4 guilt-free ways to embrace your emotions

4 guilt-free ways to embrace your emotions

In 2015, after a little over two years of marriage, my husband and I separated. I felt abandoned and full of grief. Living in a foreign country, I felt completely alone. Often at night, I would be flooded with a complex mixture of feelings and had no one to turn to.

I had never experienced this overwhelming amount of emotions. Sometimes I could hardly breath from the amount of sadness and anger that I experienced.

Up until this point, I thought very little about my emotions. It had never occurred to me that I had never learned to express my feelings.

I was always good at expressing my opinions, but rarely expressed my emotions. Perhaps growing up in a stoic midwestern culture contributed to this habit. Not to mention the fact that expressing or managing our emotions is a skill rarely taught in schools.

Dr. Gabor Maté, a best-selling author and expert on addiction and stress, talks about the two most common ways people express their feelings in his book When the Body Says No. Most people either swallow their emotions or explode. Neither is healthy. One may cause disease in the body and the other my cause dis-ease in our relationships and environment.

Suddenly, I was faced with a situation in life where I needed to learn how to deal with my emotions.  I had grown up feeling guilty about my emotions, especially those labeled as negative.

By now, through my yoga and meditation practice, I had become aware that emotions are neither good or bad, but simply physical reactions in the body.

Therefore, I knew I not only wanted to learn to deal with my emotions, but also how to embrace and accept my emotions without guilt, so that I could release them and move on in freedom.

Since then, I have developed four go-to ways to deal with my feelings without guilt.

4 guilt-free ways to embrace your emotions

1. Emotions journalling

In our culture, we are very busy. We go throughout the day focused on finishing our task list. We rarely take the time to notice the emotions we are feeling. Instead, we stuff them inside so that we move onto the next thing on our to-do list.

For this reason, we don’t spend much time actually noticing or pinpointing our emotions. When we come to do this, we have a surprisingly limited vocabulary to describe emotions.

When we decide to become more aware of our emotions, it can be very hard to even name them, much less understand the reasons these emotions arise.

At this point in my life, I began to do something I call emotions journaling.  This type of journaling is different that stream of consciousness journaling where you write whatever comes to mind. Instead, journaling about our emotions has the specific aim to name the emotions we feel at the moment or felt in a specific situation and also to explore the reasons for that emotion.

The Center for Nonviolent Communication (NVC) teaches a model in which all humans share universal needs. They teach that feelings and emotions arise for an individual because one of these specific needs is either met or not met for that person.

To learn to express these needs, they recommend people practice communicating with the below format:

I feel ________________, because my need for  ________________ is/is not met.

I began to use this exact sentence to journal about my emotions. Using the list of feelings and needs  provided on their website, I began to name my feelings and the needs that were either met or unmet.

This method of journaling was very powerful for me, because it gave me insight into the reasons certain emotions arose.  It helped me understand my needs and taught me how to communicate these needs and set boundaries in my life so that my needs could be met. It helped me reduce my feelings of guilt over certain emotions I struggled with, such as anger, because it showed me these emotions come from legitimate needs that all humans experience.

The great thing about the NVC model is that it helps dispel out cultural bias towards negative and positive emotions. Instead it labels emotions as those that you experience either when your needs are satisfied or not satisfied. For me it gave me a wider vocabulary for my emotions. No longer were emotions just happy or sad or angry, but instead I could express the whole range of emotions.

2. The phone trick

Sometimes you don’t have a lot of time to journal about your emotions and thus it is easy to avoid checking in with our emotions in this way daily. Well, luckily there is another way you can practice the same process of naming your feelings and needs that will only take 10 minutes of your day: the phone trick.

I discovered this ritual when a friend of mine shared with me this article back in 2015. At the time, I often felt pressure that I should just “get over” my sad feelings and “be ok” already. This article helped me realize it is ok not to be ok and gave practical ways to manage feelings.

My favorite was the phone trick. This process uses your phone to learn to verbally express your emotions and also to practice feeling compassion for yourself.

