I want to start this post off with a personal story.
I’ve been training with a coach for a few years now. Every week, on the same day, at the same time, I train. The workout over the years has largely been unchanged. There have been minor tweaks, but nothing major. To say it bluntly, this is a workout I could do in my sleep. I know it that well.
Recently, my coach went on vacation to Hawaii for several weeks. It would have been easy to decide that his vacation meant I could have a vacation from working out! But instead, I decided to remain consistent, even though I was on my own. Even when I went to visit my brother for a few days I figured out how to keep up with my workout— I found a rower in his garage… who knew?!
Consistency is one of those things that creates tension for a lot of people. It’s hard to stay consistent for the long term! And I’m not talking about just with your yoga practice. I’m talking about anything in life— maybe you want to develop certain eating habits or read more. Maybe you want to run a 5k (or longer) or commit to a writing practice. All of these things, in order to be successful, require some kind of consistency.
A lot of people think they need the motivation to find consistency. Some people base what they do on how they feel from one day to the next.
In this post, we’re going to explore consistency. We’re going to take a look at what it actually is, how it benefits us, how being consistent helps us learn about ourselves, and how to build flexibility and freedom into consistency.
Letting Go of Motivation and Emotion
A lot of people think motivation will lead to consistency. Others let how they feel dictate what they do from one day to the next.
The reality is that if you want to be consistent, you have to let go of both of these ideas. Motivation is fleeting. There are days that we feel motivated to do the things we want to do: get an early start to the day, put in a full Ashtanga practice, get in our extra movement exercises, food prep, etc., etc., etc. Those days feel amazing! And we should bask in them for sure. But those days don’t always come.
Likewise, if we allow our feelings to dictate our day-to-day, we become victim to every emotional whim. The days we feel like we just want to veg on the couch are oftentimes the same days we need to get outside and move our bodies.
Consistency isn’t built through motivation or emotion. It’s built through discipline. It’s doing what needs to be done, no matter how we feel or whether or not we’re particularly motivated.
Consistency is lacing up your shoes or rolling out your mat or chopping those veggies, even on the days you don’t want to. Its honoring the commitments you’ve made to yourself. It’s doing these things while saying to yourself, “Ugh I really don’t feel like doing this,” but you do that first sun salutation anyway.
In the end, at least for me, I know I always feel better. There’s always a sense of accomplishment and pride when I stick to my commitments to myself.
Showing Up: The Benefits of Consistency
In Book 2 of The Yoga Sutras, Patanjali states that there are 3 kriyas (practices/actions) that need to be in place for the yoga to work. These 3 practices are tapas (discipline/heat), svadhyaya (self-study/reflection), isvara pranidhanani (release control/detachment to outcome). These kriyas are also 3 of 5 of the Niyamas (self-observances). In other words, how we take care of our internal world. Not to go too deep into yoga philosophy, but if you think about it consistency is practice in action. Being consistent is discipline unto itself, and it’s creating a routine. Things flow better when there’s steadiness.
Trust me friends, there’s going to be some days, when you show up to the mat or the workout, that you’re not really feeling it! The body is tired or feels a little weaker. Or you’re loaded with energy and ready to get right to it! The key in any of these circumstances is to not let the mind take over that state that you are currently in. By continuously showing up, we cultivate greater awareness of what the body needs. It becomes more about “being” rather than “doing”. You may have heard me say this before.
From a personal perspective, consistently showing up for myself has given me the ability to really lean into (not give into), and listen to the space that I am in from one day to the next. That space I’m referring to is not only the physical but the mental and emotional space of the body together as one. On the days that I’m super tight from an intense paddle/training session, I know in the first sun salutation that next morning where my focus needs to be in the yoga practice. It drops from the physical to the energetic space of the breath. Riding the rhythm of the breath offers a sense of ease in the body and the mind allowing me to not give into any discomfort I may be in. On the days I feel strong and have extra energy, I know I can, and I often do push myself a little more. Challenging my potential offers a sense of accomplishment because of it. With that being said, there’s a fine line between comfort and discomfort. This is something for you as an individual to decide on your own journey.
This is one of the many gifts of consistency, also known as tapas.
Through consistency—in whatever it may be… writing, working out, getting up and/or going to bed at the same time, our yoga practice, meditation, healthy eating,—we get to know ourselves on a deeper level. We get to live more authentically into our truth.
There are other benefits too, of course. There’s the release of endorphins that leads to a happier and more stable mood when it comes to movement practices. There’s the lighter, more youthful feeling of a healthy diet. There’s the groundedness that comes from a morning routine. And then of course, there are all the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits of a consistent yoga practice.
