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.
Last December, I bumped into Natalie (who I later found out is a longtime Karma Yogi at BYSJ) at a Garcia Birthday Band show. She stuck a buddy pass in my hand and told me I should go to yoga. It was a wild night and Natalie seemed like a cool lady, so I decided to check it out. I had no idea what I was getting into! At 65 I had never been to a yoga class. Now I do Bikram yoga every day...
In 7 months of daily practice, here is what Bikram yoga has done for me:
I wanted to share my story especially for other people with fibromyalgia who think there is no answer besides expensive medications with tons of terrible side effects. For me, Bikram yoga gives me relief of my symptoms without all of that other stuff, and it makes my life better in so many other ways too. You've got to give it a try!
With temperatures in the 90s this week, summer is definitely here! Are you wondering whether it makes sense to turn the heat up even more by coming to hot yoga class? You may be asking yourself if you even have the energy for it. Your friends and fam may be looking at you funny if you mention where you're headed when the thermometer outside is reaching the triple digits... So is it worth it? Short answer= YES. Here are just a few reasons it is:
Exercise scientists have been researching the benefits you may already be experiencing! Here's a study that explores how “Exercising in the Heat May Improve Athletic Performance in Cool and Hot Conditions.”
I have been practicing Bikram Yoga since 2006. A back injury I sustained in 1999 limited the activities I could do without pain and a co-worker's encouragement got me into my first class. As a stubborn perfectionist in my 20's, my initial yoga practice was intense, disciplined, and with the singular focus to deepen my postures.
After becoming a teacher, practicing consistently over time, dealing with life, and growing as a person, my practice today looks, and feels, WAY different than it did back then! I have always been a rebellious and creative person so it is surprising that I picked Bikram Yoga as my yoga of choice. Here are some tips I use to keep my yoga consistent, nourishing, and healing no matter what is going on.
1) "Just breathe, everything else is optional." - Diane Ducharme-Gardner
The most important thing your teachers constantly remind you to do in class is "breathing always normal." If you never did a single yoga posture, but kept your breathing normal, you would still be practicing yoga! If your yoga postures are very pretty on the outside, but you breathe by your mouth, you hold on tightly to your breath, or your breath creates a panicked response in your central nervous system, you are not doing yoga, you are just making body shapes. By breathing normally in and out by your nose you stay present, keep your system calm, and get the intended healing benefits of the postures. Next time you practice, put a little more attention on how you are breathing, especially during the postures you dislike - you may find you dislike them because you are not breathing.
2) Pay attention
The dialogue helps to create a moving meditation. When you have been practicing for some time it's easy to tune the teacher out and go at the pace you want to go at. Don't fall into that habit! If you stay with the postures word-by-word, you will deepen the connection between your mind and your body. You will hear different things in the dialogue and you will begin to understand them differently. "Nice and tight contraction" and "completely relax" will each take on new meaning from practice to practice. You will understand your muscles and injuries and sensations in your body. You will start to be able to make better decisions in your practice. Pay attention with your ears, the feelings in your body, and the energy you have on any given day.
3) Adjust your intensity
This may be one of the most important lessons I've learned over time. The postures should always be done with the correct alignment and precision of technique. However, the intensity you apply to them should change on a regular basis. If you are feeling great, have gotten lots of sleep, are well hydrated and fed, and have laser beam focus you can practice much differently than if you have been working overnight shifts, have been drinking nothing but coffee, and haven't slept in 3 days. You need to consider yourself in the present moment when you practice because if you don't, you will start to hate your yoga. You should always leave the studio feeling better than you did when you entered it. If you are constantly tired, are in pain, or dread coming back, something needs to change. Give yourself permission to push less, rest more, and perhaps be kinder with yourself during your 90 minutes. Life is crazy and yoga should always make you feel like you can handle it better. If yoga is not helping you, talk to your teachers, they have been there, too, and can help!
4) We're all in this together
I recently had a student tell me she was feeling frustrated and discouraged because she felt like everyone else in the room was "getting it" and had great postures and she was the only one that was struggling. Here's a tip from someone that stands on the podium and also stands on a mat - none of us get it and we're all struggling! What I mean by that is you can't tell what is going on with someone internally by looking at them from the outside. I've known people with beautiful looking yoga postures that struggled with chronic pain. I've known people with some wonky looking postures that were so joyous and felt so good in their bodies that you always wanted to be around them. I discover new things about the dialogue and about myself every time I step onto the mat. People share with me every day both their struggles and their successes and how their yoga is so important. Remember that most of us are doing yoga for a reason - because we need it.
5) Simply show up
I can't tell you how many times people come up to the front desk terrified of stepping into the room after a long hiatus. They build up the class so intensely in their heads and put huge expectations on themselves for what they need to accomplish. Please go back to the first tip above - just breathe. Most importantly - just show up. The hardest yoga posture you will ever do is Showing-Up-To-Classasana. Bikram Yoga is a beginner's series designed to heal, strengthen, and create resilience in the mind, body, and spirit. Keep this in mind when you step into the room. Take the pressure of performance off yourself an embrace the heat and the healing and the community support of your fellow practitioners.
What do you think about these yoga tips? Which one are you most interested in practicing? I can't wait to meet you all and talk everything yoga with you next week!
Audrey Holst is a Certified Bikram Yoga Instructor, Studio Owner of Bikram Yoga Natick in Massachussetts and professional Stress Reduction Consultant. She will be in residence at BYSJ this May for a whole week- teaching, mentoring our instructors and giving private lessons to you! View Audrey's teaching schedule here.
Studio leader, yoga-doer and life-lover, Kay D.