There are four steps to the process (Watch the video for a full tutorial):

  1. Set your timer for 5 minutes and use your phone to film yourself expressing your feelings at that moment. When the timer goes off, stop wherever you are.
  2. Take three deep breaths into your abdomen.
  3. Set your timer for 5 minutes and watch the video you just filmed. While watching, practice showing compassion to yourself for the feelings you are expressing.
  4. Take three more deep breaths into your abdomen. And when you are ready to release these emotions, press delete for the video on your phone.

Why I love this process:

  • It only takes 10 minutes.
  • You learn how to voice your emotions, whether they are easier ones or more difficult ones.
  • You practice compassion for yourself, rather than feeling guilty for your emotions.
  • You delete the video and practice letting go and moving forward. Even if these emotions and experiences come up again, you can practice letting go again using the same technique.

3. Finger holds

Finger holds are a practice for managing emotions based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In TCM, there are channels or meridians of energy that run through each finger and are connected with a different system of organs and associated with a different emotion.

By simply holding your finger, you can stimulate these meridians and balance the emotions in your body. If we don’t balance or manage our emotions, they can become stuck or repressed, creating pain or congestion in the body.

This practice helps us realize that emotions are not “good” or “bad,” but actually messages from the body that show us how we are navigating challenges in our environment. The practice of finger holds can even help us understand the emotions we are experiencing as we practice listening to the body.

In TCM, the emotions associated with each finger are:

  • Thumb – Grief, sadness and tears
  • Index finger – Fear, terror and panic
  • Middle finger – Anger, rage and resentment
  • Ring finger – Anxiety, worry and nervousness
  • Little finger – Lack of self-worth

Finger holds can be practiced whenever you are feeling a specific emotion in any situation or you can practice it as a meditation. When practiced as a meditation you can understand which emotion you are dealing with at the moment by noticing which finger begins to pulse more when it is being held.

I first learned finger holds through CAPACITAR International, an organization that teaches energy-based healing practices, often in situations of trauma and conflict. I wondered why we don’t learn these practices as children. It is such a simple and powerful practice!

How I use finger holds:

  • Overtime you will memorize which finger is associated with each emotion. Whenever I am in a situation where I feel overwhelmed by a particular emotion, I will hold the associated finger and breath in order to balance that emotion in my body.
  • I often do this practice as a meditation as I am going to bed. It usually helps me fall asleep immediately, even before I finished holding all five fingers. It also ensures that I sleep peacefully, without pent up emotions from the day making my sleep restless. 

You may start this practice not feeling like much is happening, but over time your body will become more receptive to the shifts in energy and will balance its emotions faster with the practice.

You can practice finger holds as a 7-min meditation here.

4. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)

The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is now becoming a very popular practice for releasing emotions blocked in the body. It is used in many contexts, from dealing with anxiety and stress to overcoming our limiting beliefs and finding freedom to pursue our dreams in life.

It is a practice developed by Gary Flint, Ph.D. and is based on energy field theory and meridian theory of Eastern medicine.

It consists of four steps:

  • Select your target issue – perhaps a situation that is giving you anxiety, causing fear or keeping you from moving on in life.
  • Create an affirmation with a brief description of the issue – a simple affirmation is “Despite the fact that I have this problem, I’m OK, I accept myself.”
  • Tapping on 7 – 12 basic acupressure points.
  • Repeat the process a few times.

You can use this practice in situations where you feel overwhelmed or develop a consistent practice of EFT twice a day in the morning and the evening. Check out this video to start practicing EFT today.

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These days, we see more and more mindfulness, meditation and emotional intelligence practices making their way into schools. When I was younger, however, managing emotions was not something that was actively taught, so it is something I have had to learn as an adult.

If you are like me and often feel overwhelmed, it may be a sign that you are not actively managing your emotions each day. You may even been feeling guilty over certain emotions, which can add to the sense of overwhelm and make it even harder to understand the emotions underneath the guilt.

In my journey to reduce overwhelm, I’ve found it is essential to practice managing my emotions on a regular basis. These are the top 4 practices I use to regularly check-in with my emotions, so they do not get stuck in my body and cause emotional breakdowns, sickness or disease.

