Here's a simple exercise we often do in yoga class to illustrate the power of habit. Interlace your fingers. You probably did it the habitual way; the way that feels "normal." Now try doing it with the other thumb on top. Feel awkward? There's an often-missed, opportunity here in the space between the comfort of habit and the confusion of the unfamiliar. In that seemingly innocuous moment lies the potential for your brain to develop new cells and connections, leading to more creative thought and the capacity to change your life.
Austrian neurologist Viktor E. Frankl said, "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."
Ordinarily, habit would have us return to the comfortable version immediately, but if we're willing to keep engaging the unfamiliar, the brain will start to process this new input and learn new patterns.
Now habit itself is not bad, in fact I have no doubt it's crucial for our survival and sanity. The downfall lies when we fall entirely into the groove of habit and start to view ourselves as limited. Soon enough, your options start to seem awfully limited too, and before you know it life is just happening to you.
If 90 percent of everything we do daily is habit, which studies claim, I believe the opportunity for personal transformation is monumental. Neuroscience is throwing out previously long held beliefs about the human brain's limitations in favor of those which suggest that the more we experience outside of our comfort zone, the more innovative and resourceful we become in our own lives.
The 40 Days to Personal Transformation program I am leading at the Vail Vitality Center beginning today is founded on this premise. Using a small-step formula, we will integrate new habits and lifestyle choices that challenge our comfort zone without moving us into the stress zone of "fight or flight," helping to create positive changes in body and mind. As a participant in this program, you'll be guided in implementing these four tools to inspire radical self-participation:
1. Yoga: Cultivating a daily yoga practice reconnects you with your body, and from embodiment comes empowerment of choice. Vinyasa Yoga focuses on progression that serves our own mindful evolution, as well as breath awareness that fosters transformation on the cellular level.
2. Meditation: A regular meditation practice is the embodiment of Frankl's theory above. Mindful thought and breath awareness help you to capture the pause that's available to you and choose your response to every impulse. A meditation practice can decrease stress and counter illness and obesity.
3. Ayurveda: Meaning "knowledge of life," the beauty of this 10,000 year-old health science is in its simplicity. Learn to understand your own unique make-up from an Ayurvedic standpoint and integrate personalized changes to your diet and lifestyle that will bring you home to yourself and serve your perfect health.
4. Journaling: One of the most effective ways to manifest your intentions and desires is to thoughtfully articulate them. Learn simple yet valuable tools to help you establish a daily journaling practice that is less about revisionism and more about confidently expressing your needs and wants.
If change is the only constant then we are always in a state of evolution. This rich program helps ensure that your evolution is unfolding the way you want.
This program begins Tuesday and runs through through Feb. 9 and includes full use of the Vail Vitality Center fitness center, including 28 yoga and meditation classes weekly. Weekly meetings take place on Tuesdays from 7 to 8 p.m.
Julia Clarke is the yoga director at The Vitality Center. She learned the Transcendental Meditation technique in 1993 and is a Certified Ayurvedic Wellness Consultant.