Overcoming Bad Habits
For just about all of us, there is a bad habit or two or three that we would like to break. If we could just break this (fill in the blank) habit, life would be better. For example, we know that we need regular exercise; that we need to cut down on sugar, eat more fresh fruits and veggies; and that we need to keep stress levels manageable. The messages to live a healthy lifestyle are everywhere.
It’s easy to know what to do. The hard part is making it actually happen. Why is it that even when we really, really want to make a change, it can be so difficult to stick with it? As Iyengar says in the above quote, the mind is hard to adjust, i.e. old habits die hard.
Ancient yogis realized thousands of years ago that habits are perpetuated by the mind and success in changing a habit is directly related to the mind. Yoga, through asana (postures), breathing techniques and meditation, helps us to be more in charge of our minds and to understand the tricks our mind can play to keep us stuck in unproductive, even harmful habits.
The more we practice habits – good and bad – the more firmly rooted they become. They become like grooves in our brain. The Ancients called these grooves (habits) samskaras. Every time a samskara is repeated it becomes more deeply embedded in our brain.
It is possible to reprogram our mind and reduce the impact of negative samskaras by replacing them with positive samskaras. The Ancients knew this and modern science is beginning to understand it through the study of neuroplasticity. (See my blog post Recipe for Brain Health ) Changing a habit occurs in the mind and since yoga helps you have better control of and understanding of your mind, it can play a big role in overcoming bad habits.
The key to reprograming our minds and forming new samskaras is repetition. Therefore, a regular yoga practice is central to making desired changes. Ideally, this means a daily practice, which can seem like a huge time commitment.
My recommendation is to combine a daily home practice with a weekly class. The home practice can be short because even 10 minutes will help reprogram your brain. The important point is repetition and consistency. A weekly class can help motivate you and give you ideas for your home practice.
Over time, you will see positive changes. Although that doesn’t mean that the bad habits won’t resurface on occasion. Those old, negative samskaras are stubborn. Just know that every time you roll out your mat you are deepening the samskaras that serve you and make you a healthier and happier person.
Enjoy and Breathe Easy –
Health is a precious gift and my goal is to help you live a healthier, happier life through yoga. Every private session is uniquely designed just for you. For a free telephone consultation call me at 303.818.4181. Discover whether personalized, private yoga instruction is right for you.
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