This coronavirus epidemic has destroyed our sense of normalcy. It’s turned our worlds upside down, leaving us feeling scattered and out of sorts. Everything that was familiar and routine is gone.
We’re finding ourselves having to make adjustments to our lives, to make room for this new (hopefully temporary, but real) normal. It can sound counterintuitive, but developing a daily routine can help us to feel a sense of control and help us to make room for our more-important-than-ever self-care.
Routines create predictability and reduce our stress level.
But what if reclaiming your previous self-care routine isn’t possible given these new circumstances?
Or what if you never had much of a daily rhythm before, but feel desperate for the stability of one now?
Where do you start?
You start small. That’s where.
Use the behavior change strategy of Kaizen or 1% improvement over time.
“Kaizen” is a Japanese term that refers to small, continuous improvement.
It’s about making 1% improvements every day.
So, let’s say you’re someone who staying up past midnight every night lately. You want to go to bed earlier so you have energy for the next day. Instead of forcing yourself to go to bed at 10pm tonight, you go to bed five minutes earlier. Five minutes is your 1%. If you go to bed five minutes earlier everyday, it will take you at least 24 days to be in bed by 10pm. This is kaizen.
At first, it feels like there is no improvement. (You might think: 11:55pm is barely earlier than midnight! I’m desperate for some change now!) It takes some time for each day of 1% change to accumulate. Once these small improvements do build up though, you’ll begin to see and feel the effects of your gradual shift.
With gradual change and continuous improvements, our nervous systems slowly adjust to our new ways of being - allowing our new habits to stick.
Which is really what we need. Better habits now to reduce our stress and better habits that last beyond this crisis, so we remain healthy in body and mind.
Cate Stillman writes this in her book Body Thrive: “The problem with kaizen, for most of us, is that it seems too easy. When you get inspired to change or upgrade a habit, you want big returns. You bite off more than you can chew, which guarantees you’ll fail. The kaizen approach makes the bite small enough that you hardly notice as it nudges you in the direction you want to go.”
This is what I teach in the Vibrant Life Program.
A daily self-care routine that brings balance to the body and mind, that promotes vitality and longevity - so you can cope better right now and stay healthy in the future.
And we do it one step at a time. 1% at a time. For lasting change that doesn’t add more stress to the nervous system. Because that’s the last thing we need right now.
Won’t you join us? Learn 10 essential habits to thrive. Starting April 20.
Lael Peterson is a life coach and Certified Yoga Health Coach with over 20 years experience helping people thrive. She specializes in teaching people the habits and mindset they need to accomplish their goals. Her own life experiences with anxiety, addiction, and cancer combined with her professional expertise make her coaching relatable, practical and powerful. Lael is a member at Home Hot Yoga and believes that a regular hatha yoga practice is an essential component in a vibrant life! The Vibrant Life Program is a mini (coed) version of her popular 6 month program for women, Vibrant Body + Wise Mind.
I will be 70 in January 2019, and I have had back issues most of my life. Last year I was in a lot of pain, almost to the point of not being able to walk. I would need to rest after walking only short distances with my little granddaughter. I was also feeling depressed a lot of the time.
My son and daughter-in-law encouraged me to try hot yoga, which I was sure was not for me. I tried it anyway, mostly so they would leave me alone!
I have now been practicing Bikram yoga 2-3 times per week for about a year. My back pain is nearly gone and my range of motion is incredible. I had a serious balance issue and now, nearly a year later I'm getting my balance back. I know my good balance is going to be even more important as I get older for avoiding slips and falls. As I gain strength and balance, my mood and confidence have also improved.
These days my energy level is very good, even though I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia years ago. I tell all my friends about yoga, and I’m trying to get the ones who could really use it to come to class with me! This little yoga community at Bikram Yoga St. Johns has brought me a new social life full of friendly and amazing people.
I also have osteoarthritis, plantar fasciitis (which is no longer bothering me) and scoliosis. I have spinal stenosis, which used to cause leg and foot pain as well as lower back pain and balance problems. I thought the only alternative was to have surgery, but I certainly don't need that now. Bikram Yoga was the answer.
I can feel my spine is so much better and stronger than before I started at BYSJ. I’m glad I stepped out of my comfort zone to try Bikram yoga, and I look forward to many years of practice ahead!
I remember, after mentioning to Kay that I’d lost 40 lbs in just over 100 days, her asking “But it’s more than that, it’s the inner transformation, right?” My response was quick, “Absolutely, I just have no other way to sum it all up!” Later, I've been able to clarify my thoughts:
The weight loss, I decided, was a 'superficial yardstick' for the multitude of positive life changes i was experiencing due to my new yoga practice. Essentially, the real transformation was me getting back to me.
Everything kept falling into place, like a domino effect. I was eating healthier & required less sleep. I soon found I had more energy then I knew what to do with. This means I now find time for personal creative endeavors as well as exploring the natural beauty that is just outside our doors.
These past 6 months of yoga have shown me, and I want to tell you: You Already Are That Better Version Yourself! If your intention is set, nothing can stop you from reaching your goals. Pardon the hippie-dippy sentiment, but I did kinda move here from Santa Cruz, CA ;)
My first class was the sliding-scale donation class on a Thursday night last fall. After reading of the many benefits associated with Bikram, I thought it was something I had to try for myself! I approached with a healthy skepticism, and after giving it test-run realized it was everything I was hoping for and more.
Within a week, I was telling friends it was "the best thing I’ve done for myself in a long time.” Within a month, the lower back pain I was suffering from had disappeared.
