Practicing yoga is a great habit. But unfortunately, yogis can develop less than desirable habits in their practice that negatively effect their yoga, and — sometimes even worse — the practice of those around them. While many people begin yoga for the physical perks, equally important are the psychological benefits — in particular, the awareness and implementation of self-discipline. According to the White Swan Foundation, a not-for-profit mental health organization, “One of the goals of yoga is to attain self-discipline and self-awareness,” and they remind us that “the most important and crucial requirement is self-discipline, without which, one cannot see the positive results of yoga.” It’s the lack of self-discipline that can lead to yogis developing bad habits that need to be broken. Here are a few bad habits that can be fixed with self-discipline:
- Leaving before savasana. Savasana is part of your yoga practice and is as important as Warrior or Bow or any other pose you do in class. Yoga books will tell you that savasana is the most important part of your practice as it allows time for everything you’ve worked (muscles, nerve endings, and mind) to connect and become one. Leaving before savasana deprives you of those magic moments, leaving your body and mind scattered, and your practice incomplete. Discipline yourself to commit to the entire class and then stay for savasana. Keep in mind that if it’s really difficult for you, that means you need it.
- Leaving during savasana. Leaving during savasana is probably a worse offense that skipping it. Not only are you depriving yourself of this important moment in class, you’re disrupting the savasana for those around you. You may think you’re quietly picking up your mat, water bottle, towels, and other belongings, but your early departure doesn’t go unnoticed. Use self-discipline to consider your fellow practitioners and remain on your mat during the entire savasana.
- Arriving late/leaving early. Running more than five minutes late for class? Don’t go. Chances are you’ll be so frazzled from your haste to try and make it to class, you’ll spend the first half trying to calm yourself from being late in the first place. Not to mention the impact on those in the class who were there on time and are now distracted from their practice by your interruption. And if you need to leave 10 minutes early to pick up your kids, pick a class on a different day when you won’t have to make an early exit. We sometimes have to remind ourselves that as much as we want/need to practice yoga, there are other people in the class who want/need the same thing and don’t want to be interrupted by people showing up late and leaving early. While your determination to practice is applauded, your lack of scheduling skills is not appreciated. Discipline yourself to consider your other practitioners and not just yourself.
- Doing whatever yoga poses you feel like doing. Sometimes, the instructor is going to instruct a pose that you don’t particularly like (for me it’s Horse pose — I hate that pose, but I still do it), or is really difficult for you. That’s not the signal for you to do another pose that you prefer and/or think feels better. Yoga class is a “class”, not a group of individuals doing whatever they feel like doing. Certainly there are times when an injury prevents you from doing a particular pose, but that requires a modification, not something completely different from what everyone else is doing. Remember, you’re trying to avoid being a distraction, not becoming an attraction by calling attention to yourself.
- Making demands about music/lighting/poses. Believe it or not, instructors put a lot of thought into what they’re going to teach before class and there’s nothing worse than students catching them right before to tell them what poses they want to do, or complaining about the music or lighting of the room. Breathe in. Breathe out. Let the instructor lead the class the way they planned, learn to ignore the things that bother you, and instead focus on the benefits of the class — including the poses you don’t like.
- Checking your cell phone/Smartwatch. This may be one of the hardest habits to break, because who isn’t attached to their mobile device? But unless you’re a doctor on call, there isn’t a good reason to check your phone or Smartwatch during class. Yoga is your opportunity to disconnect from your device and focus on you and your practice. Slyly checking your phone or watch during practice alters your concentration, takes you out of your yoga zone, and is yet another distraction those around you must try to ignore. Stepping away from texts and emails for an hour or 75 minutes may be difficult at first, but it is possible if you call on self-discipline.
- Claiming a spot in the yoga room. I’ve actually heard students ask other students to move their mats because they’re “in their spot.” I’ve never attended a yoga class with assigned spaces, so there’s really no such thing as “your spot.” You might have a spot that you like better than others, but it’s not yours. And this kind of attachment really isn’t healthy — for you or the person you’re forcing to move off the spot that doesn’t belong to you in the first place. Remember that yoga is also about being open to change. Try a different spot in the room and be open to the positive change it may bring to your practice.
- Not following the rules. I’ve been to a few yoga studios that I thought had some goofy rules. But you know what? I followed them anyway. They’re rules that studio made for a reason and they apply to everyone — including me. And you. So if the rules say no phones, no socks, no hand towels, don’t get off your mat, and don’t park in the instructor spot, don’t do it.
Breaking bad habits of any kind isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible. Especially for determined yogis. Be mindful. Be thoughtful. Be considerate. Be in control of your actions by using self-discipline.