Setting intentions, building habits and why I will never do an ab challenge
Updated: Jan 17
Repetition builds a habit.
Think about it. You don’t spend hours agonising over whether to brush your teeth or not. It’s done and you probably don’t even remember it.
Everything you do builds a pathway in your nervous system and in your brain. The more often you do the same thing, at the same time, with the same intention, the stronger and deeper the pathway becomes, and the easier it is to do it again.
That’s a good way to build a habit.
Why some new year challenges are BAD. FOR. YOU.
In January I see all these 30 day ab challenges or plank challenges. You may build a habit, but these are a nightmare.
Building strength is good. Moving more is good. Consistency is good. But this is like saying eating apples is healthy. Then you just eat apples all day, every day. In just the same way, you need a variety of movements in your 'diet' so your body gets all its movement vitamins.
Ab, plank and other single movement or muscle group challenges are unbalanced. They leave other places in your body unsupported and vulnerable to injury. Strengthen your abdominal muscles on their own, particularly ignoring the back of your body, pulls your spine out of balance. And not to mention that tucking your tailbone and sucking in your tummy all the time add pressure to the discs of your spine, hurts your knees and ruins your pelvic floor.
“Move the way that love makes you move. Move the way that joy makes you move.”
Set more balanced intentions this year. Move everything mindfully, in every direction, every day in a way that feels natural and good. All cells needs to be moved – to squash and stretch – so they receive nutrition and to stay strongly connected to your nervous system. That’s as true for the muscle cells in your eyes and the muscles that move the hairs on your skin as it is for your thighs, abs or buttocks.
Go with the flow
Yoga flows with the seasons. A winter practice has a different rhythm to a summer practice. Your practice at 20 has a different flavour to one when you’re 50. Some days you need quiet and space. Other days you need more fire in your movements or breathing. A single movement challenge doesn't take into account that your muscles need to rest or that you're feeling under the weather.
Choose your yoga practice by acknowledging how you feel from day to day, and from moment to moment. Today you might sweat out your practice, but tomorrow you might spend two mindful minutes lying down and just listening to your breath and that is enough.
Be consistent with your practice. But your practice does not always need to be the same.
Accept all practice is good practice. Flow mindfully as you need to today.
And if you set intentions this year, maybe you choose at least one of them to be kinder to yourself and to make time to do something you love.