At the risk of sounding like some woo-woo, man-bun-wearing barista, yoga has changed my life

I have a long history of back pain due to scar tissue from a torn muscle in my upper back and basically used to never stretch other than for sports.  Remember when you would stretch after practice?  That was pretty much it for me for my whole life.

I recall during my first year of law school my muscles were so tight that when I attempted to touch my toes, I could barely get my torso perpendicular with my legs before experiencing shooting pain in my upper back.  My hamstrings had also been very tight due to me tearing my ACL close to ten years ago.

So many of my friends had told me about yoga over the years.  All of the healthy people on TV and social media were doing it.  I came across numerous articles pouring on about the benefits of yoga.  There appeared to be an ever-increasing number of yoga personalities on YouTube offering free yoga videos and more and more yoga studios opening around me.  I finally gave in.

To make your practice a habit, keep your mat rolled out in a place you pass each day.  You will be tempted to do a quick session.  Also, make sure to use music and aromatherapy to make your sessions more enjoyable.  Finally, set a daily reminder on your to-do list for a final reminder and extra motivation. 

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It took some time, but after some attempts, I was able to do some poses without falling over or wobbling.  Today, I can move my body in ways I never would have imagined.  My body is more balanced and I generally hold less tension and stress.   And while I’m not Gumby, I’ve made a lot of improvement.  Over time I realized I was no longer just practicing poses but also practicing how to deal with stressful situations.

I believe yoga could help anyone, at least in some small way.

The problem is that some habits like yoga are easy to “commit” to but hard to actually follow through on.  The greatest benefits come when you can commit to consistent practice.

When I first started I’d do a great session one day, but forget to lay out the mat for another week, or maybe a month, or more.  I can imagine others have the same problem.  Today, I consistently do yoga several times a week for at least 15 minutes per session.

My easy tip to make sure you do more yoga is simple: KEEP YOUR MAT OUT.

Find a part of your house where you want to do yoga consistently, and keep your yoga mat rolled out there.  Bonus points if you choose an area that you are sure to walk by at least once per day or several times per week.  The idea is that when you walk by your mat, you may be tempted to do a quick 10- or 15-minute session.

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Once I started to leave my mat out I realized I was doing yoga five plus times per week most weeks, often losing track of time in some of the sessions, which often went on for over half an hour.  After a while, I started to roll up my mat at the end of the session because I knew I would be back.  This is because the feeling of having tight muscles when I go a day or two without yoga is enough to keep me coming back.

Oh, and if you are just getting started, you do not need to spend all of your money on an expensive mat.  While there is the option to spend $80+ on a fancy mat, there really is no need when you are starting out.  You can get by start just fine with a $5 mat from Five Below or elsewhere.  Even with heavy use, you could expect a mat to last you at least a year or two as you work on form and building a habit.

If you’re looking for a good at home guide, Yoga with Adriene is a popular channel on YouTube:

Also, if you add yoga to your everyday list, you can better keep track of how often you roll out your mat to keep yourself accountable.

Author: Ryan Ullman

Ryan Ullman is an attorney at the Piel Law Firm, LLC in Baltimore, Maryland. He is particularly interested in technology, productivity, peak flow states, music, and the outdoors.

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