It is believed that old habits die hard and new habits are hard to form. Especially as we grow older, we experience difficulty in creating new habits like going to the gym or keeping a daily journal. We either forget or resist. Things that we repeat form a strong impression in our neural pathways and the only way to integrate them into our daily life is to keep repeating them until they become a habit.
People who come to our yoga sessions share that they have tried various forms of exercises and diet at different points in time but haven’t been able to sustain the motivation. In the Indian yogic system, it has been adviced that any form of practice be done for one Mandala i.e 48 days. Just as the embryo needs to spend enough time in the womb to become a fully formed child, a yogic practice needs its time to mature within our system. It takes some time for our food to digest and give us energy. Similarly, it will take some time for the practices to integrate with our system and offer us benefits.
While adopting yogic practices newly, we create a space in our mind for it. We also make the necessary adjustments in our environment to accommodate the new habit, say an adjustment in our time schedule.
Neuroscientists talk of Neuroplasticity which is the ability of the brain to rewire itself. When stroke patients lose this neuroplasticity they are advised to repeat certain actions so that the neuronal connections can be restored and strengthened. Not only is repetition important but the consistency of practice is also key in achieving this plasticity. The same thing happens when we repeat a yogic practice. Initially, the neuronal connections with respect to the practice are loose but eventually strengthen through repetition and this takes roughly 48 days.
It takes time for the mind and body to be tuned to this. Hence don’t be quick to judge, keep practising for a Mandala and then beyond.
In spite of knowing all this, we still can forget or resist the practices. So here are some tips! The science of habit formation says:
- Reminders: Set a reminder on your phone or write it on a wall in front of your bed to take up that practice every day.
- Trackers: Have a chart where you put tally marks as soon as you finish the practice. This will help you to track your progress. There must be lot of apps that help you with this.
- Support Group: It would be beneficial to have a group of people doing the same practice. Share your progress and motivate others who are on the verge of discontinuing.
- Routine: Allot a specific time in the day for the practice
- Loud Mouth: Telling others about your “mandala challenge” so that there is a little bit of social pressure for you to complete. (Go get some “likes”).
- Resolve: If no sweet method is needed, you could just resolve to do..”just do it”.
- Visualize: Visualize that you have completed the task and the sense of achievement you feel. This can go a long way in helping you stay motivated.