The Path to Change

If you want to change your habits, try changing your environment.

I’d heard this before, but it was many years ago on a visit to a mountain bothy (abandoned shepherds’ cottages restored as basic shelters for hillwalkers) in Scotland that I discovered someone had left a copy of Reader’s Digest. Short of reading material, I made my way past “I am Jack’s Medula Oblongata” and found myself engrossed in an article on changing habits. The author, name forgotten long ago, grabbed my attention with the idea that if you change your environment to remove any tendencies that prevent you from changing your habits.

The example she used was a time when she wanted to stop biting her nails, and realised that she never bit her nails when she kept them filed down short. The thing she did that facilitated keeping her nails short was to leave nail files all around her home, in her handbag, and in any other place she regularly spent time. That way there was no excuse to bite her nails, as nail files were always handy.

What’s that got to do with Yoga? Well Yoga is all about transforming habits, known as samskaras in Yoga language. The basic idea is that we replace existing samskaras that aren’t so useful with others that are more helpful to our lives at that moment. The main vehicle we use for changing samskaras is Yoga practice, intelligently designed and regularly (and frequently) repeated.

Now the problem here is in getting our minds to comply with our plans, as sometimes it will find (many, many) excuses not to practice in the environment of our choice. Simple matters such as the room temperature being too cold or your Yoga mat being unrolled. It sounds petty, but on a cold, dark winter’s morning an unrolled mat can make all the difference.

Have an honest think about all the factors that you use as a reason not to practice? My personal favourite has always been the unrolled mat, so it’s a good idea to set up a practice space on a permanent basis and leave it there. Or if that’s not possible and you’re practising the next morning, set up your space the night before. Have everything you need ready to go right there, no need to visit other rooms to find incense or matches and so on.

The aim is to kick all of your regular excuses fairly and squarely into touch. Find the ways to change your environment that will support your efforts in practice, and step onto the path of change today.