Ah the Resolution Ritual… T’is the season for journaling, promising, and pep-talking. For many, the resolutions are the usual suspects: exercise more, eat healthier, or, in my case, get organized! I can’t tell you how to best file your paperwork or stock your fridge for easy cleaning; but, I can tell you how to carve out space to be successful in regard to your health and wellness, a.k.a. get your backside to yoga in 2014. It’s pretty straightforward. To borrow the phrase of a former First Lady, “Just say ‘no,'” to which I’ll add “to Other People’s Urgency (OPU).”
After teaching yoga for over a decade and seeing the difference between those that “succeed” (read: come to class regularly and reap the benefits) and the yoga drop-outs, I may have some insight to offer. The ones that come to class, well… they come to class. Basically, they treat it like a doctor’s appointment. And why shouldn’t they? The health benefits of a moderate yoga meditation practice will keep you away from the doctor’s office; this isn’t hype , it’s fact. Less lower back pain, improved mood, boosted immune system (10,000 participant- study showing yogis create more antibodies to a flu vaccine faster), better sleep, less arthritis and joint pain, better cognitive function — the list goes on and on.
So, why wouldn’t you be just as serious about showing up to yoga on the prevention end as you would about showing up to the doctor’s office after the fact? Think about what a doctor’s appointment costs you in terms of co-pays (if you’re lucky), out-of-pocket if you have a huge deductible. Add in driving time, missed work, waiting and waiting and waiting around in close quarters with all those sick people…
What if you started treating yoga like a doctor’s appointment and even told people wanting your time during class that you had “an appointment”? Say it with a slightly hushed, serious tone that implies some sort of life threatening situation. Here’s the thing: friends, family, bosses, co-workers and society at large respect (doctor’s) appointments. No one is going to ask you to skip a doctor’s appointment to babysit or make a deadline at work. A doctor’s appointment… it makes people afraid to ask, “What for?” lest they invite some unbearably awkward health issue into the light.
On the other hand, when you say you have “yoga” here’s what happens: in spite of the reams of research and all the lip service paid to wellness by employers, insurance companies, etc., chances are, the person inquiring will deem whatever they need you for as More Important Than Yoga. This I can only chalk up to the general ignorance of the uninitiated. It’s the same sort of ignorance yoga instructors everywhere struggle with– newbies looking at their i-gadgets in class, people walking by (or even through) class who don’t know enough to lower their voices–probably figuring the music just went out during Zumba– and surely whatever they’re discussing trumps silence. I am here to tell you from the from the leading edge of wellness that society still considers noise and multitasking (including jumping up and down and calling it progress) far more important than anything involving silence, stillness and introspection.
Given that yoga is still very counter-culture in many areas and among many subsets of the population, if you want to succeed at yoga and have a healthier and fitter ’14, then you’ll have to be both committed and crafty. You’ll also have to be willing to disappoint those close to you in the short run, so you don’t disappoint yourself in the long run. The ability to ascertain between your own urgency and other people’s urgency will be useful. Before you drop everything to miss class and “put out a fire” ask yourself some questions: “Is it really my fire to put out? Does it really have to be put out during class? What happens if I don’t respond? –this last question was driven home for me by my former boss as key to running a successful small office with limited resources. You simply have to get used to not doing everything everyone asks of you.
Now, shall we practice a bit to make sure you don’t choke under the pressure? Look in the mirror and practice saying “No, I’m sorry, I have an important appointment then” –sell it with the expression of a seasoned news anchor. A slightly furrowed brow helps and again, the hushed tone. Maybe even look over your shoulder and move in a little closer, implying an air of confidentiality. Good luck and see you at your next appointment!