Practicing these four techniques on your own, will help you bring emotional awareness and harmony into your relationships.

Managing our emotions is empowering. As women, we often internalize a message that we should be silent. That we should not say too much to I. Therefore, we keep our emotions inside. Learning to name our emotions and needs on our own and in our relationships can help give a voice to our true selves.

Unblocking emotions from our bodies helps our bodies stay strong, healthy and vibrant. Finding stillness within the fluctuations of our feelings can preserve our energy to express our creativity and live our purpose with passion.

What about you?

Share in the comments below. What ways to you use to manage your emotions? Which one of these four ways will you try first?

 

Confessions of an angry yogi

Confessions of an angry yogi

Confession time.

I get angry.

It may come as a surprise to some, because I’ve heard many friends and acquaintances of mine comment on how calm I am. That I’m the kind of person they can tell does yoga. One friend even asked me if I could ‘teach her to be zen.’

I don’t say these things to brag, but to prove that things aren’t always as they appear on the outside.

In a world ruled by social media everyone displays the happiest version of themselves. In the realms of yoga, spirituality and self-development, so much of the conversation is about positivity and finding your bliss.

In this world, it can be so easy to judge ourselves when any so-called ‘negative’ emotions arise.

We can often feel guilty for feeling these emotions, which only makes matters worse.

Guilt can hit the yogi who is stereotyped to be peaceful and calm all the time, or the woman who has always been told to be nice and not to rock the boat. (Let’s be honest, guilt can hit the man who has been told to be a man and not show any emotions).

People who know me best, my parents, my siblings and my partner are the ones who have seen me at my worst. They’ve seen my rage, my anxiety, my depression, my stress, my overwhelm, my breakdowns and my uncontrollable weeping.

I doubt any of them would comment on how calm or zen I am as a person. In fact, I appreciate that there are a handful of people that accept me for all that I am, including the difficult emotions.

The fact is, we as humans experience a whole spectrum of human emotions. And it is only us that has labeled them ‘negative’ or ‘positive.’ Yet, many of us have not been taught how to deal with our emotions.

We often inherit from our parents their mode of dealing with emotions, without little thought to the matter. The tendency is to either stuff our emotions inside or explode. Or, if you are like me, some combination of both.

I did not give much thought to how I dealt with my emotions until I started yoga. Over the years, the practice of yoga has showed me how to embrace my emotions and not let them take over.

How yoga taught me how to embrace my emotions.

It taught me awareness of my body

Like I said, all humans experience the full range of human emotions. In fact, emotions are just a physical reaction in the body. They are neither “good” or “bad”, but just a biological reality.

The things we normally associate with emotions, such as yelling when we’re angry, are not the emotion itself, but the way we try to release or avoid the physical reaction in the body.

Before I started yoga, I was so out of touch with my body. I rarely thought of my body, unless I was hungry, in pain, or working out at the gym.

I’m guessing many of you are like this too. I mean, when was the last time you thought about relaxing your tongue, teeth, ears or brought attention to each one of your toes? There are so many parts of our body that we forget about when going through our everyday life.

In yoga, I learned to bring total awareness to the body.

The practice of yoga teaches you to bring awareness to all areas of your body in each pose. At the end of each practice, you are often instructed to relax all the muscles in your body. Overtime, your awareness of your body becomes greater and you become more sensitive to all the subtle changes you experience.

The key to dealing with difficult emotions, is to stop and bring awareness to the sensations in your body that the emotion brings, rather than reacting to the emotion.

I once read an article about psychologists dealing with anger management clients. They brought their clients back into a memory that caused anger. Once they were in the space of anger, they asked their clients to close their eyes and simply state the sensations in their body.

On the outside, these clients didn’t look angry at all, because instead of yelling, shouting, scrunching their face, opening their eyes wide or making fists, they calmly narrated the sensations in their body with closed eyes, until the physical reactions dissipated and transformed into calm.

It’s often hard to do this when we are in the heat of strong emotions. Normally, our habitual reaction takes over.

Yoga gave me the space to practice being aware of my body. It helped me build up a habit of noticing my body and its sensations. Overtime, this practice in times of calm, helped me create a habit that I could carry into the times when strong emotions took over.

