It’s not what we do once in awhile that shapes our lives. It’s what we do consistently.
The month of May, by many, is looked at as a month of change. The classic adage, “April showers brings May flowers” alludes to the notion that May is often viewed as a month of metaphorical and literal growth. This can be in reference to the literal changing of the seasons, where the snow finally begins to be replaced by greenery (hopefully!), as well as to our own physical, personal and spiritual development. As we move past April, which can sometimes be regarded as a tumultuous month, where we’re beginning our transition into spring – and thus, a change in routine – we venture into a month of greater stability where we’re more settled. This provides an ideal environment to take on a challenge that could change us for the better. For some it may be a physical challenge, such as taking up a running group. Others may commit to an intellectual challenge such as journaling daily. For a spiritual challenge, one may look into a daily practice of meditation.
The world's favorite season is the spring. All things seem possible in May.
- Edwin Way Teale
Yoga, in many ways stands at an intersection between all these paths. The physical aspect comes from the asana portion of the practice, the spiritual practice derived from the attempt at a sole focus on the breath (and of course the savasana at the end!), and the intellectual practice from the tendency towards self-reflection and constant internal evaluation. To take on a challenge that helps to kick start what we hope would turn into a long term commitment to the practice of yoga is to adopt an activity that offers growth in those three domains. Many of these challenges are 21 to 30 days in length.
The idea that it takes 21 to 30 days for a habit to form is derived largely from anecdotal evidence gathered by Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon in the 1950s who noticed it took about 21 days for people to acclimate to their new physical features, and in amputees, 21 to 30 days for phantom limb pain (the sensation that a limb exists in the place where it once was following amputation) to dissipate. His subsequent book, published on the aforementioned topic, called Psycho-Cybernetics went on to perpetuate this idea after selling 30-million copies. This then became the influence of many self help books that would follow in the decades after its publication. However, does it really take 30 days to adopt a new habit?
The answer is: not likely.
This is not to say that people cannot adopt a practice as a habit in 30 days, but we have learned, through more formalized research that most people take longer than the suggested 21 to 30 day mark. Based on a study by Phillippa Lally, which was published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, on average, it takes closer to 66 days, or roughly two months to adopt a new habit. Within her data was housed a huge range in information with a small number in her study taking as little as 18 days, to many subjects taking as long as 254 days to adopt a practice as a habit. This was dependent largely on the difficulty of the habit subjects were trying to adopt, ranging from easier goals such as “drinking a glass of water with every meal” to more lofty pursuits like “running 15 minutes every day before dinner”. As a concluding statement in her study, Lally indicated it takes anywhere from 2 to 8 months before an activity is ingrained as a regular part of your lifestyle.
Though the challenge we’re offering at the studio is 30 days long, participants should aim to keep a regular practice going even after the challenge has completed to hopefully ingrain it as part of a healthier lifestyle based on the research around human behaviour.
To help yourself along the way, make sure to cut yourself some slack when attempting a challenge. There will be days where you just cannot commit to a practice, and you are going to fall off the wagon every once in awhile. However, it is sometimes the absence of an activity that we value, which helps to highlight how important it is as a practice in our daily lives.
Whatever habit you hope to integrate into your daily activities during this month of change, we wish you the best of luck! If you wish to join our community in our May yoga challenge, below are the details listed. As well, a link to register is also available down below.