40 Days of Yoga and the Big Lie About Habits

40 Days of Yoga and the Big Lie About Habits, Lela Davidson

In February I finally committed to and completed 40 days in a row of yoga, Baron Baptiste flow style. I had wanted to do this for a long time for a lot of reasons.

I wanted a more consistent home yoga practice, because $15 a class is a bargain, but it adds up. Plus that pesky to and fro to the lovely studio is not always schedule-friendly.

I also wanted to work on my form. You know, go deep into my practice, whatever that means.

And then there's the fact that I had a trip to Cancun looming and I wanted to feel confident in a bikini.

So there we were in February. Too cold to walk outside. Too soon after Christmas to justify an unlimited pass at the studio. And a friend had recently helped me reorganize and decorate my home office, with plenty of space for the mat. This was my moment, my Lentish intention to a daily yoga practice was born with a flourish of orange chalk on my brand new 6x8 foot chalkboard.

With the help of several free yoga podcasts, I started.

I knew for sure that once I completed the 40 days, a mat habit for life would be mine.  Forever after I would not have to ponder how to stay in shape or calm my nerves or focus my mind. Never again would I fight myself to get onto that mat. I would simply submit to the power of habit, letting my body follow the neural paths created during those 40 days of habit forming Hell. I mean, delightful discipline.

Because you know the drill. It takes 30 days or 40 days or 60 days to create a habit that sticks. I am a sucker for a formula. Any formula. And I have believed every single person who told me that this one would work. The only thing holding me back were those 40 days.

That's science, right?

Wrong. It's bullshit. Nothing sticks. At least, not the good stuff. Negative habits are easier to adopt. But for the positive things we all ought to do more of, there is no magic, no easy out, no get rich quick. You have to choose over and over. That's what I know for sure now. This knowledge is valuable, but it still sort of sucks.

I felt amazing during the 40 days. I was strong, slept well, worked better, and looked okay in a bikini. (I'm a 43 years old mother of two, short, and not anorexic. Okay is about six levels up from bikini confidence than I can reasonably expect.) But as soon as it was over, it was over.

You can see in the image the weeks' of hash marks and the smiley faces I gave myself when I'd completed one. (You can also see the X's where I skipped a day, and my daughter's note of "shame." We need to work on that.) I felt so good on Day 40 that I KNEW this was a regular thing now. I started a new row of hash marks above the original tracking.

There are 8 marks.

Those 8 days were not consecutive.

Habit FAIL.

I've been meaning to write about this for a long time. But I've been distracted (I wonder why) and more importantly, I was not sure what I had learned. Now I know.

40 Days of Yoga Taught Me:

  • 6 weeks is not as long as you think.
  • Nothing is off limits, even twists, even when you have a trick rib.
  • A lot of dust and dog hair accumulates under my computer armoire.
  • Even things that feel great won't ever be automatic.
  • Transformation can happen 20 minutes at a time.

Also, looking at that chalkboard-worthy accomplishment/failure isn't doing me any favors. It's time to erase it and move on to a new ambitious goal. Stay tuned. You never know what's going to hit my chalkboard next.

Have you committed to a big goal lately? How'd that work out for you?