40 days

40 days to a new you!

How a yoga practice can change your life in just 40 days. By Jessica Banks aka Sat Shakti Kaur

If you haven’t had a personal practice before, the new year is the perfect time to start. With so many people setting intentions, to do things better – sleep more, eat healthier, drink less, do more yoga – there’s a collective focus on self-improvement. Ride that wave!

Unfortunately, the good intentions don’t last long. Many people find it difficult to sustain any momentum much past the end of January. This is normal. But you can break the trend. Start small and commit to a 40-day practice.

There’s a growing body of research out there that shows that consistency is key to making any new habit stick. Better to do just a few minutes each day than to make sporadic attempts at a longer practice that you can’t squeeze into your daily routine with any regularity. A three-minute meditation practiced every day can serve you better than the occasional 60-minute immersion.

In Kundalini Yoga, when you choose a home practice – whether a series of exercises or a meditation – it is recommended that you commit to it for 40 consecutive days. This number is not arbitrary. In yogic philosophy, it’s said that you can break a habit in 40 days. In 90 days, you can make a new habit. In 120 days, you can become that habit. In 1,000 days, you can master it! However long you choose to commit to your practice, 40 days can lay the foundation for transformation and growth.

A big part of the transformation comes from the practice itself. The yoga and meditation build your physical and mental resilience. At the same time, by repeating the same set of exercises or meditation each day for 40 days, you may find that your relationship with a particular practice evolves. At the beginning, you may seek instruction or clarification from outside, from a teacher or a book.

As you progress, the yoga may start to teach you. Turning your attention inward, you may find guidance from your own intuition, opportunities to refine your practice coming from within.

Often, at the start of a new daily yoga or meditation practice, the reward is in the experience. You enjoy the practice and how it makes you feel, if not while you’re doing it then once you finish. But the novelty wears off sooner or later. That’s when even the best-intentioned new year resolutions can fall by the wayside. That can also be where the most important inner work takes place.

A key factor of success in any endeavour is the ability to keep up through thick and thin.

When the practice seems dull, you keep going. When you’re not in the mood or don’t feel like it, you hit the mat anyway. Your commitment to complete 40 days can help keep you going on the days when your heart’s not in it.

On a bad day, your best effort may not be pretty. You may be distracted and not reaching anywhere close to your optimum performance. But showing up for your practice – showing up for yourself – is a victory.

To set yourself up for success in building a personal yoga practice, start small and keep up every day. Choose a short sequence or meditation – just 3-11 minutes – and commit to practicing each day for a full 40 days. Not once a week. Not every other day. Practice each and every day. If you miss a day, start again from day one.

Keeping up with any habit requires discipline, commitment, and patience. Embrace these as your superpowers and you’ll breeze through your 40-day personal practice.

Jessica Banks aka Sat Shakti Kaur is the creator and director of JOY Yoga. She’s a KRI-certified Kundalini Yoga teacher (Level 3) and trainer, a former ballet dancer and has professional experience in wellness, business, and the arts. Visit: Joy.yoga

Om Magazine

First published in November 2009, OM Yoga magazine has become the most popular yoga title in the UK. Available from all major supermarkets, independents and newsstands across the UK. Also available on all digital platforms.