New Habits

A few months ago while I was washing dishes after dinner, my sink began to fill. I flicked the switch for the garbage disposal and heard the electric hum of the motor trying to start. I turned it off, and then tried again. This time it hummed and clicked off. And that was the end of it.

After looking on the Internet and talking with a salesman at Home Depot, I thought it could not be too hard to replace the disposal on my own, so I bought one and brought it home.

The first step was to take the old disposal out which involved disconnecting it from the dishwasher and drain pipes. It was only one step in the instructions, but it took almost an hour of twisting in and out from under the sink. The previous owners of my house did a lot of their own repairs too. Unfortunately, it appears that when they could not fix something immediately, they improvised and added parts until it worked. The plumbing under my sink is no exception and instead of one obvious bolt to loosen, there were several to choose from. I had to take the whole mess apart to get the disposal out.

When I started to install the new one, it became apparent that the instructions were intended for someone physically bigger than I am. One step involved balancing the twenty pound disposal in the outstretched palm of one hand while locking the unit into place under the sink with the other. I am just too small for that, so I lifted it in and out several times before I found a combination of milk crates and phonebooks to support it. By the time the disposal was installed, it had required over twice as long as the instructions said it should take beginners.

Although I expected to be sore the following day, I was surprised to find that my arms, shoulders, and back were fine. My stomach muscles, on the other hand, hurt for days afterwards. I was relieved it was only my stomach because there had been a lot of opportunities to twist or lift improperly and to pull or overuse my shoulder, arm, or back muscles. Instead, I had used my core and kept my joints safe. I attribute this to yoga; not only the strength and flexibility, but the ability to move safely.

In yoga poses we are putting ourselves into positions that are not our normal everyday movements while focusing on alignment. Some of the poses can look rather challenging at first glance. However, as you study them, you begin to see that one body part is twisting, another is stretching, and yet another is toning to provide stability. People who are very flexible or strong can do some poses fairly easily, though how deeply one moves into a pose is not as important as awareness of one’s body.

Usually at some point everyone discovers they have imbalances. For example one shoulder does not move as readily through its range of motion as the other, twisting one direction is more difficult than twisting the opposite way, or one hip is tight compared to the other. By working with these areas over a period of time, they can be brought into better balance. In areas that cannot be changed, we learn to move safely in a variety of positions. In time these new movements become habits, replacing old patterns, so when presented with a new situation, our new habits protect us.

This concept of replacing habits with ones that are better for us can be applied to all aspects of our lives. If we notice when we begin an unproductive series of thoughts and consciously replace them with more productive thoughts, or if we intentionally change an attitude that does not serve us, we can change our moods, our reactions to those around us, and our view of the world. As with the body, the first few steps may be slow and require work, but eventually the more productive habits take hold and you may find that your reaction is entirely different and more to your liking than in the past.