Kicking the Habit


Have you ever tried to change one of your habits? Maybe you’re determined to go gluten-free, wake up earlier, eat healthier, or cut ties with your coffee addiction. It seems so simple. But, as yoga practitioners know, it takes dedication and determination—or what we call tapas—to really pull it off.

I discovered that last month when I embarked on a personal challenge to stop eating dairy and sugar. Cue a sudden proliferation of free chai offers, food smothered in cheese, and desserts wherever I turned.

Against those odds, however, I prevailed—and in the process, learned how making small commitments to a new habit boosted not only my health, but my confidence and sense of empowerment.

According to Zen Habits founder Leo Babatua, one of the best ways to fail at new habits is to give yourself too many things to do at once. Or surround yourself with what you’re trying to avoid. So what does work?

One of the best ways to fail at new habits is to give yourself too many things to do at once.

Sometimes, you just gotta start simple. If you’re trying to change an eating habit, take 10-15 seconds before every meal to relax and re-focus. Try a 12-hour fast. Or choose one time of the day to practice an unfamiliar form of relaxation: diaphragmatic breathing with a sandbag; yoga nidra; even just 3 rounds of nadi shodhanam can help you tune into your inner voice (and make a better choice).

If none of these works for you, challenge yourself to do one thing every day for a set period of time, something you know will provide immediate health benefits.

That’s what I did when I chose to avoid dairy and sugar—just for a month. I already knew that I didn’t tolerate dairy well, but permanently quitting seemed impossible. So I promised myself I’d eliminate it for only a month. It worked.

Strangely enough, now that I’ve discovered how healthy I feel without dairy, I’m not tempted to eat it again. A no-strings-attached, one-month challenge gave me the confidence I needed to keep going. And that will happen if you create a micro-challenge to regularly run, practice yoga, or even just keeping a journal of your practice.

Our little experiments each day build tapas, giving us the determination to do anything. It wasn’t always easy. I’ll admit that. But it was definitely worth it.

What’s your challenge? What habits do you want to change? Let us know—we might even blog about it with you.

About the Teacher

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Dakota Sexton
Dakota Sexton is a freelance writer, designer, and the former Web Director of Yoga International magazine.... Read more