Melissa’s Rap: A few months ago, we went on a Healthy Habits adventure, learning exactly what steps to take to create healthy, long-lasting habits. Now that you have had a few months to practice, how has the journey been? Have you found the process of creating and maintaining these new habits easy or challenging? What habits did you create that you are still doing now? If you have lapsed on some, how long were you able to stick with it? What do you feel your barriers to success have been? It is important to analyze what worked and what didn’t, so you can learn and grow from the process and gradually get better and better at the process of creating new habits. Today, let’s talk about some yoga (yes, yoga!) concepts that can help you with your healthy habit mission.
One of my careers has been as a yoga instructor. It has been one of the most meaningful experiences of my life and I have learned new and unique ways to look at life through my experience training as an instructor and teaching others. One new perspective I gained was on habits. Through my studies, I discovered sankalpa and samskaras.
According to yoga guru, author and M.D. Timothy McCall’s masterful book Yoga As Medicine (affiliate), sankalpa is “the yogic tool of intention. Setting your mind on doing something, yogis believe, greatly increases the chances that it will happen.” Dr. McCall points out that there is a difference between what your intention is and what you want the result to be. For example, you may hope to cure yourself of disease, and that is obviously a worthwhile mission, but it is the outcome you are wishing for. When you practice sankalpa, you create a plan of action as specifically as possible, detailing what you will do. For example, you may want to start a home yoga practice. So you, can write out how you will make that happen, detailing when and where this will happen, if you will use videos or create your own flow, how long you will meditate at the end, and so on.
Timothy McCall, M.D. describes samskaras as “habits of action and thought that get deeper all the time, like grooves in a muddy road. From a yogic perspective, every time you do or think something, you increase the likelihood that you will do or think it again. That’s true of both desirable and undesirable thoughts and actions.” This description and analogy stuck with me long after my teacher training. It also brought back what I had learned about neuroplasticity.
According to Time magazine (May 8, 2006), neuroplasticity is “…the capacity of the brain to develop and change throughout life, something Western science once thought impossible.” In the must-read book What to Say When You Talk to Yourself (affiliate), author Shad Helmstetter explains that through research, scientists discovered that performing new actions would result in neurons forming new connections. Like a muscle, the more you exercise this action, the stronger these connections become. The process of creating healthy habits and strengthening them through repetition is proven and only hindered by the limitations you personally impose on them.
In order to create positive, healthy samskaras – etching out those deep grooves – you have to be consistent. Repetition is your key to success. You are really your own roadblock. Miss a day and feel down about it? It’s one day! How you respond is what matters. Tomorrow is a new day. Start back and stay with it. You are training your brain and body to learn a new habit, a new pattern or routine in your life. Stick with it and eventually you will reap the rewards of your persistence.
What does this mean? Blue sky, my friends. What do you want to do? Where do you want to go? What do you want to be when you grow up (even if you are 42 like me, or older)? What are you passionate about? Now, why are you not doing that right now? What is holding you back? One of my favorite quotes is: “Everything you want is on the other side of fear” (Jack Canfield). Believe you can change and then take action with repeated, consistent action that catapults you (or slowly drags you) to your desired result: job, house, relationship(s), financial freedom, travel, and so much more. It will take work, detailed planning and consistent action.
Do you see how understanding and implementing sankalpa and samskaras in your life can help you improve your habit-building endeavors? Try implementing these yogic principles into your process and let us know how it affects your effectiveness when it comes to creating and maintaining healthy habits!
We would love to hear how your Healthy Habits are coming along! Message us here to give us an update and let us know how we can help you succeed! Also, check out Sarah’s Book Review on Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before (affiliate).