How do you know when you’re being sabotaged by your habits?

I was assisting on yoga teacher Donna Farhi’s 4-day workshop in London recently and this question came up.

 ‘how do I know when I’m in my habit?’.

On the surface, it sounds like a reasonable question. We know that habit can take us out of the moment and sabotage your best intentions, so knowing that when you’re in your habit is important. It’s a sign that you’re out of touch with the moment, you’re lost in the past or obsessing about the future.

But if you look deeper, this is one of those questions that can easily get you chasing your tail in endless circles. Because, the moment your attention is about checking into to yourself to see whether you’re in your habit, you’re already there.

So, if you have to ask whether or not you are in your habit, you probably are.

Once you have an intention that brings you deeply present, you never have to ask whether or not you’re in your habit. This is because your habits will immediately present themselves to your awareness.

For example, if I tend to clench my teeth a little and I’m relaxed and with friends, I probably won’t notice that habit so much or the effect it’s having on my ability to communicate.

But if I want to sing in front of 200 people, you can be pretty sure that I’ll be very aware of that habit because it will be getting in the way of what I want to do.

So, if you want to get to know your habits well, set an intention to be present and work towards being in an environment where you will be presented with a challenge and lo and behold, your habits will immediately make themselves known.

Alexander realised this and his solution was to give people verbal directions that could be repeated when they wanted to be more present. His formula started with ‘Let the neck be free to let the back lengthen and widen’. Nowadays, other teachers have refined these directions and you might also try out something like ‘I’m not compressing my neck’ or ‘My neck is free’. See for more information on these newer variants.
What you say ‘my neck is free’, you’re acknowledging that you have the universal tendency to tighten your neck and you’re giving yourself a different instruction that allows you to contrast what you normally do with something easier.

Our work on being present and letting go of habit doesn’t have to be a huge commitment spanning years, it can be a simple 10 second set of directions.

Of course, most of us have tough life habits deeply embedded in our identities, ways of moving and our way of relating that do need more sustained work over a period of time. And these 10 second directions can be the first footstep on that long road.

There is a whole art to setting intentions and changing your perspective on the environment. It takes practice and skill. I’ve been doing that for the last 10 years with my one to one students. Why not sign up for some lessons?

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© Kevin Saunders, Yogaground 2018

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