So, I never thought I was into rituals. Probably because I had little to no idea what that meant, but I was pretty sure it had something to do with The Craft. I’m the kind of person who sees a trailer for a scary movie and has nightmares for weeks, so I knew I didn’t want to have anything to do with rituals.
That is, until I learned more about what they actually are and how, lo and behold, I could apply them to my own life.
I suppose that in my own personal dictionary (Words by AnnaTM), ritual means something you do, say, see, etc. in order to prepare for something or mark something important. I’ve heard that football players and other sports folks have rituals before big games. But I’m not too into wearing the same pair of dirty socks every day for a month, so I knew I’d need something else.
For what, you might ask? Well, I love moving my body — dancing to my fav music from the 90s, going for a long walk with my dogs (well, at least the one that is semi-good at walking on her leash), practicing yoga and rocking out the elliptical. But actually getting myself to do any of this?
That’s not so easy. So I figured I’d enlist the help of a ritual.
Whenever I’m in the midst of one of my favorite movement activities, I get lost in the moment. I totally feel like I’m getting in some good me time because I’m doing what I enjoy — not, as I used to, punishing myself for eating this or not eating that. But I still need that little reminder that making the transition from the computer (where it seems I spend much of my time) to the yoga mat is a good one to make. That I’ll actually feel better moving through a few poses than spending another two hours aimlessly clicking back and forth between Facebook and Twitter (not that I do that, of course; it’s just a random example I totally pulled out of the air).
So, here are the four steps I took that you might find useful, too:
1. Figure Out Your Terms: I often find it challenging to enjoy movement because I feel like I don’t have time for it. What I’ve been doing lately, though, is starting each day with a brief map of what I have going on so that I can visually prove to myself that I do have time to get on my yoga mat (or whatever I feel like doing that day). You might not be that uptight; instead, you might like to fit it in whenever the feeling strikes you. Whatever your preference, I find that moving on your own terms contributes greatly to a feeling of joy (which is what we all really want, right?).
2. Set An Intention: I used to think that setting an intention was some kind of new-agey BS that I could never get into. When asked to do so in yoga class, my mind would usually go blank — or I’d get off on some snarky sidetrack about how my intention was to practice yoga; that’s why I was there, after all. But then, one day (probably by mistake, to be honest), I set an intention to find some peace during my practice. And wouldn’t you know? It worked (as much as I hate to admit it). Some days my intentions are to have fun, unwind a tight hip, feel strong or sweat it out. Try making a list of some that sound good to you (because sometimes it’s easier to start with a few ideas, especially when you’re feeling stuck) and then mixing and matching on any given day.
3. Create an Action: Remember that dirty sock ritual I mentioned? Yeah, not cool. But what is cool? Having your own li’l action to transition from whatever you were doing before to your movement time. I have a few that I switch up, depending on what sounds good, where I am and what I’m about to do. For example, regardless of what I’m about to do, I change into some clothes/shoes that I enjoy. While doing yoga in my PJs is fun sometimes, I find that I enjoy my practice more when I throw on a comfy and supportive tank and some yoga pants. I also like to get my music ready — the only real question for me is which 90s playlist to choose for the day. When you’re thinking of your own action, consider what would help you make a clear transition — that’s often the hardest part of getting into your movement activity.
4. Infuse with Spirit: If you, like me, have a somewhat checkered past related to movement (i.e. using it more to knock calories off your daily total than to feel good), then this is key. You can define spirit however you like — enthusiasm, higher purpose, feeling — but what I find most important is bringing a spirit of body lovin’ to whatever I’m doing. I find that when I’m able to begin and end with spirit, not only do I enjoy whatever I’m doing more, but it also brightens the rest of my day.
Anna Guest-Jelley is founder and CEO (Curvy Executive Officer) at Curvy Yoga, a training and inspiration portal offering classes, workshops, teacher trainings, retreats, a virtual studio and lots of love and support to women of every size, age and ability — in six different countries, on three different continents, as well as in over 30 of the United States.
Anna is a writer, teacher and lifelong champion for women’s empowerment and body acceptance. Author of, “Permission to Curve: Inspiring Poses for Curvy Yogis & Their Teachers,” and co-editor ofYoga and Body Image: 25 Personal Stories About Beauty, Bravery & Loving Your Body (Llewellyn, Fall 2014), Anna has been featured online and in print at The Washington Post, xoJane, US News & World Report, Southern Living, Vogue Italia, Yoga International, Yoga Journal, CrazySexyLife, The Daily Love and more. Visit Curvy Yoga online at CurvyYoga.com.