Removing the Shackles: Using Yoga to Create New Habits

“The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.”

Do you ever feel trapped in your old ways, constrained by bad habits, or pushed in the direction others want you to go?

My intuition told me the path I was headed down (taking a job because of the salary but uninspired by the work) was not going to lead to longterm happiness. The more I earned, the more I spent, and the more I slumped into depression. Over a year and a half, depression was such a constant force in my life (or, living someone else’s vision for my life) that I found it hard to get out of the routine. Yoga was the one hour a day in which I felt balance, tranquility, and hope for someday breaking the chains of my painful status quo. Depression was my demon whose torment I was able to escape from through the practice of yoga.

Depression is a complicated beast, but I can oversimplify by saying that replacing unhealthy behaviors with healthy behaviors (and even healthier thoughts) has been key in living a life I never thought I would have the courage to lead.

This new moon (that’s tonight), leave behind what you don’t need and take with you what nourishes you. Replace some old habits with fresh, healthier habits that will lead to your longterm happiness. By longterm I mean:

what behaviors will enable you to live in accordance with your values until you die?

It’s so easy to fixate on external influences that we forget how to look inside ourselves and listen to our true selves. Yoga doesn’t just improve our cognitive functioning even after a 20 minute practice, it also helps us cultivate healthier behaviors that are aligned with our truest values and personal goals. We thus create the life we really want to live.

Self-awareness, mindfulness, meditation- all that good stuff- can be truly transformative in how we can break out of our suffering and away from the repetitive behaviors we want to change. With regular practice and time, we become more fulfilled, focus on what truly matters, and appreciate every precious moment and all of the natural beauty around us.

We change our behaviors just through adjusting the lens through which we see things.Regular meditation changes the way we look at the world around us and ourselves. One of my favorite yogic short stories, called “Autobiography In Five Chapters”, from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, subtly illustrates how powerful this force can be over time:

Chapter I.

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am hopeless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter II.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I’m in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in… it’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter IV.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter V.

I walk down another street.

photo cred: YogaBuddy app: www.yogabuddy.us

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