Making My Yoga Habit Stick

I’ve dabbled with yoga for the past five or so years, but have never been able to stick with a consistent practice. After once-a-week classes for a few months, or daily home practice for a week or two, something would happen and I would drop off and not get on the mat again for months at a time.

Until now.

Going into the new year, I knew that Yoga With Adriene would hold her yearly month-long yoga journey. I was excited to have that be my focus for January. Every day in January, I did yoga between the end of my workday and dinner. I did it every single day for the entire month, and have continued a consistent practice since then.

Interestingly, I had previously tried to build a habit of stretching for a few minutes in the morning in the evening, right after waking up and right before going to bed. This goal was attainable, took less than ten minutes per day, and could be done at any time of day. I gave up after less than a week. What caused this failure, for a task seemingly much easier than 20-30 minutes of yoga daily?

My best guess is that it has to do with the structure of my day and how I was attempting to implement this new habit. I am already quite happy with my morning routine and felt resentment at adding something to it. Conversely, I don’t have much of a consistent bedtime routine, so remembering to fit in my stretching proved difficult.

In January, I chose to add in yoga between work and dinner, which proved to be the sweet spot. My job is fairly flexible, so I am able to start work quite early in the morning and get off a bit early as well. This allows me to have at least a half hour, sometimes more, between getting off of work and preparing dinner. In the past, I’ve used that time to do not much of anything. Maybe I would watch a YouTube video or two, maybe I would get some miscellaneous household tasks done. In general it wasn’t much, since I was mentally exhausted from the workday I had just finished.

I have done enough yoga over the years to know that even if I’m not mentally interested in doing yoga, I always feel better for having done it. Through the past five years of intermittent yoga practice, I’ve internalized this and now have a much easier time getting on the mat, even if I don’t particularly feel like it. This internalization of knowing that yoga will rejuvenate me has allowed me to be able to consistently get on the mat after work.

However – going through January, there were a couple days where I recognized that doing yoga wouldn’t have it’s normal benefits. I was feeling poorly physically, or could really just use a break. Going forward, I decided to be more strict about doing yoga after work on weekdays, and cut myself some slack on the weekends. If I want to do yoga then great, if not, that’s fine too. If it’s a weekday and I don’t feel well, I still will do something – even if it’s just a bit of stretching. I want to continue to enjoy yoga, and to not have it feel like a chore.

Going forward I am planning on trying out other forms of exercise in this same time slot. In particular, over the past couple weeks I’ve been adding in a couple days per week of pilates, which gives me some variation and also gets my heart rate up more than yoga usually does.

I also recognize that as we move from winter into spring and summer, I’ll want to spend more time outside, which is totally fine! Maybe I do yoga outside (if I’m brave enough!), maybe I go for a walk instead – it doesn’t matter what I do, but I want to keep that time for something physical.

Doing yoga (almost) everyday has been a great experience. Doing it right after work gives me the chance to reset and have a more productive and enjoyable evening. Physically, I am gaining flexibility and strength. I plan on continuing my yoga practice this year and hope to be successful in keeping up the habit. Namaste!