4 Things Yoga Can Teach You About Building Habits

A habit is an action or a behavior that comes naturally and is extremely difficult to stop doing. We all know that there are both good habits and bad habits, and that most of us would rather swap our bad habits out for the good ones.

Good habits – even the simplest ones — are often difficult to develop and stick with for any long-term period. Whether it’s our own thoughts and emotions that sabotage us, or unforeseen/uncontrollable life events that take our awareness elsewhere, long-term habit formation remains one of the greatest and most mysterious challenges of many people’s lives.

Yoga, however, can help break down the walls that so many of us face in breaking bad habits and building better ones. After all, yoga is more than just poses — it’s a way of life that can change the relationship you have with yourself, with others, and with all of reality.

Authentic Self-Discovery

“The practice of yoga brings us face to face with the extraordinary complexity of our own being,” — Sri Aurobindo

Too many of us pursue habits that have nothing to do with what we really want, deep down. There are habits that society says will make us good and healthy and desirable and successful, and of course since we all want to fit in, we convince ourselves that we really want to build these habits into our lives when in fact, we really don't — because they don't match up with our authentic desires.

For example, many people decide they want to make yoga a daily or weekly habit in order to get fit. Those who manage to stick with their yoga practice, however, often discover that what they really want is to love themselves fully and unconditionally as they are. Years of social conditioning only made them think they really wanted to be fit, in order to love themselves.

Freedom from Victimhood

"Every waking moment we talk to ourselves about the things we experience. Our self-talk, the thoughts we communicate to ourselves, in turn control the way we feel and act." — John Lembo

Yoga creates a space between pure awareness and all the jibber jabber that’s constantly running through the mind. In our everyday lives, we’re often not nearly conscious enough to notice how consumed we are by our own thoughts — especially those that are negative and completely untrue.

When we tell ourselves that a habit is too hard, that it’s not working out the way we expected, that it’s not happening fast enough, or whatever else — we turn ourselves into victims and become more resistant to what we want, making it all the more difficult to move in the direction of what we want. A daily yoga and meditation practice frees us from this way of thinking just by becoming more aware of the fact that it’s happening.

Growth Over Results

“Do your practice and all is coming.” — Sri K Patthabi Jois

Yoga is a journey that has no ending. Long-term habits that need to be constantly maintained are the same way, but most of us are obsessed with the results we’re looking for rather than the learning process in the practice itself.

A genuine yogi knows that it’s not the skill and performance of a particular pose or sequence that matters, but the positive growth in mind, body, and spirit that took place since yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that. When it comes to building habits, what truly matters is getting our footing on each stepping stone. The rest will come.

Your Existing Abundance

“The attitude of gratitude is the highest yoga.” — Yogi Bhajan

Anyone who develops their yoga practice will eventually discover that everything they want is accessible to them and that they already have everything they need to get it. Gratitude attracts abundance, and when we’re in this state while trying to form good habits, we’re far more likely to succeed.

People who are always focused on what they don’t yet have will never be satisfied, because everything they achieve will never be enough. In reality, no habit itself will ever be perfect, nor will it ever be powerful enough to change the relationship we have with ourselves on an inner level, and yoga teaches us that we need to go inward first to unlock our source of abundance.

Habits aren’t easy to build for the average person, but for the average yogi who takes their practice very seriously, transformation may only be a sun salutation away!