I’ll be honest, I still often react when difficult emotions arise. But I know that with consistent yoga practice, I will make the habit of noticing my body stronger and the habit of reacting will become weaker.

It taught me awareness of my breath

The breath is such a powerful tool in dealing with emotions. When we are stressed or anxious, we tend to breathe shallowly just into our upper chest. The same thing happens when anger or grief grip us.

Have you ever had the feeling that you can’t breathe when crying and noticed how the breath becomes deeper when the sadness begins to calm?

Deepening the breath can help us breath through discomfort, relax our emotions and bring our bodies once again to a calm state of being.

Most of us go through life breathing shallowly everyday.  We rarely notice our breath and take for granted the very thing that keeps us alive. If we go throughout the day breathing shallowly, we don’t have any experience in breathing deeply to utilize when we feel strong emotions.

When I started yoga, I noticed how I breath very shallowly. It was very difficult to do any breathing practices and most of the time I wanted to avoid them. The more I practiced, however, the deeper my breath became naturally. Then slowly, when I got angry, I remembered the breathing practices from yoga and began to use them to calm my anger.

Thich Nhat Hanh, in his book Anger, talks about how the breath helps us embrace our anger instead of judging it.

“Anger is like a howling baby, suffering and crying. The baby needs his mother to embrace him. You are the mother for your baby, your anger. The moment you begin to practice breathing mindfully in and out, you have the energy of a mother, to cradle and embrace the baby. Just embracing your anger, just breathing in and breathing out, that is good enough. The baby will feel relief right away.”

When we get angry, our mind starts to tell stories about how the other person is wrong and why we are right. In our thoughts, we can chastise ourselves for being angry and we begin to feel guilty.

Connecting with the breath takes us out of our minds. We stop telling stories. Instead, we can simply watch the breath. The guilt and anger slowly dissipates. Then, we can embrace our anger and feel compassion for ourselves.

When I first read about breathing when angry, I thought it would be easy. Then when I would get angry and yell, I would get mad at myself for failing. It was not easy to suddenly remember to breath.

Thich Nhat Hanh talks about watering the seeds. Practice breathing mindfully each day, in order to practice using the tools for when they are needed in the heat of the moment. Sure enough, through consistent practice of the yogic breathing practices and mindful breathing, I have been able to use the breath to reduce my angry outbursts.

It helped me find the roots of my anger and speak my truth.

Developing more awareness of my body and breath, gave me the tools to slow down during moments of anger; to not let my mind run wild with justifications for my anger, but to come into the moment and notice what was really causing my anger.

In angry moments, it is easy for my anger to escalate. One thing will be said that will tip me off and then the argument will start to spin out of control. By the end, I may even forget what started the argument in the first place.

Coming into my body and breath, helped me come into the moment and really examine what caused my anger. I began to realize that what the other person had said or done was not really what I was angry about, but that thing had reminded me of something before that caused me anger in the same way.

These “triggers” often came from my childhood or even my own anger at myself. When I was able to slow down, I was able to understand what triggered my anger.

Then I was able to express this truth.  Instead of being mad at the other person, I could share the previous experience and how that made me feel.

I was also able to realize that anger comes from a need that I have that was unmet. I started to understand what my needs are as a person. I was able to express my needs and also establish boundaries to make my needs a priority and prevent situations that would cause anger.

So what do I do now when I am angry, anxious or sad?

  • I stop, close my eyes and take a breath.
  • I scan my body for what sensations I can feel.
  • I ask myself to describe these sensations: butterflies in my stomach, tingling in my chest, difficulty breathing, frog in my throat.
  • I watch the sensations until they dissipate.
  • I give myself compassion and tell myself that despite the fact that I have these emotions, I accept myself.
  • When I am calm, I review what made me angry. I explore what triggers were brought up and what needs were unmet.
  • I express these needs and triggers to the person I am angry with.

