This was published on ASANA JOURNAL on February 16th, 2016
A two-minute meditation practice is two minutes longer than no mediation practice at all. Small steps lead to large gains. A small hop off the ground towards a hand stand, is a big first step. I have found when I aim too high too fast, I am often pushed away from my goal.
Many students come to my arm-balance classes and tell me they have never done an arm balance before. I teach them every arm balance starts with both feet on the floor, and when we’re ready those feet will come up. We have pictures in our heads that a pose should look a certain way, that Yogis do an hour of meditation each day, that we should be vegan and that we should always be kind to everyone. We can be overwhelmed.
One small step at a time is much more effective. What is a small step? It needs to be, on one hand, accessible and available, and on the other hand it should be out of your regular behavior and practice. Stick to that small change, until it becomes habitual. And don’t forget to congratulate yourself for doing it, as it is still an ongoing practice, and sometimes you might fail or forget to do it. That’s OK, too. When it is regulated, boring, or not challenging anymore, it’s time to take the next small step, then the next one, and so on.
Back to the hand-stand example.
Start with foundations: strengthen arms and shoulders, stabilise upper biddy support and engage core muscles. Than, teach one leg strait up, and hop. An inch is enough of a hop to begin with.
After the one-foot hops becomes easy and controlled, dare to make them bigger hops. They will constantly grow, like all things in nature. Eventually, you’ll find that sweet balancing point. From there, cool variations and funky transitions will arise. This is an asana example, but small steps work for anything in life that requires change.
I’m a vegetarian and I also do one or two days a week without gluten, which is hard for a pastry love like me. I did one day per week without dairy, and this one has grown so much that we don’t have dairy at home (even my 3 kids don’t miss it) and hardly ever eat it outside. Just because I know what I know about the dairy industry and its effects on the world we live in, it was important to me to move in that direction.
But my greatest accomplishment is my communication and connection with my kids. It has improved so much since I’ve added that “one small step” idea into my life. The listening, kindness and understanding we are having now is something I’m enjoying a lot. I used to get upset about ten different things a day- used towels and socks left on the wardrobe floor, dirty dishes in the sink, skateboards left dangerously in the middle of the living room.
I decided not to get angry about towels, but to either put them myself away with internal joy, or kindly ask the kids to do so. Without judgment, accusation or blame. After the towels, came the dirty dishes.
Now I’m down to the skateboards alone. And when I kindly ask to put them away, the kids actually listen. And when they kindly ask me for something, I find myself more listening, more positively, more often.
When we consciously decide not to encourage one thing, like anger and frustration, we often subconsciously discourage the opposite thing.
Another yoga-asana example: If you’re not very flexible, and that’s why you’re not into yoga, and you consciously avoid any stretching, stiffness will become a permanent fact in your body. Whereas, if you start adding a bit of stretching here and there, even in small amounts, the stiffness will reduce instead of increasing.
An unhealthy lifestyle invites illness; a healthy lifestyle invites wellness. Positive, encouraging and optimistic thoughts washes away negative, judgmental and pessimistic thoughts. Decide what do you want to encourage in your body, mind and lifestyle and begin your small steps.
A small step in the right direction, is a big step away from the wrong direction. Good luck, enjoy, and feel free to respond and let me know how it is working for you.