Cultivating Mindful Habits

We all have things we wish to do during our day that get put off for another time. Most people’s lives are crammed full of activities, places to be, chores to be done. We tend to rush about from task to task. Inevitably, many of us end up sacrificing our down time, leaving us feeling worn. Then, when you do have a moment, you feel too depleted to do anything. I am certainly guilty of this behavior on occasion.

Practicing mindfulness helps to refresh us. When we are aware of the present moment, we are truly alive. There is a sense of peace that comes over you when you breathe and smile to the present moment. Self care is essential for a well-balanced life. We all need a moment during our day to stop, breathe, and just be. When we practice in this way we are actually living our days, not just getting through them.

Somewhere in my past, I read that it takes 21 days to form a habitual behavior. I often tell the kids that I work with that your choices become your habits. The more you make the same choice, the more that choice becomes a reflexive decision. So I challenged myself to do at least 20 minutes of yoga every day for 30 days. I chose 20 minutes because it’s enough time to get into something, but not so long that it can appear daunting if I have a busier day. Generally, I would set a timer for 28 minutes, and some days, I would practice longer.

I love doing yoga. I’ve been practicing on and off for the last seventeen years. After learning an integral yoga routine when I was nineteen, I would randomly do yoga stretches in my day (full-forward bends being my most used asana). So while I sort of practiced, I didn’t always attend a structured class, and I’m sure there were periods of time where I didn’t practice at all.

About two years ago, I found a local studio and a yoga instructor I loved. I went to class once a week for about a year and half. Unfortunately for me, my lovely instructor was shifted from teaching morning classes to evening classes which were during my working hours. Bummer. However, that prompted me to take more initiative to self-motivate and practice on my own.

I began my challenge on April 8th which means yesterday was day 30! At first, I had to think about adding yoga into my morning. I’d be doing laundry or baking bread before work and think “oh yeah, I’ve got to work in my 20 minutes of yoga.” But by day 20, it was easier; it was already becoming a part of the routine. As the days went by, I found that certain poses that are normally a bit of a struggle (chair and plank, for instance) were less difficult. I was getting stronger!

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Tulip Poplar Blossom

After 30 days, I can say that I feel better, mind and body. I prefer to do yoga outside in my garden which adds to the serenity of my practice. When I began a month ago,the Tulip Poplar in my garden was just getting leaves and yesterday, I noticed she had blossomed! Currently, the aroma of honey suckle and Chinese privet tree blossoms perfume my garden. (Yes, I know that they are both invasive, but as they were present before we bought our house, I will just enjoy them). I love when I inhale their heady scent as I practice. It prompts me to breathe more deeply and relax a bit more. It was also super fun to be in tree pose under my favorite tree and have the wind rustle through my “branches!”

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Juniper claims my mat.

My dogs love yoga time too! Juniper has decided that my yoga mat is actually OUR yoga mat. She likes to lay on the mat whether it is in use or not! I giggle every time she has sneaked onto the mat behind me and I only realize when I bump into her. Plus, she does look pretty fancy lounging on the mat.

Whatever self-care action you need to add to your routine, you can do it! Many people advocate an all or nothing approach (and if that works for you, fantastic). I, on the other hand, am a proponent of baby steps. I find that giant lifestyle changes can be intimidating, but small changes seem doable. If you are trying to eat less meat/go vegan or vegetarian, start with a couple of meals a week or eliminating a food or two every week.  If you want to read more, be mindful when you turn on the TV or log onto Facebook, and pick up a book instead. The key is to incorporate the change into your routine and to keep making that positive choice until it becomes the routine.

And if you backslide, don’t beat yourself up about it. Breathe deeply and know you are human. You are on your journey to be the best you. Just don’t give up. Once you begin to make mindful, intentional choices, you will notice a change within yourself. When our eyes are opened, it is difficult to shut them against the world. Our awareness is crucial to positive changes. We are the revolution. Each one of us has something we can contribute, but if we do not first care for ourselves, we will not have the energy help others.

“If we are not happy, if we are not peaceful, we can’t share peace and happiness with others, even those we love, those who live under the same roof. If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile and blossom like a flower, and everyone in our family, our entire society, will benefit from our peace.”  Thich Nhat Hanh

Every day you have a brand new 24 hours to live. Every day you have the opportunity to make a positive change in your life. The power is within you. Do not be discouraged. You contain the cosmos. You can accomplish what you set your mind to. Breathe deeply. You are important. You are loved. You can change the world.

 


 

 

P.S. Shout out to my BFF of literally my entire life- Happy birthday, Lareina!!!

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