Yoga practice as a ‘keystone habit’

I’ve been having a very gentle couple of days doing very limited asana practice at home as I nurture myself and my unhappy hamstring. This was the candlelit view from my mat today:

mat and candle

I’ve been moving slowly, exploring what causes pain and investigating how to modify poses to suit my current physical state. It’s humbling and tiring work, demanding a lot of concentration and discipline. I’ve found it emotional too, confronting my physical frailty and dealing with the rampaging thoughts of my catastrophising mind (‘I’ll never be able to practice again’). I cried a lot on the mat over the weekend, but today I felt calmer, and even managed to derive a certain sense of achievement in my physical explorations. Such intense focus and being-in-the-moment makes for ‘good’ yoga practice ultimately. The silver lining, or a straw to clutch at.

Coincidentally one of my teachers sent today a link to an article about how to form good habits — yes, it’s that time of year.What struck me here was the notion of ‘keystone habits’:

A keystone habit is a behavior or routine that naturally pulls the rest of your life in line. For example, weightlifting is my keystone habit. If I get to the gym, then it creates a ripple effect in other areas of my life. Not only do I get the benefits of working out, I enjoy a wide range of secondary benefits. I focus better after the workout. I tend to eat better when I’m working out consistently. I sleep better at night and wake up with more energy in the morning

I’d noticed this past week as I’ve been off form with my asana practice that all sorts of other good habits have fallen by the wayside. I’m definitely eating less well, and not drinking enough water (always my weak point), I’m skipping my meditation practice, and I’m feeling disproportionately rubbish about myself generally. So yoga is clearly my keystone practice. Now it just needs a little rebuilding from the foundations before it can carry my weight again.

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