Before I started practising yoga I would always come up with excuses not to try it. I’d say things like:
“I’m not a yoga person”
“I’m not a flexible person”
“Yoga isn’t for me”
“I’d never have time for yoga”
Sound familiar? As soon as I tried my first yoga class I was hooked. I’m so glad I overcame the negative language that was stopping me from trying something new. Language plays a big part in your own identity, and how you use language can shape your own habits. All it can take is a little shift from negative to positive language to overcome obstacles stopping you from giving yoga a go.
Let’s break it down:
What are habits
Habits are automatic responses that keep us safe and help reduce our decision making. There are three parts to a habit.
Cue – the thing that will give you the urge to do sometime.
Routine – what you do that’s the same each time.
Reward – you get a hit of the hormone dopamine that makes you feel good so your brain knows it’s a habit worth remembering.
Sometimes the idea of taking on a new hobby like yoga can seem a little daunting, but by practising simple habit-forming thoughts and behaviours, you can develop a new positive habit.
Language and Identity-based habit
When you personalise reasons for NOT doing something your brain starts to believe it and create an identity around it. Maybe you’ve told yourself that …
“I’m not a yoga person”
“I can’t meditate”
“I’m not a morning person”
Simple phrases like “I can’t”, “I’m not” or “I don’t” create a barrier to whatever you are going to do next. It makes it harder to try something new or learn a new skill. The good news is that you can overcome these barriers by changing the way you frame things. One thing that helps to change this identity is by not personalising the reason.
Try reframing what you say…
“I’m unsure about trying yoga classes”
“I find it hard to meditate”
“It’s not easy getting up early sometimes”
See how a little change in language use makes things more accessible and less stressful! By re-framing the way you see things, it can be easier to express your concerns or feelings without just shutting the door on something that could be great. Maybe that’s the thing that’s holding you back from trying something new like yin yoga or meditation?
Steps to Create an identity-based habit
To change behaviour, you need to start believing new things about yourself. This will help to create an identity-based habit. There are three layers to this:
- Changing your outcomes and results e.g. getting enough sleep or feeling calmer
- Changing your process and habits e.g. developing a meditation practice or trying yin yoga
- Changing your identity and beliefs about the way you see yourself e.g. saying “I’m someone who can” instead of “can’t”
Some questions to start with to create a new identity are:
“Who is the type of person that could get the outcome I want?”
“Am I being the type of person that could get the outcome I want?”
“How can I be the type of person who can get the outcome I want?”
Let’s use getting more sleep as an example.
First layer (outcome) – Want to get enough sleep
Third layer (identify) – Become the type of person who goes to bed before 10pm. “I can develop a healthy sleep routine.”
Now let’s look at the yoga example:
First layer (outcome) – Feeling calmer and focused
Second layer (process) – Do a new yin yoga shape each day for 10 minutes over a week. The following week do a 30-minute yin yoga class. The following week do a 1-hour yin yoga class. The following week do two yin yoga classes.
The third layer (identify) – Become the type of person who moves every day. “I can do Yin Yoga and stay active and healthy”
Ready to move past that mental-block and become the person you’d like to be? See if you can apply this principle to something new you’d like to try or use my suggestions to finally take up Yin Yoga! You can learn more about the benefits of yin yoga here, or join me to calm your mind & body for 10 minutes each day using Yin Yoga over 5 days.
Let me know if reframing your thoughts is helpful for you, and what other activities you might apply these ideas to. The possibilities open up when you lift the restrictions you place on yourself through positive thinking!