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Finding Willpower

Author: Becky Sappor

When I wrote just over a week ago about trying something new I was just over half way through the Yoganuary 31 day challenge of yoga every day in January. I promised to come back and let you know how I got on, how I found willpower, how I feel yoga has impacted me and anything else I realised along the way.

So, you’ll know from my original post I missed a couple of days of the challenge. Why? Definitely not because I didn’t want to ‘flow’ every day but because on some days, life just took over and the reason for missing those three sessions was it was yoga or the dog got walked. Half an hour was just a little bit too much some days and the puppy dog eyes won every time. But I think that’s ok. I don’t feel like I failed or let myself down. That’s one of the biggest things I’ve taken away from the challenge. To do what is right for you. If you feel like your yoga journey should involve you practicing every day then good. If you feel like it involves you practicing when your body and mind are working well together and you can be present in your practice then that’s also good.

So how has yoga affected me? It has 100% improved me. It’s proved that I have will power; I’ll come back to that. It’s absolutely improved my core strength and proven that I can always find time for myself (unless of course I need to walk the dog – although I actually really enjoy that time getting fresh air, listening to a podcast and still getting some gentle exercise). It’s pointed out my impatience and my inability to meditate for longer than about five minutes at a time but those are things that I think continued practice can help me to improve on as well. Mentally, it has given me some self confidence that I can achieve my goals and that I can stick to something if I set my mind to it. And it’s taught me how to refocus. When things are getting out of hand, five minutes breathing and focusing on my breath helps bring everything back into focus.

And physically? My core was in tatters; weak from two pregnancies followed by zero exercise. Exhaustion was my excuse for not exercising. But having told myself I was going to follow this 31 day challenge I could no longer use it as an excuse. I think yoga is possibly perceived by some as being a bit wishy washy and a chance to have a good lie down but actually, more often than not I built up a good sweat. Making sure I held myself properly throughout the practice, engaging my core and really focusing on that has made a dramatic improvement to the strength and physical appearance of my stomach. This in turn has had a dramatic effect on my lower back.

I suffer with, at times, really awful lower back pain to the point of finding it painful to walk. I was considering seeing a physiotherapist but it seems that the stretching and opening out of the back during these flows has eased the pain. Unbelievably so. As a by-product of my core improving by back has as well. I’m pretty glad I missed a couple of sessions because it became really apparent that after not flowing for two days in a row, my back pain was back but after one session on the mat, boom. It felt so much better again.

So with that in mind, going forward I am going to continue my yoga practice. My aim is to do it every other day. Sure I’ll do it every day if I ‘feel’ like I can but I’m removing that little bit of pressure by leaving my new challenge a little freer.

A few people have asked me ‘how’ I’ve done it in terms of maintaining the consistency and sticking to the plan. How do you maintain willpower? I think the simple answer is by setting a goal. At the very start of January there was a goal setting task. Tell yourself what you want to achieve by completing this challenge. Write it down (any excuse for a new notebook right?). Put it somewhere you can see it. My goal? ‘To sit on my mat every day and fulfil that days challenge to the best of my ability’. Even those days where the half hour was a little too much and I was desperate for sleep I still got my mat out and sat. And just took five minutes. I took that time to decide if half an hour flow was more important that half an hours sleep. At least I’d got to my mat and made a conscious decision to do what felt right for me at that particular point.

I now believe that if you can do something for 31 days, you could probably do it forever. I think that’s a long enough amount of time to break or create a habit. It’s long enough to learn new things – I can do a sun salutation without needing to be told how now so it’s something I can take everywhere with me. I’ve learnt I can dedicate half an hour to myself every day – although going forward I’m likely to be doing sessions that are between 20 minutes and half an hour depending on my schedule for the day. I know that Cat is going to hold some weekly challenges throughout the year so I’m definitely going to be following those.

So what’s next for me? I’m currently midway through my Chocolate Digestive detox and it’s going well. Cravings are pretty bad but I’m starting to see an improvement in my skin so that’s keeping me motivated to carry on. But the next challenge? I’m happy to take suggestions. I’m thinking maybe a ‘do two miles of walking a day’ or maybe ‘listen to a business related podcast every day’… Maybe I could kill two birds with one stone and listen to a podcast a day whilst walking the dog for two miles.

And how about you? Have you managed to stick to your goals throughout January? How do you find the willpower to maintain them and how do you get back on track if you you’ve fallen off track?

