Change a small habit, make a big difference (or Why changing my hand clasp in ostrich has rocked my world!)


Habits – be they good or bad, whether we like to admit it or not, we’ve all got them! They’re funny things when you think about it – a real double-edged sword. On one hand habitual tendencies and routines are like a child’s security blanket – they make us feel safe and reassured; we know where we’re at because it’s what we “always do” so it must be ok – right? The flip side though is that they also blind us from seeing what really is, and if truth be told ultimately actually stop us from evolving.

Often we have a tendency to think changing habits has to happen on a massive scale – that it will be a major maybe life-altering change we have to make. And sometimes it is – and if you have the power and strength to carry this through then that’s fantastic! But, that’s not always so readily achievable, so at the same time we mustn’t forget that the small changes count just as much. Whilst it’s not as easy to notice our more subtle habits, making a change at this level can bring about an equally if not more significant shift.

I’ve had a sore right shoulder for what feels like an eternity, although truth be told it’s only been about a month and a half. My pec minor and trapezius muscles fell out with me big time in January and boy do those muscles know how to tweak out! I felt upset, it hurt to push a door open and my practice was clearly suffering too. Doing sun salutations was painful after too short a while, and my newly ‘conquered’ arm balance was threatened with going down the pan before I’d barely had time to relish the pleasure of doing it free-standing. I drastically reduced my suns, avoided archer arms and forced myself to lay off forearm balances; I resorted to opening doors with my left hand rather right. I guess these weren’t even major changes, but they just left me feeling frustrated and the shoulder continued to niggle. Then recently I was doing ostrich one day; as I interlaced my fingers I quite frankly felt like burying my head in the sand as I knew the minute I lifted my arms up, my shoulder would be screaming. Whilst I’m big into getting my students to interlace their fingers their ‘most unusual way’ for abs, I’d never considered using this alternative grip elsewhere. Until now…so I swapped to my non-habitual grip (having the opposite index finger on top is starting to feel less funky these days I’m glad to report!) and tentatively lifted my hands away from my sacrum. My shoulder merely whispered to me, the tension significantly reduced…changing my hand clasp in ostrich had literally rocked my practice! I incorporated this grip into boat pose and forward bends with hands clasped too, accompanying this with a renewed effort to breathe into and relax my pec muscles. In a way these changes aren’t really anything new, but I’d got so sidetracked by the bigger picture that I’d forgotten to look at the smaller details I could fine tune.

“As we free ourselves from habitual patterns of the past we can learn how to walk through this life as our spirit dictates” Ana Forrest.

Whilst it can be a bit scary cutting ties to habits and patterns in our everyday lives, the good news is it’s much easier to experiment with this in our yoga practice. The yoga mat offers a safe place to start noticing small habits and play around with changing them. And the best news of all  – we can take the confidence we gain from this off our mats and out into making changes in the rest of our lives. 🙂

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 The small change that made the big difference! 

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