually end up preventing us from stepping out of our comfort zone and enjoying new experiences.
We need to reassure that little voice, so that it feels ready to get on the mat frequently, ready to move, ready to breathe, ready to sit still, and ready to fully experience all the benefits of yoga.
How do we do that? By reframing them. To do this we need to:
- Look for evidence to prove the veracity of the limiting beliefs. You might be pleasantly surprised at how little there is.
- Tell yourself that you and you alone are in control of your thoughts. Past events no longer have power over you.
- Talk to someone you trust (be that a loved one or qualified professional) about the beliefs you hold.
- Rewrite the beliefs to embody a little more hope and positivity. For me, with regard to establishing a yoga routine, this generally takes the shape of parroting Glennon Doyle and stating “I can do hard things”. Additional reframes I have used include:
- “I consistently invest in my future self”
- “As much as possible, I live by ‘curiosity over judgment’, and yoga allows me to get curious”
- “I am courageous enough to try, and have faith that one day that courage will have transformed into confidence”
PRO TIP: Take some time to reframe your beliefs. You might need a few extra days to go through this and be prepared for it to take a bit of an emotional toll. Have your support system at hand so you can talk things through if you need to.