Moving to Paris can mean adopting a new set of habits. When I first arrived, some of my daily routines were good, like walking up stairs instead of taking escalators. (Yes, the six flights to my rooftop apartment were a perk to living in the heart of the city.) Some of the habits were bad, like sleeping in late because I didn’t have a j-o-b. And some… let’s call them neutral. (Eating pain au chocolate is a guilt-inducing, but therapeutic, necessity!)
But at some point, with the allers-retours, or back and forths to the US and other traveling, my sense of daily well-being was a mess. I needed a schedule that would keep me steady no matter the country, regardless of time zone. I needed better habits that wouldn’t abandon me at every border. So I got them, one breath at a time, by doing yoga.
Even if you don’t step foot on a mat, thinking like a yogi can help you build good practices that will make you feel at home anywhere.
Nurture the body and mind connection
Starting with jet lag, looping through the inevitable change in diet, and not discounting the difference in air and water quality, living in France has a big impact on your body. Trying to power through the changes didn’t work for me. A simple dinner party, where I had to keep up witty banter in English and French, was exhausting. With yoga, meaning union, the link between how your body is feeling and how you mind is functioning is celebrated, not a source of guilt. I see a lot of women here who feel guilty for feeling tired, for craving food to boost their energy, for struggling with a daily rhythm that doesn’t feel natural. Allowing yourself to open your mind in a way that is not prideful or embarrassed means that you get to hear what your body is telling you. That’s a good start to finding the kind of good habits that you need in your life.
Breathe, and be conscious of breathing
I used to be quick to set goals, but slow to reach them. The little steps standing between me and what I wanted seemed so overwhelming. But with yoga, each movement is propelled by a breath. In the same way breathing seems effortless, getting through my to-do list in this city, from appointments at the préfecture to finding a good doctor who can speak Franglais, has become less stressful. I’m not saying that everything is easy. Like during the kind of yoga classes when you flow from one movement to the next, sometimes the heart rate needs to get up there, you get sweaty and your breath races, but you are in control. You use your breath to get you to the next movement. I would invite you to take a deep breath to get you through those shaky moments when you’re trying to get over a bad habit or commit to a new one.
So often a teacher has asked me to do a yoga pose. I’ll do it, and actually think I’m doing it beautifully — I’m talking Instagram-worthy — but the teacher will come over and adjust EVERYTHING. That’s when I will feel the difference between what I thought was opening my heart, and reaching my real capacity. Thinking small can become a habit: to want to lose weight, save money, work more efficiently. Instead, what if we wanted to feel healthier, savor what we could do with our money when we have enough, find joy in the work that we do? If we think big and expansively, we might be amazed at how much we enjoy the new life patterns we create.
This gesture of pressing your hands together and bowing is not limited to a yoga mat. Namaste is a way to say thank you; it means, the divine in me bows to the divine in you. There’s something rather beautiful in that circle. Saying thank you is one of the first habits that most of us mastered in life, but we often forget to thank ourselves. Instead of dwelling on the times you’ve broken your promise to break a bad habit or put off starting a good one, don’t forget to thank yourself each day for the effort you’ve made to live a better life.