Back in the year 2000, when I was a fledgling personal fitness trainer, I started to study coaching. I could tell that my weight-loss clients were not finding it easy to stick to recommendations like walking more, eating less sugar, drinking less alcohol. I knew they wanted to change, but they didn’t seem able to. I wanted to help.
Luckily, two behavioral researchers, Prochaska and DiClemente, put their brilliant minds together in the early 1980s and delineated a simple little theory that would go on to help millions of people work through sometimes difficult lifestyle behavior changes. I wrote an article in 2007 to help fitness professionals learn how to use Prochaska & DiClemente’s Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change (which is commonly referred to as “The Stages of Change”). Now, I’m going to help you learn how to use this brilliant little theory in your own life, when you’re toying with the idea of changing some behavior or adding a new creative or healthy practice to your life.
The Stages of Behavior Change
There are 5 stages in the Stages of Change. To illustrate the stages clearly, let’s take “adding a yoga practice to your wellness routine” as a possible behavior.
Precontemplation: In this stage, the concept of starting a yoga practice is not even on your radar. You might hear your friends talk about it and think, “Oh, that’s nice for them” and then not even give it a second thought. In other words, you’re nowhere near actually starting to practice yoga. It’s not interesting, you don’t see the benefits, and you have no interest at all.
What we practice is what we get good at. You likely already know this, but have you really thought about what that means in your life? To your own wellbeing? In your relationships?
Maybe you spend the majority of your time worrying. Or serving others. How much time are you devoting to holding grudges? Is putting your health first (or last) a regular top contender in your daily list of things to do?
You can become habitual and masterful at anything you spend enough time practicing. Whether an instrument, a sport, or a way of thinking or behaving, everything we practice sets electrical patterns or grooves into our central nervous system. Over time, and with enough practice, any action or reaction to a situation becomes stuck in those grooves, habitual, automatic. And when what you are practicing is anger, hate, fear, prejudice, judgment, or self neglect . . . imagine what happens in your body as you wake up and default to those ways of feeling and being every day.
As I revealed in this post, I am new to the whole “actually dealing with trying to stay in recovery from an addiction that covered up some really negative emotions.” And wow, has it been a lesson. I mean, I have known and dated addicts my whole adult life, and I have studied and had a deep intellectual understanding of addiction for decades, but never did I actively try to heal my own because I was not aware of the important/necessary emotions I was covering up. Now that the process of uncovering and healing the emotions has begun, so has the process of sticking to my recovery from addiction.
These are my basic strategies, probably subject to change. I am no expert, just a person dealing with healing and wanting to share what I do.
I’m absolutely terrified to write this post. My brain has wanted to write it, but my body shuts down when I sit down to type. I’m fighting through, though, because I know it’s important. No, it’s crucial—for me, for my joy, for my life.
This post is about my dreams. It’s about the dreams that I left to die a sad and lonely death while I pursued what I had convinced myself were “smarter” goals. In 2009, I walked away from my dreams (a second time) and into what would be the most difficult period of my life, fighting for things I did not believe in, getting farther and farther away from my dreams and from myself in the process.
The funny thing is, many of you know me (or know of me and my work) only after 2009. Many of you have no idea that when you attended my yoga classes or my back-pain workshops, those things were my efforts at a compromise. They were not my dreams. They were certainly closer than other things I tried (like the job that I have now), but they were not my dreams. I left those in 2009, like I said. I never thought I could achieve them. So I never even tried. I mean, I half-assed tried, but I didn’t commit because I didn’t really believe. In my mind, my dreams would never be attainable, so I could not put aside all of the other noise, distraction, and false needs to pursue my authentic dreams. I didn’t. And I suffered. Wow, have I suffered.
I feel the desire to write through all of the things that led to my avoiding and neglecting the pursuit of my dreams, but perhaps not now. Not in this post. I have so many important things to do now, I don’t want to stay stuck dredging up the “how did I get here.”
