In yoga, we call the habits and patterns that we develop are called samskaras. The more you practice something a particular way, the more likely you are to do it that way again. Yoga is all about taking us out of our unhealthy habitual patterns and developing healthy ones instead. I’ll never forget the time a yoga teacher corrected my alignment in a pose–what she was asking me to do seemed impossible, my body simply would not move in that way. I stopped the class. “Wait a minute… How do you practice moving toward an action when you can’t do it even just a little bit?” She looked baffled for a moment. Then, she said something along the lines of, “You develop the awareness by just noticing, and thinking of the intention to change it.”
What works in yoga poses, typical works in life as well. So here goes. My intentions to change the unhealthy habits of my mind.
1. Negative Thoughts. You get good at the things you practice. This is what I try to remind myself every time I get lost in a haze of negativity… which is often. I want to be good at enjoying life, cultivating happiness, and sharing joy — so that’s the kind of pattern I want to establish in my mind.
2. Comparing Apples to Oranges. Suzie Q has such a deep backbend she can touch the tops of her feet to her perfectly quaffed hair do. She also has an amazing job, lots of money, and did I mention perfect hair? It is tempting to draw comparisons, and even as I do it, I know it’s dumb. There’s nothing productive about comparing yourself to others, and most of the time someone else’s life isn’t what it seems. Instead, I’m working to be grateful for the many blessings in MY life.
3. Finding a Scapegoat. YOU are responsible for your OWN happiness–YOU! Not your your spouse or your manager, not your mother or your siblings, not EVEN that jerk that cut you off during rush-hour traffic. Stop blaming other people for your stress, and take responsibility for your own actions and reactions.
4. Creating Unnecessary Tension. I am a master at inflicting undue stress and tension upon myself. I regularly let my mind run rampant with “what if’s” to the point that I can’t think about anything else. I don’t even notice it until I feel my shoulders creep up toward my ears and notice my breath is shallow and hurried. Sure, I could do some stretches to alleviate the physical symptoms of stress, but it would be a lot easier not to let my mind go there to begin with. So instead of stressing about things that may or may not even happen, my intention is to relax in the moment and stress ONLY when there’s a reason to stress. Prevention is worth a pound of cure.
5. Putting Other Things Before My Health. I hate watching other people choose to work when they really need to slow down and take a breath. And yet, I find myself doing exactly that–even though I know better. Whether your job is taking care of an infant or a Fortune 500 company you’ll be better at it if you eat right and get plenty of exercise and sleep. Duh!