No matter what you’re wanting to be consistent with, just “show up”! There are benefits for you. Is there anything you’re doing right now consistently? What has that practice given back to you?
What Consistency Teaches Us About Ourselves
Yoga Sutra 1.14 states that “practice becomes firmly established when it has been cultivated uninterruptedly and with devotion over a prolonged period of time”
The words of this sutra ring true when it comes to understanding ourselves, our habits, patterns, and the path that we are on. No one is perfect, by any means. To cultivate a consistent practice in anything requires deep reflection, as well as internal fire to keep up moving forward. Listen, my friends, it’s a bit of work, in the beginning, to get there. But when you get past the hard part, it really does become a habit.
There are a few practices that I’m consistent with: my yoga practice, my workout routine, and my paddle practice.
When working out came into the mix it was no big deal. Then when paddling entered my life, it was a total game-changer. I felt an energy that was very similar to when I fell in love with my Ashtanga practice. It was overwhelming. I didn’t know how I was going to fit it all in. After all, who the hell has the energy for all of these things, let alone in one day?! lol
What I learned about myself in that moment was that I needed the consistency of a weekly schedule. If I was going to do all the things I love, the things that make me happy, then I needed to set myself a schedule and stick to it.
I learned quickly what filled my cup and what depleted it. These three practices fill my cup! They make me happy. I’m stronger and more balanced. I’ve learned through consistency that I value these things. Feeling happy, strong, and balanced are important to me! They keep me SANE, people!
I’ve also learned a lot about my internal dialogue. I take it back to the story about my Coach going on vacation for a few weeks, and me being left to my own devices. Now in that story, I told you all that I kept up my workout routine despite my Coach’s absence. I decided it wasn’t an “option” to not do what I’m usually scheduled to do on that day. I wasn’t on vacation like he was and I wanted to keep my commitment to myself and keep my workouts going.
But that doesn’t mean my mind didn’t try to talk me out of it! Ha! I had all kinds of excuses to let my workouts slide while Coach was on vacation. Trust me, if you give yourself the “option”, more than likely you will take the “option”!!! The subconscious mind takes control then.
Yoga Sutra 1.4 states “otherwise, at other times, the seer is absorbed in the changing states of the mind”.
The bottom line here is that my movement practices start my week. Mentally and physically, these practices set the tone for how the rest of my week is going to unfold. It’s really up to me to decide to let the excuses fall to the wayside to keep with my routine, or there’s always the “option”….
In these moments, I’ve learned that the commitment to myself is stronger than the excuses my mind tells me.
So let’s recap for a minute: consistency has taught me that I am stronger than my mind, that I like to feel happy, strong, and balanced, and that one of my core values is to honor my commitments to myself. I wouldn’t have learned any of this though if I’d have flaked on the consistency of practice.
Consistency has so many perks. Yes, it’s hard in the beginning and yes, there are days when you want to quit, but what would that solve for you?
Finding Flexibility within Consistency
We’ve spent the last month talking about consistency, and for the rest of June, we’ll have a new topic, but before we move on, I really want to hone in on this idea of flexibility within consistency.
I don’t want you walking away from all this consistency talk and thinking that you’re either going to do the thing and commit 100% of the time or you might as well just give up. It’s not like that at all!
We need flexibility. Things change. We go through emotional and mental challenges. We move. We change jobs. The seasons call for different things. Yes, you need to be consistent, but you also need to be flexible. You’re probably saying, what the hell does that mean, Jade?!
In short, in order to maintain consistency, you have to be flexible.
So first, set your schedule. Let’s say you decide you want to dedicate 6 am to your yoga practice on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Keeping your commitment to yourself means that no matter what, on those three days, you show up to your practice.
It doesn’t mean your practice looks the same each time you step on your mat though. Maybe you’re extra tired on Wednesday. Maybe you’ve been super stressed out working on a project for work and you can feel the anxiety in your body. It could be that you’re recovering from an injury.
This is where you build in the flexibility. You tailor your practice to your needs in the moment that you step on the mat. If you try to power through your practice the same time every time, that’s when you get disheartened and consistency falls to the wayside. Practice for 30 minutes if you’re busy. Slow your practice down and modify if you’re tired. Take care of your injury by avoiding poses that will aggravate it. And don’t give in to those conversations in your head…they can be self-limiting beliefs that hold you back from greatness!
The same applies to everything else you want to be consistent with.