Dealing with anger has been a long journey for me. It began seven years ago, and is a journey I continue to this day. A consistent yoga practice gives me the chance to daily connect to myself and become more aware of my body and breath. Each day, I practice slowing down, so that I am able to slow down when I feel difficult emotions arising. Y

Yoga has given me the tools to bring that body and breath awareness into the times most needed and taught me the courage to deal with the anger of my past and vulnerably express my truth.

For the longest time, I was embarrassed by my anger. I thought, “I’m a yogi. I should be peaceful and not angry.”

If you’re reading this, then you may feel the same feelings of embarrassment that I also felt.

In my confession today, I hope you feel that you have a companion on the journey and the support to open up about your struggles with strong emotions.

I truly believe the more we open up to all of our emotions, even the so-called “negative” ones, we can process them, let them go and live our fullest and freest life in the future.

Do you share the same experience? Share in the comments…

Do you ever feel guilty for feeling angry, anxious, sad or any other emotion?

How have you learned to process?

Feel rejuvenated with this evening getaway

Feel rejuvenated with this evening getaway

Last week, I was headed home from the office. As I drove in my car, my mind started racing with all the things I needed to do that evening. Cook, eat, walk the dog and do laundry came to mind first.

I was hoping for a slower evening, but that morning I was reminded that my friend would be in town and coming for dinner the next night.

Suddenly, I felt like I should work on my blog and website, since I would not be able to do so the next day. I felt the pressure to be productive, to not lose time working on what I’m passionate about. Yet at the same time, I felt exhausted.

Over the previous weekend, instead of relaxing I spent most of the time cleaning and working. My husband had been traveling for almost a month, with only 3 nights home in between trips, leaving me to take care of the things around the house we normally shared.

I felt bummed. Here I had been looking forward to a relaxing evening, yet suddenly my to-do list was piling up.

Then all of the sudden, I realized I had a decision to make. Keep pushing myself through my to-do list despite my exhaustion or give myself some much needed rest.

On other evenings, I would have followed my long-time habit of pushing through. I would have felt guilty if I did not follow the schedule I set myself for the week.

On that evening, however, I made a different decision. I chose to listen to my body and give it some much needed rest. I knew that from this place of rest, I would be much happier doing chores on another night and be more creative later in the week to work on the blog and website.

Here’s how I created an evening getaway that left me feeling rejuvenated and full of energy in just 2 hours.

Set up the space

Thankfully, I had cleaned the house two days before, so my bedroom was free from clutter. I turned on some essential oils – lavender is excellent for relaxation – and bought my dog a special bone, so that I knew he would be occupied and not disturb me during my getaway time.

To set up your space, don’t deep clean, but take a few minutes to arrange some of the clutter and make your bedroom feel like a relaxing space. If you choose to be in another room, set up a relaxing area all to yourself. Make sure you have plenty of cushions around, a blanket and a comfortable place to rest on your back, such as a mattress or a yoga mat. Turn on some soothing scented candles or essential oils. Have your husband take your kids out for the evening, so you will have 2 hours all to yourself not to be disturbed.

Practice yoga nidra

Sometimes you need space alone to watch TV or get drowned in a good book. But this time, you want to experience deep relaxation, so that you can really release all your stresses, worries and body aches and experience total rejuvenation in mind, body and spirit.

My favorite way to completely relax is to practice yoga nidra. Yoga nidra is know as the “sleep of the yogis.” It is a powerful form of relaxation that calms the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Once the nervous system is in a complete state of rest, your brain opens up to a new state of consciousness – somewhere between sleep, meditation and conscious awareness – where deep healing can take place.

So for your evening getaway, choose a soothing yoga nidra to bring you into complete relaxation. There are many free yoga nidras available at Yoga Nidra Network. My favorites for this type of getaway are By the Stream and 5 Elements Wove: Tree.

Reflect and journal

After practicing yoga nidra, take some time to reflect and journal. There’s no need to write anything profound or deep. Instead, this is just a chance to get out any thoughts or emotions that you are having in that moment.

In fact, I encourage you to use a practice I use from Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. In the book, Cameron suggests writing 3-pages of stream of consciousness writing. Write whatever comes to mind: dreams, thoughts, feelings, worries, to-dos. If you run out of things to write, simply write “I don’t have anything to write…” until something else comes up to your mind.

