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What a 30-Day Bikram Yoga Challenge Taught Me About Behavior Change and Mental Health

30 days ago, I decided that I was going to complete 30 Bikram Yoga classes in 30 days.  I attended my final class today, and am feeling pretty proud of this accomplishment.  Full disclaimer: this is not going to be a post touting the benefits of yoga above everything else. I didn’t lose 40 pounds, discover inner peace, or come to any earth shattering conclusions about my life.  I did however get a different perspective on some of the techniques and concepts that I use with my clients on a regular basis.

  • Action equals motivation, which equals more action:  Before I made the commitment to attend yoga classes everyday, I would wake up and ask myself the following question; “Do I want to go to yoga class today?”  The answer, predictably, was often no.  I had a slew of excuses, ranging from the legitimate to the more questionable: I didn’t sleep enough the night before, I ate too much the night before, I didn’t eat enough the night before, I’m too tired, I’m too busy, I don’t have any clean clothes, my mat smells today; the list went on and on.  Sound familiar?  Once I made the commitment to divorce my action from my desire to complete said action, it became a lot easier.  After the first two weeks of classes, the motivation built on itself, and I did find that I wanted to attend class more often than not.
  • The best type of exercise is the type that you’ll do:  There are so many different forms of exercise out there vying for your attention and your money.  Each one insists that it holds the optimal and only route to health and wellness.  In truth, there is no perfect exercise.  The best type of exercise is the type that you will do today, and then get up again and do tomorrow.  Whether it’s cycling, yoga, cross-fit, walking, or that thing you do suspended from the ceiling with scarves, moving a little in a way that you enjoy is better than not moving at all because you’re convinced you cannot perform the perfect workout.
  • Fear often holds us back way more than any other limitation: As the days passed, I realized that I was often reluctant to go deeper into different poses due to fear of falling out of them.  I was also afraid of putting my mat in the front of the room; what if I mess up and everyone sees?  A funny thing happened when I did push myself into a scary pose, and toward the front of the room; nothing.  That’s right, nothing happened, except my practice improved.  I did fall.  I did mess up.  No one laughed. I’m not sure anyone even noticed, as they were focused on their own practice.
  • Being in the moment improves the moment:  Over the course of thirty days, there were days where I came to class focused, and mindfulness came easy.  There were days when I came to class full of the worries of the day, and it was more of a struggle to remain focused and present.  When I was focused and present, a pretty remarkable thing happened; I stopped ruminating on the past or worrying about the future.  The more I focused on the present in class, the more I enjoyed class, and the more this feeling and focus carried over throughout the rest of my day.
  • Every body is a yoga body:  So many people avoid exercise, whether it’s yoga, going to the gym, or walking around the block, because they worry about how they appear to others.  It’s like we’ve all decided that until we’re a particular shape, we don’t deserve to move our bodies in a way that feels good.  So, how do you get a yoga body, or a runner’s body, or a swimmer’s body?  Do yoga, run, and swim with your body! Focus on how your body feels rather than how it looks.

What have you done to get your body moving this month?  Comment below!

Dr. Scrivani specializes in the Cognitive Behavioral treatment of anxiety and related disorders, and provides tele-mental health services to residents of New York, Florida, and internationally. Call (888) 535-5671 or email [email protected]  Visit Dr. Scrivani’s  iTherapy webpage to learn more.

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