Tuesday, September 11

try something new: a 40-day practice

this was taken in our friends' bedroom, where we were housesiting over the weekend

It seems like the whole blogosphere is preoccupied, come September, with re-establishing rhythms or implementing new routines, which is necessary for all the members of the family, not just the youngsters returning to school, after a summer of goofing off. In the yoga community, when wanting to break an old habit or create a new one, practitioners often turn to a 40-day practice. This means committing to doing, or not doing, one specific thing for a period of 40 days. I've often read that "yogic science tells us that it takes 40 days to create or break a new habit." I can't vouch for the scientific claims of that statement; however, 40 days feels like just the right length to commit to. Not too long, so it seems manageable and you won't get discouraged, but not too short, so you have time to explore a variety of days and circumstances.

I'm a big fan of the 40-day practice, and have done a few over the years. After an especially wonderful yin yoga workshop earlier this summer I committed to a 40-day practice of doing butterfly pose in the evenings. I'd slowly moved away from practicing cooling poses in the evening, and the workshop reminded me how good they felt, and how much I missed them. The 40 days covered a tumultuous period of time for our family, involving two major trips. If I hadn't made that commitment, there are many days when I would've skipped practice even though I really needed it. That's one really nice feature of this kind of endeavor. Even for a seasoned practitioner like me, who knows how good yoga makes me feel and how much I benefit from it, the temptation is often great, especially at the end of the day, to slack off and to skip it. Having committed to a 40-day practice takes me over that hump of hesitation and settles me onto the mat where, truth be told, I am always happy to be.

I don't make it to the mat every night now that the 40 days are over, but I do so often, and when I don't, I miss it. That length of time was enough to make practicing cooling poses in the evening what feels right, what I really want to be doing. In fact, I am retooling my evening routine now to shut screens off around 9pm, and devote the time before bed to self-care and grooming, yoga, and reading real books in bed. I feel so good about that change.

My new 40-day practice I've hinted at here. Now that Silas now regularly sleeps past 6am, I can do that most wonderful thing I've been dreaming of ever since I became a mother: waking up before he does so I can have some quiet time to myself at the start of the day. Once I'm up, I splash some water on my face, then sit on my cushion, take three deep cleansing breaths, do a few upper-body stretches, then recite this aspiration for my day. Simple. If given the time, I'll stay longer, do some breathwork, and maybe even meditate for a whole 10 minutes. The mornings I get to do all that are lovely. But just having settled on the cushion for even a few brief moments centers me, roots me, and makes me feel accomplished: one more day of 40 in which I kept this commitment to myself.

I've mostly used the concept of the 40-day practice for yoga; however, you could do any number of things. You could commit to 40 days of green smoothies, 40 days of reading a few pages of fiction, 40 days of getting outside with your family no matter the weather or circumstances, 40 days of mindful breathing, journaling, no Facebooking, no gossipping, no gluten, etc, etc. 40 days is a nice length of time in which to explore making changes that have been nagging at you without having to commit to changing your whole life. 40 days is short enough to be doable, yet it is long enough to change your life.

Won't you join me? I'd love to hear what changes you've been meaning to make, old habits to break, or new ones to embrace. Maybe a 40-day practice be right for you? Would you be interested in a small, mindful community of support and accountability to see you through your own 40-day practice? Do share your thoughts in the comments below!

1 comment:

  1. I like the idea of a 40 day practice. I have established writing in my journal in the morning by making it a priority and now it is a habit (I wish I would have kept track of how many days it took for it to be a habit!) Right now I cannot think of anything new except to maybe be accountable for my minutes of the day. I'll check back later to see what others have commented :)


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