This method of journalling is excellent for getting down on paper and releasing anything on your mind that is blocking your energy and creativity.

That’s it!

It does not always take a 5-day retreat in an exotic location to feel rejuvenated and refreshed.

The key to overcoming overwhelm and living life with a calmer mind is finding ways to rest even during the busiest of times.

Tell me in the comments…

Do you feel pressured to push through exhaustion? Will you try this evening getaway?

What’s your wake-up call?

What’s your wake-up call?

When I talk about a wake-up call, I don’t mean that thing that wakes you up each morning. I mean something much bigger than that.

I’m talking about that moment that wakes you up to the fact that something needs to dramatically change in your life. Something that shows you that you need to take your health back into your own hands or completely transform your lifestyle. That moment that leads you to start yoga, meditation, a new diet, or maybe even to change jobs or move to a new city.

I had already done yoga for a few years when I had my wake-up call. What lead me to yoga was not some dramatic moment or realization, but more like this idealistic thought that yoga would prove that my life was calm and tranquil.

Yet, yoga was the key to what woke me up a few years later.

The moment I woke up

It was 2014. I was attending a 4-day workshop with my teacher David Sye (If you are ever able to attend one of his workshops, DO! It’s simply amazing and indescribable). It was the end of an afternoon yoga practice. The music was cranking as it always does in David’s classes. We were all moving, dancing and celebrating life.

Suddenly, my weekly yoga teacher looked at me and said, “Wow, you’re so full of energy Bethany!”

I remember her sounding slightly surprised. There I was, thinking I was acting totally like my normal self, and someone else was surprised at how much energy I had.

It was that moment, I realized I hadn’t felt that much energy for years. I realized that nobody around me knew that I had that much energy, even though deep inside I always knew it was in me.

That was the moment, that I woke-up. I woke-up to what I was actually living in my life, which was a life in a strange country filled with conflict, far away from my family, friends and anything I knew in my life, facing difficulties in my marriage, and feeling like I didn’t have a single friend who knew who I truly was and would support me through anything.

That was the moment, I realized that I needed to make myself a priority. If I didn’t have a life full of health, vitality and love, then life would be a waste.

You’ve got nothing without your health

There’s always that thing that wakes us up. For some it’s a health issue; a diabetes scare or an unexplained thyroid problem. For others it’s a life experience. After having kids you feel like somewhere along the way you lost your youthful confidence in your body or you took a vacation that made you feel SO GOOD making you wonder why daily life doesn’t feel more like this.

Why does it seem like we always wait for something to go wrong before we actually realize how important our health and self-care is?

When it comes down to it, from our health comes our beauty, vitality, creativity and the ability to live the life of our dreams. If we don’t have our health, we don’t have anything.

Or perhaps, you’re one of those people who hasn’t had a wake-up call. Nothing has gone wrong in life, but still many things other than you are at the top of your priority list. If you’re one of these people, trust me, don’t wait for something to wake you up. Make your health a priority before it’s too late.

How about you? Share in the comments below.

Have you had a wake-up call yet?

What was it?

Was it a big revelation or something subtle that lead you to try yoga or meditation for the first time?

How I fit yoga into my busy day. 6 steps you can use too.

How I fit yoga into my busy day. 6 steps you can use too.

I get it. When you’re busy with work, home, husband, kids, it’s hard to find time for yoga. It’s also easy to let those demands keep you from prioritizing yourself and doing what we will make you feel so good.

And let’s face it. Sometimes laziness can just get the better of all of us.

You may have the best intentions, but how many times do you spend your freetime scrolling through facebook or watching TV, basically too exhausted to have the mental capacity to do anything else.

I used to say it all the time:

“I don’t have time to do yoga. If I didn’t have…you name it…a full-time job, to cook dinner, to clean the house… then I would be able to do yoga.”

But then I realized, I was just giving myself excuses not to make time for yoga.

At that point, I decided I would practice yoga 4 to 5 times a week.

Here’s 6 steps I discovered along the way, that can help you make time for yoga too.

