3 Ancient Yoga Practices to Motivate You Today

3 Ancient Yoga Practices to Motivate You Today

You’ve set a New Year’s Resolution – whether it’s to eat more leafy greens, learn a language or run a marathon – but the mornings are cold and dark and you’re not exactly jumping out of bed when the alarm goes off.

Everyone could use a little extra oomph at this time of year, and yoga can be surprisingly helpful. There are three concepts from ancient yoga philosophy that are particularly relevant to helping us retain or regain our motivation.

1. Tapas. A central principle of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, one of the Niyamas or moral codes, Tapas means self-discipline. The term has connotations of purifying fire. The idea is that we burn off our inertia, our lethargy, to become stronger – the same way that heat tempers metal.

How to benefit | Stoke the fire.
Start your day with a brief yoga practice. Even five minutes will help you wake up, warm up, boost circulation and build momentum. Focus on poses or practices you enjoy, so that you’ll be inspired to do them. You could try rhythmic movement like Surya Namaskar (sun salutations), full-body poses like Utkatasana (fierce pose) or Virabhadrasana (warrior pose), or warming pranayama practices like Kapalabhati or Surya Bhedana (right nostril breathing).

2. Drishti. Drishti literally means gaze or view, but a deeper translation is focus. Yoga trains the mind as well as the body, with focused practices like visualization and meditation. Research has shown that meditation practice improves our ability to maintain focus1. This is exactly what we need to continue channeling our attention and energy toward achieving our goals, despite the distractions of daily life.

How to benefit | Visualize. Finish your short daily yoga practice by sitting quietly for a minute. Focus on the warmth and vitality in your body. Imagine channeling that energy into realizing your goal. Involve your senses, seeing and feeling the process as vividly as possible. Carry this impression with you as you move into your day.

3. Abhyasa. Another core concept of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra is Abhyasa, meaning steady and persistent effort over a long period of time. The same tenacity is required to achieve our goals in life – little by little, day by day, exchanging poor habits for more helpful ones. If we want to run a marathon, we need to run a little more each day until we reach the distance.

How to benefit | Do it daily. Experts agree that small, consistent steps are the best way to maintain motivation long enough to accomplish our goals2 and that morning people who arise at the same time daily are more productive overall3. So set your alarm for the same time each day. Get up, enjoy a short yoga practice, visualize achieving your goal, then use the energy you generate to take one step closer to achieving it.

We tend to think that willpower alone will get us to our goals, but eventually willpower fails and we need help rebuilding momentum. As Mary Anne Radmacher said “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow”. The ancient wisdom of yoga doesn’t require massive feats of will, just the simple readiness to keep trying.

Rachel Land

Rachel: Rachel Land is a Yoga Medicine instructor who teaches vinyasa and one-on-one yoga sessions in Queenstown, New Zealand and works internationally as a Yoga Medicine teacher trainer. Passionate about gaining real-world benefits from her studies in anatomy and alignment, she uses yoga to help her students create strength, stability and clarity of mind. Rachel has completed her 500-hour yoga teacher training with Tiffany Cruikshank and Yoga Medicine and is currently working toward her 1000hr certification.