It’s good to remind myself that I’ve always believed the self-help maxim that it takes three weeks to instill a habit. Yoga doesn’t feel like a habit yet, and that was bothering me until I looked at the calendar and discovered I started trying to fit in two or three sessions a week just two weeks ago, and not three weeks ago as I’d thought. Of course it’s not a habit yet! I told myself. Wait another week, and it will be!
Well, I hope so. Much as I question my self-judgment sometimes in having allowed both running and journaling to become a never-miss-a-day compulsion – an approach I decided from the outset I would not replicate with the yoga practice – I have to acknowledge that being flexible with the repetition of yoga is a little bit of a detriment to making this feel habitual. My goal is to do a yoga DVD session two or three times a week, and so far I’ve done that. But the lack of rigor as far as sticking with a firm schedule compels me to question whether it really has the potential to qualify as a habit or not.
Of course, it doesn’t really matter whether doing yoga a few times a week qualifies it as a habit or merely an occasional practice. What matters for the sake of my deciding to try to take up yoga is whether it feels worthwhile. And so far it does, although I still have the occasional uncertainty.
Having been a runner for so long, and before that an aerobics and weight training practitioner, I’m still struggling with the fact that yoga doesn’t promise results that are nearly as fast nor as quantifiable as these other pursuits. Losing weight would be nice and is certainly possible with yoga, but is hardly a guarantee the way it almost is when you take up running. Seeing physical changes that result from the practice is again more of a long-term probability than something likely to happen in the first month, as with aerobics or weight training. I’d like to think my flexibility is gradually improving, but that’s hard to measure at this point also.
What has changed already, though, is how I feel about yoga. For years, I didn’t think it was something I’d ever choose to devote time to practicing. And yet in just the space of two weeks, I’m already finding myself looking forward to the workout on those afternoons when I do put aside the time for it. Very slowly, my mentality about exercise seems to be expanding. Running, which I’ve done so much of for so long, is about hitting the pavement (or gravel) and propelling forward: fast, hard, steady, relentless. Yoga, as I perceive it just a half-dozen sessions in, makes me feel like I am opening up, stretching out, embracing something.
And as I thought about this yesterday, I realized that latter feeling might be just what I need more of in my life right now. More slow opening-up , reaching out, embracing: to ideas, to possibilities, to efforts, to people. Less tucking my head in and barreling ahead, as I do in running.
Last month I was writing in my journal about how much ground I’d covered in terms of my work in the year 2010. I’d gained new clients, increased my workload with existing clients, and published a book. I worried that 2011 couldn’t live up to the same standards. I have no book in mind to write; I’m not even working very hard to find new clients right now. And then it occurred to me that my creative or professional success might not operate on a continuum. Moving forever upward and onward might not be either possible or sensible. If 2010 was about accomplishing and producing, 2011 might be about something else, something more along the lines of reflecting and assessing. And somehow yoga is starting to feel to me like the physical embodiment of that process, just as running seems to represent progress and linear development.
So even without metrics such as weight loss or amount bench-pressed, I’m committed to continuing my practice of yoga. I wish I could see quantifiable results, but for now, the results seem to be all in my head, and as long as they’re there, that’s good enough.