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Author: Becky Sappor
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16 thoughts on “Finding Willpower

  1. Great post Becky – really motivating to read that you have seen/felt a difference in your core after “only” a month. Well done! I haven’t joined in with the #chocolatedigestivedetox but it has inspired me to give up chocolate for lent. So I’m eating all the chocolate now, just to mentally psych myself up!

    1. Katie I have just got back from a food shop with my little boy… He decided to stop for about 6 minutes at the Lindt display. You know… the bunnies, the mini eggs, the balls. Like actual torture. I’m finding it a challenge but am determined not to cave… Planning on celebrating with a whole pack 😉

  2. I love this Becky, I keep thinking about starting yoga but never get round to doing it and this has inspired me to get myself into action especially after hearing the positive effects after such a short space of time! I’m concentrating on increasing the amount I read aiming at least one book a month, before children I read constantly but it’s fallen by the wayside recently so I’m keen to pick it back up again as I love a good book!

    1. Oh me too Anna. I struggle to get more than 3 pages before bed but even that little bit is lovely. and i say there’s no time like the present… Find yourself someone good to follow on Youtube (I followed Cat Meffan’s Yoganuary… it will be on her Youtube forever so you can start it at any time… It doesn’t have to be January) and maybe have ten minutes with a book post flow… How lovely does that sound. x

  3. This is great! Well done Becky, must be such a sense of achievement. I’ve never tried Yoga and wouldn’t know where to start, any tips for a beginner?

    1. ME neither Katie. Ive been to perhaps 3 or 4 classes over the years. I can only recommend from my own experience but I followed Cat Meffan’s Yoganuary (You can jsut search for her on YouTube) and although so of the ‘moves’ were a little difficult she always offers a variation and so you can adjust to your level. I really enjoyed it… I’ve gone back to the beginning for February to see how I’ve improved 🙂

  4. Well done Becky! How amazing to see some of the positive effects already…just shows we should always give new things a go. I think I will follow in your footsteps and try it out! X

    1. I am pretty stunned to be honest Sarah and didn’t really expect to feel much of a difference but I can hand on heart say that I am feeling so much more stronger through my core and the relief on my back is very welcomed! Always worth a try 🙂

  5. I am always really surprised at how quickly frequent pilates improves your core. I have never really embraced yoga but pilates I love, I find it’s the perfect way to “switch off” from work as well as improving your fitness. I’ve really missed it since the later stages of pregnancy and can’t wait to get back to it once I’m signed off to exercise again.

    My biscuit addiction however is still strong (I blame the baby ha!) so I am really impressed by your will power, I’m hoping I will embrace a healthier attitude towards sugar once the newborn arrives… 🙂 x

    1. I am totally into trying to mix my yoga and pilates… maybe alternate the practices? I’ll look forward to enjoying a nice biscuit with you once little lady arrives! I’m finding it very difficult in all honesty. I got back from a dog walk this morning and my first thought was ‘right tea and biscuits’… It’s become such a bad daily habit! But I stayed strong! Phew! x

  6. Becky, have you ever tried Classical Pilates? I’m an instructor. Classical Pilates will improve core strength (which is more than the abdominals) even more and this will, as you said, help ease any lower back pain you have. Give it a go – if you have any time left.

      1. Pilatesology is really good – it’s a monthly subscription service with loads of choice. DVDs by Lynne Robinson are pretty good too as is the book The Pilates Bible. Always worth doing an intro course with an instructor first though if you can as there are lots of subtleties in Pilates that make a difference.

  7. Becky you know you got me doing yoganuary! And you’re absolutely right, great for the back and I love the acceptance that some days it won’t work but others it will be one of the highlights of the day. I like Cat but I do wonder if some of her choices for poses are more designed as a demonstration of her skill than an achievable short term goal for her novice audience? Is that mean?

    About to attempt Cosmic yoga this afternoon with the gruesome twosome. Frozen is the request. Let’s (let it) go!

    PS- do you ever read Cup of Jo where her little guy reviews stuff? Could we have a Leo review of Cosmic yoga on RMF? He’s so articulate I know he would have some opinions!

    1. I forgot- I meant to plug my amazing friend Sarah who ran away from archaeology and is now an amazing yoga teacher, inspiring brave and honest in her practice. She’s just about to launch her own videos and new website, and already designs her own gorgeous jewellery- she’s @moonmagicandmiracles on IG.

  8. Great blog post, I love the topic of discipline – sharing it now! 🙂
    Next challenge could be to eat more plants, and fewer animal products. It will keep you feeling good and “offset” some of the biscuits. 😉

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