This situation definitely sounds familiar. You (or someone you know) go to a few yoga classes, try to commit for two or three months, practice alone at home couple of times, then gradually skip classes and eventually call it a quits. Why is it often hard to start a yoga practice and keep it up?
Giving Up Can Be Learned
This behavior might be attributed to something psychology calls learned helplessness.
When we encounter events that are or seem to be out of control, we may respond simply by giving up. People who developed learned helplessness stop trying to do something difficult or complicated because it feels beyond personal control. This means we run the risk of learning over time to be helpless whenever we find ourselves behind the eight ball.
Yoga and the Struggle for Control
As beginners start learning yoga, they face a few physical difficulties with asana. Feeling not in complete control of their bodies, they may become discouraged. Unable to bend their muscles to their will, they can grow tired. Seeing non-perfect poses as a failure on their side, they throw their hands up in despair.
Time is another factor that can deepen learned helplessness in beginners. Many of us do not feel in control all of time, and despite our best efforts, it still slips away easily. That’s why adapting weekly schedules, making time for classes, and creating an on-going routine can add extra pressure.
Blame plays a part as well in promoting the feeling of helplessness. It provides a reason to accept there is nothing one can do, and we find the needed comfort in that. Some people put the blame on external forces— yoga is a difficult practice, it’s suitable for athletes only, my instructor is bad, etc. Others blame themselves--I’m not flexible enough, I’m overweight, and so on.
What should you do when you feel helpless? Try these tips.
1. Make your choice.
Whether or not you are in control, the reality is you always have a choice. You are not helpless no matter what the circumstances are, and either you place the blame on yourself or others.
Giving up in itself is a choice. So make the right one. Choose to accept what you have no control of, embrace it, and learn to react positively to it. Choose to improve and develop what you are in a control of--your attitude and body.
2. Be thankful for the pain.
We may not appreciate the aches, the cramps, and the muscle soreness, but we’ve got to accept that pain is our pathway to growing. It’s hard to persist when we think we are not making progress. And we will never make any progress as long as we’re avoiding pain. Fortunately, the more we grow, the easier it gets to handle physical or emotional discomfort.
Keep in your mind every time you talk yourself into quitting that pain is temporary, but the reward is permanent.
3. Set goals.
Runners know all about setting goals and objectives. Days and days of calculating minutes, counting miles, and observing paces set the stage for practice that turns into a wonderful habit. Ask them, you will learn a great lesson in this regards.
Start with setting a big goal followed by small objectives. A big goal, for example, would be practicing yoga on a daily basis for a complete hour. This could help you ignore distractions like physical pain or negative thoughts. Small objectives on the other hand, like adding more poses, will provide a sense of accomplishment every time you fulfil one of them.
The beauty of this technique is once you achieve these small objectives, new ones are generated right away.
4. Enjoy the little victories.
Every time you stretch yourself further, celebrate it. The moment you realize you can hold the pose longer, make a big deal out of it. Acknowledging progress no matter how small it is can give you a real shot in the arm along the way.
Let’s be honest, we all have days when we can barely drag ourselves out of bed and go to our offices, not to mention doing our routine exercise or catching up with a yoga class. But commitment makes us do so.
The good news is, as soon as you get past these moments of weakness, you will move along with your plans and forget all about not feeling well and perform just fine. Commitment breeds action, and action breeds motivation. Motivation feeds you with the needed energy to keep going.
Now what? Just remember as you can learn to give up, you can learn to keep up. You should choose every day not to fall in the temptation of taking the easy way out, and in doing so, you will be able to persist harder and control your life better.
If you hold on to your yoga practice, you will wake up one day feeling life is unbearable without the Sirsasanas, the salutations, the Chakras, and all the magic that comes with yoga. Just hang in there!