The struggle is real. It’s a question that comes up again and again with my students.
It’s a question I’ve asked myself, and most yogis will at some point.
When you sign up for an in-person class you pay for that one class, you are expected to show up at a certain time in a certain place. Just that framework alone is helpful. Even with live online classes, your brain knows what you are expected to do, when, and where. It removes the friction of having to make a decision at that moment.
If you think about it, we are wired to do the easiest thing; to take the path of least resistance. It’s not because we are lazy, it’s because we are smart. We have learned to save as much energy as possible to survive. Not having to make a choice and instead allow the natural momentum of your day to unfold is the path of least resistance. In contrast, stopping what you’re doing to roll out your mat, get your computer, find the class you want to do, get your props, and practice for 1 hour, takes a lot of effort… Unless you set yourself up so it doesn’t.
1. MAKE IT EASY
If you want to show regularly on your mat, it has to feel easy. The first class is the hardest.
One way to make it easy is just like for a regular class, to create an engagement. I will practice …(when), … (where), … (what).
This week, I will practice Monday, Wednesday, Friday before breakfast, in my living room and I will work on Shoulder Opening, with video x.
That way, you have no decision to make at the moment. The decision is made already. Once you have made a clear plan to show up, consciously remove any obstacle that you can think of; anything that might create some friction. The night before, get your yoga clothes out, roll out your mat, set your computer up with the video you chose, put an alarm…
By making a commitment and removing anything that would make it more challenging to show, it actually becomes less effort to do as plan than to undo your setup, put everything away so you can do something else. Practicing becomes the path of least resistance.
CREATE A ROUTINE, MAKE IT A HABIT
Creating a plan and removing any resistance helps you take that first step, take your first class, maybe a handful of them. At this point, there’s a way to make it even more effortless. Create a routine. A routine will cement your plans. The more you repeat Monday-Wednesday-Friday or before breakfast or at 5 pm, the more effortless and expected stepping on the mat becomes. Repetition is the key because it creates expectations. Expectations are the path of least resistance. Routine and habits remove the need to even make the choice the night before. It just becomes what you do, and eventually who you are. Consistency also generates more gains. Every time you repeat, it gets easier to do, you get better at it and you get a step closer to your goal.
SET A GOAL
Talking about goals… Why do you practice? Why do you want to practice? Why did you sign up for a membership online? Being clear on all those questions will naturally help your motivation. Your why gives your actions a purpose. It promises rewards. It moves it from something you should do to something you want to do for a reason that truly matters to you.
The clearer you are on your desired outcome, the more chances you have to take consistent action towards your goal. Consistency not only creates effortlessness but also yields more consistent results. Since we are result-oriented as human beings, progress and improvement keep us more motivated. The more concrete your goal is and the more measurable your outcome is, the more successful you’ll feel, and the more directly you’ll be able to reward your efforts or realign your action plan if need be.
In the long run, working towards a goal will make it easier to show up on the mat and it will make it more fun.
Who doesn’t like to have fun? Another key to showing up on the mat regularly is to find ways to make your practice more pleasurable. Maybe it’s by using music, or lighting candles, wearing fun and colorful yoga clothes, or practicing in the comfort of your pajamas. Some types of poses might be more exciting to you or practicing with a friend might make all the difference.
That friend can make your practice more fun just by being present with you but they can also give you some accountability. The simple act of sharing your goal with someone else will help you stay on track. You could also come up with a reward that the two of you will enjoy together when you achieve your goal, like a dinner in a fancy restaurant.
Find short-term rewards for showing up on the mat. Anything that will incentive you or motivates you will build your habit muscle around the practice. We like to be rewarded for our efforts but working toward a pose might take a little too long to keep you fully engaged and motivated day after day. Instead, make your practice fun and create a reward system around showing up. When I show up 3x/week, I will …
OBSERVE AND NOTE THE CHANGES
Being clear on our goals and our outcome is very useful, but it’s also very important to reflect on how the practice affects us. It’s easy to see if you can balance your handstand for 10 seconds longer but harder to measure if you feel calmer and more grounded. The more you notice the benefits of the practice on your wellness and every aspect of your life, the more you’ll be naturally drawn to continue. You’ll want to continue to reap these benefits. We want more of what feels good. At the same time, your why will become clearer as you experience your life changing for the better.
All in all, the key to showing up on your mat when no one else is looking is to make the process as easy, pleasurable, and rewarding for yourself as possible.