What is Keeping You from Taking a Class?

You’ve read or heard about the benefits of exercise and you want them.  But somehow you keep finding that obstacles get in your way.   Everything and everyone else in your life always seems more important.  Maybe it’s perceived time constraints.  Or perhaps you think you can’t do it – you’re too old or too heavy or too inflexible or everyone else in the class is much better than you.

One of my favorite humorous philosophers, Caroline Casey, who describes herself as “visionary activist”, offers the following response whenever anyone uses the phrase, “I’ve never been able to . . .(fill in the blank)” or “I’ve always been (such and such) . . . ”, to which Ms. Casey responds, “Until now!”  The past does not have to be the future.  In fact, Ms. Casey is also fond of saying “Live as though desirable story is true.”  After all, the best outcome is just as possible as the worst.  So why not?

While completely silencing your inner critic is tough, there are ways to outsmart your obstacles:

1.  Be your own cheerleader! – Congratulate yourself for what you have already managed to do.  Woody Allen said, “90% of success in life is just showing up”.   If you’ve come to the class, you’ve already done the hardest part.  You are already successful!  Give yourself a big pat on the back.

 2.  Remind yourself of your goals.  – You’ve made the effort to show up.  That was a biggest hurdle to overcome.  There must have been a reason that led you here in the first place.  Probably you set a goal, even if you didn’t realize it.  There was something your current status quo that you wanted to change.  What was it?  Remind yourself.  Whatever it is that brought you here, remind yourself.  Keep dangling your goal in front of you and celebrate the fact that you are following through.

3.  Be consistent.  – Consistency is the key to improvement.  Getting started is the hard part.  You’ve already done that.  Now keep at it.  The advantage to a class is that there is a designated time and place that you need to put into your schedule.  And there are other people to share your commitment and help you stay motivated.  Treat that schedule just like every other important time commitment in your life.  Focus on creating a habit.  According to Charles Duhigg, author of  The Power of Habit , “every habit starts with a psychological pattern called a “habit loop,” which is a three-part process.  First, there’s a cue, or trigger, that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and let a behavior unfold.  Then there’s the routine, which is the behavior itself.  The third step is the reward: something that your brain likes that helps it remember the ‘habit loop’ in the future.”  (For more information about this book, check out the Fresh Air interview on NPR.)  So if you want to maintain consistency in your efforts to reach your goal, focus on creating a habit.  The trigger can be the time of day you’ve set aside (e.g., class time), the class itself is the routine and don’t forget the reward.  Eventually, achieving your goals will be its own reward, but give yourself a treat in the meantime.  Anything that makes you feel good will work.

4.  Be patient.  – This is an old saw, but it bears repeating – you didn’t get to where you are overnight.  So it will take some time to get to where you want to be.  Don’t be so hard on yourself!  You’re already taking the right steps.  As mentioned in my previous post, among the goals of Yoga and Pilates are to develop a more mindful approach to movement (and, by extension, to life in general).  If you use class time to really pay attention to deepening your understanding of your own body and your own mind – you won’t have time to worry about what anyone else is or isn’t doing.

As a final motivational reinforcement, here are a couple more gems from Caroline Casey:

“Believe nothing. Entertain possibilities.”

“Imagination lays the tracks for the reality train to follow.”

Once you’ve established the intention and made the commitment “then avenues of ingenuity, possibility, synchronicity do indeed open from that.”

Hang in there!  You’re doing fine!

Thoughts on Mindfulness

One of the goals of practicing Pilates and Yoga is to develop a more mindful approach to movement which we can then bring to our everyday lives. When reaching or bending or lifting, the alignment principles we are taught in Yoga and Pilates can help us perform these tasks more easily and without injury.

Recently I came across some thoughts on mindfulness provided by Sharon Salzberg in an interview with Krista Tibbett (find more at OnBeing.org). Sharon Salzberg is a teacher of Buddhist thought and meditation and is the author of several books, including Loving-kindness, Faith, and most recently, Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation. In the interview she was talking about meditation, but I think these thoughts can apply to any discipline we are trying to establish and maintain. Ms. Salzberg says, “Isn’t it ironic that if someone said to us, ‘Here is this thing you can do 20 minutes a day, and it will really help your friend,’ we’d probably do it. But to put in that 20 minutes for ourselves is much more difficult.”

She goes on to say, “It is difficult, but if we really consider the reported benefits, we also see that doing something like meditation [or exercise – my addition] isn’t selfish or self-centered. If we become depleted, overwhelmed by the circumstances of our lives, perpetually irritable, or disconnected, we are not going to be able to give much to others.Try to make a commitment you can keep — even five minutes a day is a good beginning, and a way to cut through the momentum of our busy-ness and lack of connection to our inner lives. Mindfulness isn’t about what is happening; it is about how we are relating to what is happening — how much awareness, balance and compassion are bringing to this moment’s experience, whatever it is. We don’t practice mindfulness to become a great meditator; we practice to have a more balanced, aware, and connected life.”

Food for thought! Find more at OnBeing.org.  

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