5 tips to make yoga a habit with supreme willpower

5 tips to make yoga a habit with supreme willpower2018-04-13T04:35:48+00:00

Sebastian Brosche, Yoga Teacher, Norway

29 January 2017

There are no shortcuts when it comes to getting on your mat and practicing yoga. The power of your will is what will determine whether you make it or not. The power of this article however, is to help you build that unbreakable willpower and make yoga a habit.

It’s that part of the day again. Time to do some yoga and recover from yesterday’s jiu jitsu training. If you’re already a Yoga for BJJ member, it’s safe to presume that you sense how beneficial yoga can be for your BJJ practice. If you’re a complete stranger to yoga, looking for ways to improve your mobility and flexibility to be able to train for as long as possible, look no further. Or perhaps you just happened to stumble upon this blog post as a human trying to get motivated for your yoga practice. In either case, this article will try to offer you a few tips and tricks to do just that – make yoga a habit. 

Where we decide to put our energy decides what we’ll ultimately acomplish.” Ryan Holiday

The goal is to help you stay consistent with your yoga practice no matter what kind of obstacles you might be facing. Our mind can be our worst enemy sometimes and lack of motivation can prevent us from being the best versions of ourselves possible. There is, however, a solution. It’s not a magic trick, it’s something that can be trained – it’s called willpower.

Every one of us stumbles occasionally and experiences something called lack of motivation and we start to procrastinate.

Even though we’re talking about yoga in this article, this can happen in pretty much any domain. It’s completely normal to not feel like doing something on certain days, however, it’s also completely achievable to fight through that. As author Ryan Holiday said: “nobody is born with a steel backbone” – with that referring to a person with extreme discipline. Of course having a steel backbone might be the reason why you’re currently a Yoga for BJJ member or thinking about becoming one, but think of it as in terms of having an unbreakable will.

The goal here is to achieve a mindset that can’t be broken by outside effects or your emotions. Developing a new habit is a difficult thing, no arguing in that. There’s a threshold you have to get to and once you’re past that threshold, you won’t have to think about motivation anymore. It will feel natural to you as you will get used to spending a portion of your day on your yoga mat.

It’s just like learning how to cook a new meal. The first time you’re making it, you have to look at the recipe and follow it word by word, as you don’t want to mess up. You have to get motivated to start cooking, but once the meal is finished you enjoy the benefits and feel quite satisfied (no pun intended). The next time, you probably still have that recipe nearby but you might deviate from it slightly as you adapt it to your needs. Finally, you discover you can make that meal whenever you want and that gives you confidence for making more complex meals. Before you know it, cooking feels natural to you as you’re just satisfying your needs without having to think about it.

No action should be undertaken without aim, or other than in conformity with a principle affirming the art of life.” Marcus Aurelius

I know that the need to feed and the need to stretch can’t be compared, but both are dealing with quite a few modern day distractions. Instead of cooking, you feel like ordering take-away. Or instead of cooking a healthy meal, you just feel like having a quick unhealthy snack. Instead of doing yoga, you decide to take a nap on the couch. Or you tell yourself that you’ll do it tomorrow, and that tomorrow oddly never comes. 

The problem usually arises when you overthink it and follow your emotions instead of your rational long term decisions. In occasions like this, you just have to persist a bit longer and before you know it, you’ll be over that threshold and yoga will become a habit. If you catch yourself thinking about whether to do it or not and you start contemplating your life choices, chances are you’re still not over that threshold. So keep going!

Willpower is something that needs to be trained to be able to use it as a tool to help you fight and overcome your daily obstacles. Just as you have to train jiu jitsu to improve (and earn your black belt) and train yoga to improve your mobility and flexibility, you also need to train your will/mind. It’s not an easy thing to do, but here are a few tips that might help you strengthen your will and help you with getting on you mat on those particullarly challenging days.

Tip #1 – Think of the benefits

It helps if you clarify the reason why you decided to do more or less of something, in this case yoga. Generally if you’re trying to improve something in yourself be that quitting smoking, trying to pull guard less often ( 😀 ) or practicing more yoga, what will push you towards achieving that goal will be the ‘why’. I highly doubt that the reason why you decided to start doing (more) yoga is to harm yourself and your BJJ practice. You probably want to be more flexible and mobile during training and feel less sore after. If you really want to improve, reminding yourself why you’re doing something will certainly help.

Tip #2 – Stay mindful

Use mindfulness to stay on track. So, whenever you’re struggling with unproductive thoughts and you happen to catch yourself making excuses, just try to observe those thoughts and let them go. We tend to cling to negative thoughts and instead ofsimply letting them go, we feed on that negativity and that harms our productivity. So next time you’re feeling lazy and start to make excuses why you don’t feel like doing yoga that day – note that, perhaps write it down and do it anyways. You’ll feel much better afterwards and you’ll appreciate your persistence.

No action should be undertaken without aim, or other than in conformity with a principle affirming the art of life.” Marcus Aurelius

Tip #3 – Set goals

Setting goals is the next thing that you could do in order to assure yourself success and strengthen your willpower. Try to be reasonable while doing that though and start with something small – do it step by step. Everyone starts at a different starting point and there’s no shame in starting as a rock. On a little bit of a side note, being frustrated with your current flexibility is wildly counter-productive and should be noted and avoided.

Yoga for BJJ has numerous programs suited for different levels of flexibility and mobility. If you’re starting from scratch, start with the 10 day beginner program and practice 10 minutes per day for 10 days in a row. Continue with the startup week program and in case this one is a bit too challenging for you, try out one of the yoga for rocks programs. Then try out the foundation week program and increase the challenge (Take a closer look of our programs and their descriptions here). But wherever you start, make a commitment to yourself and decide to finish a selected program.

Tip #4 – Track your progress

Tracking your progress might be the best motivator when it comes to staying on track. Why would you stop doing something that clearly benefits you and makes you feel good? You probably won’t be able to see the (slow) improvements and observe positive changes in your body/posture/flexibility/mobility when you’ll look in the mirror. Taking photos in various poses over certain periods of time or filming your practice can come very handy in such instances, as you can literally keep an eye on your progress!

Tip #5 – Turn it into a habit

It’s highly likely that once you’ll get past those first few weeks of completed Yoga for BJJ programs, you won’t want to stop. You’ll want to do yoga more as your body will get used to it. You’ll probably develop your set of favourite poses and you just won’t be able to not fit those stretches in your daily schedule. Just like that, you’ll develop a new habit and it’ll get easier one day of yoga practice after another.

That is precisely why the most effort is required in the first week or two of doing yoga or anything with delayed gratification. Just like with jiu jitsu, if it were easy, everyone would do it. But we’ve known or we now know that with great persistence come great benefits.

To finish off, the next time you’re feeling “unmotivated”, come back to these five tips and hopefully they will help you get over those particularly difficult days and help you stay persistent with your yoga practice. Keep in mind that the level of improvement and progress you’ll achieve is completely up to you and your willpower. If you’re not willing to put in the work, you won’t be able to reap the benefits. So go get your mat and get after it!

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He who knows these things, and in fighting puts his knowledge into practice, will win his battles. He who knows them not, nor practices them, will surely be defeated.” Sun Tzu