Savasana (aka Dead Body Pose) is still extremely challenging for me. Patience is a life-long lesson. I believe that learning to be still and relax is one of the best things we can do to maintain balance in this fast-paced world in which we live. Look around- we’re all here for the same reason. As we become better versions of ourselves, we’re better able to serve the community around us- what an amazing gift! P.S. Don’t forget to breathe.
Here's a recipe for one of my healthy meals that keeps me hydrated and energized for practicing 4-5 times per week:
Original Hot Yoga Salad
• your favorite greens mix
• low-fat cottage cheese
• roasted sunflower seeds
• kosher dill pickles
• chili flakes (100% *not* optional!)
"I started Bikram yoga last January because wanted to lose 20 lbs of sexiness and to make sure I didn’t start smoking again. I still haven't smoked yet and I owe to Bikram yoga for sure. In 20 years I’ve never gone this long without smoking. Being able to breathe and heal and be good to myself physically and emotionally through practice has been better than smoking ever was.
"The greatest benefit I’ve gotten from Bikram yoga is how it quiets the crazy inside me. Bikram calms my mind unlike anything else. Amongst the sweat and poses and savasanas, the jagged edges of my thoughts become smoothed and rounded, feelings become clarified, and the voice inside me becomes kinder and gentler. Bikram is like a sweatier version of Zanax.
"I love how no two classes are the same, how a pose one day can vastly differ the very next in feel or fluidness, in difficulty or ease. I love when a breakthrough happens with a pose. It’s the sensation of falling or moving through water, as if the pose is happening to you. You find a new ceiling and a new you.
"I love how if I miss class, my whole body feels it, misses it. It’s like driving and slamming on breaks. My body is at rest but feels like it’s still in motion, longs to continue the forward momentum from the previous day.
"I love every teacher that has instructed me, corrected me, and encouraged me. More times than not, it has been their encouragement that has kept me going.
"I love the sense of community you share with a group of strangers in what amounts to your underwear. It’s the feeling of having survived a great storm, some indescribable test and done it together in one collective spirit, while in your undies."
"I've been practicing consistently for just over a year now, all because of you, your welcoming, inclusive studio, and the opportunity to be a karma yogi! Before that, I was an inconsistent, serial-Groupon-er in the Vancouver/Portland area. I've learned that being inconsistent made my practice harder on myself- pyschologically (I always had lots of reasons why I couldn't make it to class) and physically (I battled nausea a lot longer than I had to.) The secret for me is just showing up to practice frequently, ideally daily.
"I got into Bikram yoga expecting to improve a chronic knee injury and improve my strength and flexibility. All of these things have happened, and continue, to happen, especially now that I have a consistent practice. I have been most surprised by my seemingly sudden, new-found ability to automatically breathe slowly in and out during stressful situations that happen outside of the yoga room! I remember being in a work situation and I was all calm and breathing through it, and I literally wondered why I wasn't more upset, like I normally would be. It was at that moment I realized that I'd been practicing calm, full breathing while experiencing discomfort in class long enough that I had developed 'muscle memory' and it was automatic response. It was one of the strangest, and most freeing, moments of this year!
"When I began to practice regularly 3 or more times per week, I noticed a bunch of changes taking place. Decreased body pain, especially in my joints. I always say that Bikram yoga takes the 'old' out of my bones when my friends wonder why I practice. Cravings for healthier food and lots of lemony water. Serenity, instead of stressed, as a baseline for my mood for that day. Increased mental clarity and energy to be able to accomplish things.
"I've always enjoyed yoga, I'd take yoga books out of the library when I was a kid and contort myself in my first solo practice. Then I took my first Hatha yoga group class in college for credit. Yoga helped me be a better belly dancer and helped me through long shifts as a bartender. Later on, I didn't really think Bikram yoga would be very different from all the other non-hot forms I'd dabbled in, so I bought a Groupon (hahahahahahaha!)
"I went to my first class in a long-sleeve, full-legged bodysuit that I wore comfortably in dance classes. I was exhausted, dizzy, and queasy after the initial deep-breathing sets and pretty much just laid on my mat for the rest of class, trying not to run screaming from the room. It took me a month to return for my second try. It was still awful, but I kept on coming back, probably because the after-effects were so immediate and compelling.
"I often procrastinate. So when I saw "Do Later Now" on BYSJ's studio t-shirts, I was irked- and also knew this was exactly where I needed to spend my time, ha!
"Becoming a karma yoga cleaner at BYSJ gave me two wonderful (and unexpected) gifts. First, it has given me a sense of responsibility and belonging in a new, welcoming, beautiful studio/community. I'm pretty introverted and work with the public, so spending time in silence with other yogically-determined people was the perfect complement to my workday, especially practicing it early in the morning before I have to be 'on' for the public.
"My karma cleaning committment was the 'trick' I needed to play on myself in order to stop making excuses about why I couldn't get to class. Before I was a karma yogi, I'd change my mind about going for lots of reasons: not well-hydrated, didn't eat healthy food, need to clean the house, other people need me more, blah, blah, blah. Once I had to be there, I quickly realized that I'm better in so many ways, from the inside out, that I do everything in my life better when I do yoga that day too.
"Finding a studio that I could really belong to has led me to a consistent yoga practice and that has been ONE OF THE BEST GIFTS OF MY LIFE. Thank you, BYSJ!"
** Interested in becoming a Karma Yogi like Natalie? Email us!
Studio leader, yoga-doer and life-lover, Kay D.