1. Choose your time…and days

First of all, you need to decide what time of day works best for you to practice. For me, it’s the morning. I know that if I can wake up early, before anybody else is up and before any other responsibilities stand in my way, I am more likely to practice and enjoy it.

But for you it might be different. Maybe for you it’s better to practice mid-morning after the kids have gone to school, or after work for a mid-afternoon boost. Maybe it’s in the evening or before bed after the days to-dos are done.

The important thing is that you find what works best for you, where you can take some space just for yourself. 

Also choose your days. What days will you practice. This is where it is important to choose break days. Days you allow yourself simply to rest, with no pressure to do anything….

Well at least not practice yoga.

2. Say it to stick to it

This is probably the most important step!

Once you decide what time and days are best for you to practice, you have to say it. Simply saying it outloud to someone you know, such as a spouse or friend, will make it much more likely that you will actually stick to it.

Moreover, this person will be there to support you.

Second, set boundaries. Defend this time with your life. When you first start practicing, things will definitely come up to try to take you off course.

Maybe the people around you will try to occupy you during that time. They won’t be used to you being busy during that time and will try to get your attention. Or a friend will call the next day and want to go for coffee at exactly that time.

In these cases, you can simply keep reminding them that you need this time just for you. It may be hard at first because your inner caregiver will want to respond to their needs or some inner guilt may come up. But just remember, that the better you feel, the better you can give to those around you.

Trust me, once people know that you are serious about this time for yourself, they will stop interrupting you.

The key is to stick with it.

3. Prepare yourself

Depending on the time of day you’ve chosen, preparing yourself could look different. For me practicing in the morning, it means going to bed early, so that I can wake up early. It means taking a shower the night before, so that I have more time in the morning. It means having an easy to prepare breakfast ready and salad ingredients ready to take to the office for lunch.

With a lot of demands in life, you have to carve out that space and time just for you. But you won’t be successful at doing this, unless you enlist those around you for support.

Make sure that whatever you were doing during that time is rescheduled to a different time or that someone else is covering those things. Enlist your husband to take care of the kids, vacuum the floor at a different time, or save TV for after you’re done.

If you’re a single parent, you may not have someone there to take care of the kids. So enlist your kids for support. Explain to them how much you need this time to yourself. Arrange a special activity for them that they only get to do while you are practicing yoga, so they will occupy themselves and look forward to this time each day.

Whatever you need to do, make sure people around you know about your commitment and are willing to do what it takes to give you the time to honor your commitment.

How many of you have made a commitment to something in your head, not told anyone, and then got mad at your spouse for not giving you the time for it? Or is it just me?

This time, make sure the people in your life know about your commitment and are supportive of your well-being, knowing that if you feel better, everything and everyone around you will start to feel better, including them.

4. Mental motivation

But this preparation isn’t always easy to do.

There are hidden mental barriers, that can keep us from doing what we really want.

For example, it is not easy for me to wake up in the morning. I’m actually not a morning person. I’m one of those people who is addicted to hitting my snooze button over and over in the morning. When the alarm goes off, my thoughts immediately drift to how warm and comfy my bed feels and how good 10 more minutes of sleep would feel.

So what’s my secret to actually waking up now at 6 am?

I use my habitual thought process to my own advantage. Instead of allowing myself to think of how good more sleep feels, I direct my mind to thinking about how good I feel after practicing yoga. I remember how much energy I feel after practicing yoga and how light and free my body feels. I think about how good I feel walking into the office after practicing yoga, rather than arriving to the office with aches and pains already in my shoulders and back.

I start this thought process from the time I go to bed.  I used to go to bed thinking, “Oh crap, I have to wake up in the morning and go to work.” Guess what the first thought in my mind was when I woke up? “Oh, crap, I have to wake up and go to work.”

So I practice a lesson from Louise Hay. Before going to bed, I focus on affirmative thoughts. I say to myself as I’m going to bed, “I wake up easily with energy in the morning. I enjoy waking up to practice yoga.”

This sets me up to be much more successful in actually following through with my yoga practice with a positive mindset, because it’s not always easy to get on the mat.

