I don’t have enough time… I don’t have enough space… Sleep is more important right now…
There are endless reasons for not practicing yoga at home, even though it’s something that is scientifically proven 1 to enrich your life. While sometimes circumstances genuinely impede an at-home practice, students are only as limited as their imaginations when it comes to surmounting those obstacles.
What all excuses ultimately boil down to is a choice: Do I overcome inertia or do I stay rooted in the patterns I’m used to?
Health psychologist and yoga practitioner Kelly McGonigal defines this in her explanation of willpower as “the ability to do what you really want to do when part of you really doesn’t want to do it 2”. So… how do you do it?
Get crystal clear on the “whys” of an at-home yoga practice
The promise of long, slim limbs or Buddha-like self-control will only get you so far when it comes to sustaining an at-home practice. To find true motivation, bring self-awareness to the yoga mat.
Everyone comes to the mat with a slightly different story—what brings you here? Is it to regulate your mood? Bring you more peace of mind? Get you more in touch with the wonders of your physiology? Practice more self-reliance? Grab a journal and spend some time luxuriating in the story of you and let that be what leads you to the mat time and time again.
Choose curiosity over self-judgment
Much like the practice of asana itself, priming yourself for a consistent at-home practice requires self-awareness and reflection. Self-judgment acts to hinder rather than support the process. Being self-critical rarely works as a means of lasting transformation. If it did, we would all be enlightened by now.
If (and when) you falter on your way to a consistent practice, get curious about the circumstances that led to your decisions. Doing so will help you create an environment that supports your goals. It will also honor Ahimsa (non-injury) towards self.
For example, if you strive to practice in the evenings, yet find yourself regularly struggling for the motivation, you have two choices: to berate yourself for not conjuring the willpower or to consider how well an evening practice fits into your lifestyle. You’ll likely find that the desire was there all along; you just need a few tweaks to fit the practice into your daily routine.
Ask yourself the Golden Question
When you’re at a decision cross-road (e.g. sit down and eat this pint of ice cream or roll out my mat), ask yourself: What would the person I most want to become do what I’m about to do?
Asking this question automatically puts you into a contemplative state of mind which builds momentum towards conscious decision-making over being a victim of habit. Any change of habit requires a transition between the old and the new way of doing things. The trick is to catch yourself in the process of slipping back into old routines and have a valid, empowering reason for change. Asking yourself the Golden Question is one means to doing that.
Throughout your self-practice journey, continue to check in, reconnect with your motivations and, most importantly, demonstrate radical and unapologetic self-kindness along the way.
2. McGonigal, Kelly (2012). Maximum Willpower: How to master the new science of self-control. MacMillian. p. 288.