As I contemplated the continuation of the list of reasons I started in Why Do I Love Yoga, Part I, my mind went in so many different directions. At first. It always came back to one single idea, though: I love yoga because Yoga is not about my body.
That statement probably doesn't make any sense, so let me explain. First, you have to know some backstory.
When I was about 10 years old, I was told I had scoliosis (curvature of the spine). At about the same time, I was told I was a likely candidate for Marfan Syndrome, a potentially deadly disorder of the aortic valve. I was pulled from daily gym class and spent that hour each day in the library with the "special" kids. I was required to have echocardiograms and EKGs every 6 months for the foreseeable future, if not the rest of my life. I don't remember if it was a few months or a year later, but sometime after that initial diagnostic period, I was fitted for a back brace. I was expected to wear it 23 hours a day until I stopped growing--approximately 6 years. Yeah, right.
Sometimes it's nice to take a minute and remind myself of all the many reasons why I love yoga. Because I'm hyper flexible, I often have to forgo extensive asana practice in favor of targeted strength training for my hips, shoulders, back, and core. But yoga is my rock, the calm eye of the hurricane, the lighthouse pointing the way home when seas are rough and skies are menacing, the thing I return to after allowing myself to get scattered in the ego-driven winds circling us all at any given time. And here are some answers to the question, "Why do I love yoga?":
It's the end of the year. Already, I'm hearing people talk about New Year's Resolutions. For many people, resolutions revolve around one thing and one thing only: getting fit. And for many people these days, yoga classes seem a rather non-threatening point of entry on the path to greater fitness. I applaud their interest: yoga is an incredible method for getting in touch with your body, uniting the body and mind, and learning how to breathe fully. So I'd like to give beginning yoga students some tips on how to start off their yoga journey the best way possible.
Every yoga class is different. Well, not so if you go to a Bikram yoga class, or if you're learning the Ashtanga series. But most beginners are not headed straight for the 105-degree oven that is Bikram or the rigid, extremely disciplined practice of Ashtanga. Most would-be yoga students are interested in learning some poses, sweating a little, and feeling like they did something good for themselves. Beginners are more likely to head for a Yoga Flow class or a Hatha Yoga class. And I have to reiterate--every single one of them will be different. So how do you know, when you see a class on the schedule, what you're getting into?
"Why do I teach yoga?"
It's a question I often ask myself, because sometimes I get lost and need to find my way back. I get caught up in the very American view of yoga that promotes yoga practice as a way to lose weight and work on one's body shape and size. I feel pressured to teach a fast, flowing, aerobically stimulating class even when I know that the students asking for such a class are not ready for it physically. I let myself fall into the trap that I have fallen into since I was a youngster: trying to be what people want me to be instead of what I am.
In the last week, during my lovely yoga retreat in Puglia, Italy, I found myself falling into the traps that I just described, and I had to pause and ask myself again, "Why do I teach yoga?" Below are my answers.
Having just come back to the real world after my splendid retreat in Puglia, Italy, I am already planning to be back in Puglia this summer planning my 2013 retreats there. Yoga in Italy might just be in your future after you read what my guests from this year's retreat at Trullo Solari wrote:
“Sara was great and her selection of this location was excellent.”
“I highly recommend Trullo Solari to anyone who truly wants peace and quiet . . . It is truly a paradise!!”
“I had a wonderful time! The setting was lovely: beautiful and comfortable.”
“Sara is a great instructor, and it was nice to be able to practice indoors and out. Classes were a good mix of breathing, stretching, and strength.”
“The food was stupendous—abundant and perfect.”
“Having three vegetarian meals a day was great. I thought I would miss having meat, but I did not.”
“Sara is helpful with all things related to yoga, and to have her undivided attention was best of all! I would definitely attend one of her retreats in the future!”
And if you need more incentive to make a yoga retreat your next vacation, read this [sadly, the link for the article I wrote is no longer live. Note to self: Always download a PDF of externally-hosted writing!].
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