How does this relate to you?

Start noticing when you resist getting on your mat. What are your thoughts? Once you notice these thoughts, you can understand how to transform these thoughts into powerful motivators.

Also, set yourself up with a reward for practicing yoga.

Recently a friend showed me a video about creating habits. In the study, people who were trying to make running a habit, ate a piece of chocolate after running. It may sound counterintuitive to each chocolate after running. But that piece of chocolate was a small, positive reward the person received after running, which trained the mind to look forward to the reward and thus, create a habit of running.

You could try this same reward. Eat a small piece of chocolate or anything else you enjoy after you practice. Or the reward can be mental.  I always take a moment after I practice to smile and thank myself for practicing. This moment of positivity acts like a reward to my brain, which motivates me to get on my mat. Also, remembering how good you feel after practicing yoga can be your motivator to get on the mat.

5. Decide what to practice beforehand

I don’t know if it is the same for you, but the question of “what am I going to practice?” can often keep me from getting on my mat at all.

Deciding what to practice is different for everyone, but here’s a few ways that have motivated me to get on my mat.

Online yoga videos. Either sign up for a monthly membership site or buy some specific yoga bundle courses to guide you in your practice. Even better, choose the video you will practice the next day beforehand, so you don’t spend your precious yoga time choosing a video.

Create a schedule of what you will practice each day, so that you know what you will practice each day. You could practice different types of poses to focus on each day, for example standing poses, backbends, hip openers, inversions, balancing poses, etc. Or you can decide to practice a different type of yoga each day. I usually practice a standard hatha yoga sequence every other day and in between I practice kundalini once a week and yin once a week.

Listen to your body and do what you feel. This can be the hardest, because it means not having a plan when you go to your mat. But it can also be the most rewarding. This is probably not the best for a beginner, but over time with practice, you will be able to feel where you have aches and pains in your body. And choose to link together the poses that will release these aches and pains from your body.

If you’ve been doing yoga for a long time and are familiar with poses and sequences try this out. Maybe not everyday, because you can sometimes start to feel lost with what to practice and lose motivation (exactly what we don’t want to do), but once a week will teach you how to become more attuned with your body, its needs and how it wants to move. It will build your capacity to listen within yourself and follow your intuition.

6. Be kind to yourself

Actually, this is THE most important step!

Be kind to yourself.

Yoga is about getting in touch with your body. Learning to love your body and treat it well. It is about uniting body, mind and soul.

It’s a bit hard to unite your body, mind and soul, when you are trying to do something that makes your body feel good, but you are mentally beating yourself up.

That means, if you miss a day. Don’t beat yourself up.

If you let yourself get carried into your negative thoughts about how you should have practiced yoga, but didn’t, that can easily lead to a downward spiral of negativity and put a negative atmosphere around our practice. Meaning, we’ve lost that reward of how good we feel from practicing.

Instead, forgive yourself. Sometimes, you just need extra sleep in the morning, or need that nap in the afternoon, or need a night of just vegging on the couch. Remember, listening to your body and its needs is yoga, even it doesn’t mean practicing poses.

Also as women we are cyclical beings. Our menstrual cycles intricately connect us with the cycles of the moon and the cycle of seasons. We simply can’t expect ourselves to be the same everyday. Our practice must shift with how our emotions and bodies feel each day.

Listen to yourself. If you need a slower practice or a break that day, do what you need, without feeling guilty.

 

 

My final piece of advice

Take these steps slowly.

This is a comprehensive guide about fitting yoga into your busy day. It’s about building commitment and stability, not an easy fix. It’s also about integrating yoga into your daily life. Choosing what’s best for you, which may shift over time.

Don’t expect yourself to decide one day you will start practicing yoga and then master all these steps. Allow yourself time to go through the steps. To see where resistance comes up along the way and go back to the steps again.

 

Now tell me in the comments below…

What’s your biggest struggle when it comes to committing to your yoga practice?

Do you already fit a consistent yoga practice into your busy life? How did you do it? What works best for you?

If you try out these steps, tell me. I’d love to hear if they work for you and offer you support where you get stuck.

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