HABITS – how to overcome bad ones, and how to replace them with good ones.
How to reprogram the mind.
That topic provoked some deep discussion with my son Nik last Sunday. He’d been listening to an audio book on personal transformation that had really impressed him and wanted to pass on some of the information to me.
His question to me: what positive habit would you like to create that would help you become the best person you can be?
My answer (without much thought): to get up at 5.15am Monday to Friday so I can do an early morning yoga practice before work..
His response: What stops you?
I do ask myself this question every time I hit the snooze button.
I have lots of excuses.
Nik decided I was a good test case for his experiment on how to create good habits (why couldn’t he do this experiment on himself I pondered).
The experiment…how to set up the conditions that will get me out of bed at 5.15am every weekday. He gave me a plan...and then made me commit.
For years I’ve been setting my alarm before bed, feeling really enthusiastic about getting up for early morning practice, but when that alarm goes off, its groundhog day. The alarm injects my brain with a massive dose of amnesia, fog, and denial. A brick wall.
No amount of inspiration, enthusiasm or good intention the night before has been able to make it through the thick fog that sends me blissfully back to sleep. No amount of guilt either.
Not until last week.
You see my son has great power over me.
What he says, I do.
Retraining the mind and shattering mental habits is hard dirty work. You need as much help as you can get.
He made me write my intention on paper, list why I wanted to do this, and how it will make me feel. He then made me sign a contract to get up at 5.15am, walk the dog, have a shower and then do a yoga practice, Monday to Friday, every morning.
I couldn’t let him down.
Monday practice was mediochre – 1 hour.
Tuesday was great, strong internal focus on mula bandha: Sun Salutes, standing poses to Parsvottanasana then backbends (including a surprisingly open Urdhva Dhanurasana), Shoulderstand, Halasana Matsyasana, Sirsasana, childs Pose, Padmasana twist, Baddha Padmasana, Savasana. After my shower I did a few handstands.
Wednesday and Thursday mornings were lethargic. I had no vitality, couldn’t even engage my muscles so I had no choice but to do restorative poses. Either my body was fighting off a virus, or it was premenstrual, or the early mornings had caught up with me. My body and mind were in shut down so practice was minimal…and slow. I stayed in childs pose for an eternity. At work, I wanted only to go home and go to sleep, but my energy actually picked up on both afternoons.
Friday I had a fantastic practice: sun salutes and standing poses up to Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana, then the full set of finishing poses, enjoying 5 minutes in Urdhva Padmasana. Not only that, it was the first of the five days when I stepped out of bed at 5.15am feeling bright eyed, focused and energetic.
Friday evening I did a second practice – sort of following the Iyengar week 26-30 sequence, picking out all the poses I could do and leaving out all the ones I couldn’t.
All Headstand and Shoulderstand variations, and I got into full Lotus in Headstand on one side
Jatara (but no Navasanas)
All the seated poses up to Gomukasana,
Padmasana and Parvatasana,
Then I sort of digressed and did Supta Virasana, Salabhasana, Dhanurasana, Bridge pose and a long 5 minute Dog Pose.
Nothing outstanding, just a good solid practice.
The next day I noticed a lovely tickle-itch deep down in my sacral lumbar spine. I’m sure this is from the Lotus in Headstand and Shoulderstand poses, it feels like energy being unlocked and a chakra coming alive, a tiny uncurling of serpent energy.
A few weeks have passed since I did the full Week 26-30 Iyengar sequence - it needs to be worked on regularly – twice a week would be the minimum, three times would be ideal, but more than that might be overdoing it for me. My daily routine is settling down and more time is gradually returning for yoga practice.
Early mornings 5 times a week
Evenings 2-3 times a week
New habits…Nik said they take 3 months to form roots.
I am determined.