Yoga Over 45

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Yoga over 45: Our mission!

Helping you stay fit - no matter what your age


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Habits are funny creatures!

We all have them - and we tend to see them as either "good" or "bad". Some of them have become so ingrained we hardly notice we're doing them - psychologists call this working on "autopilot."

Actually, "autopilot" can be really useful for us. It means we can drive the car and chat to someone in the passenger seat. I can't go to bed, no matter how late, tired or how much alcohol I've drunk, without brushing my teeth! That's not discipline - it's habit. Because habits are simply behaviours you've repeated so many times, it's become part of your "routine."

As a coach and psychology student as well as a yoga teacher, I prefer not to use words like "good" or bad". Judgemental language may make things worse if we're trying to build habits which serve us well. If we say we have a "bad" habit, it often makes us feel bad - and that has a nasty "habit" of leading us to beating ourselves up for "failing" to control ourselves. Vicious circle!

I prefer to look at habits as either "helpful" or "unhelpful". Less emotive. Less judgemental.

The truth is, habitual patterns of behaviour eventually become "automatic". The more you do something, the more it's likely to become "hard-wired" in your brain to do it "without really thinking."

So you reach for that cigarette or chocolate bar when you're stressed. Autopilot.

The first thing you do at your desk when you start work is check your e-mails. (Despite the fact you know you tend to get sucked into them and an hour later that thing you really needed to do is still not done!) Autopilot.

Unhelpful patterns of behaviour which have become habitual for you.

Useful tips about habits:

  1. You can't simply stop an unhelpful habit. Nature hates a vacuum - and so will do it's best to fill that gap you've just left with something else. (Which is why smokers who quit tend to eat more - or need something else to fill that gap left by not smoking anymore.)
  2. Various psychology studies seem to suggest it takes anything between 21 to 40 days to build a new habit. Whatever the research says, if you think about your unhelpful habits, you've probably been behaving like that for a loooong time! So, it would seem to make sense that whatever new habit you replace it with, is going to take time to build too.
  3. Some studies also suggest that, when we increase our discipline in one part of our lives - it tends to "spill over" into other parts of our lives. Which is why, for me, taking more care of my diet seems to have been a happy bonus of practising yoga. the helpful stuff spreads!
    (Careful - the unhelpful stuff spreads too!)
  4. Here's the good news! Repeat those helpful behaviours as much as you can - and you'll end up with a habit you DON'T want to break!
    In the beginning that takes discipline. But eventually, the new pattern ceases to become discipline - it's autopilot!

My students sometimes say to me I must be disciplined to practise yoga so regularly - but actually - I'm not. Not any more. It's just I've done it for so long now - and it makes me feel SO good, it just part of my routine.

It's great you come to yoga class - and that time in shared learning and focus is a great experience. But ten minutes a day will help you build that yoga habit far more effectively than an hour a week.

So what are you waiting for? Go build a relationship and habit with your mat! You've nothing to lose - and MASSES to gain!

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Shona Garner

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