The Biopsychosocial Model Meets the Bikram Yoga Challenge

I have thought about, talked about and avoided writing this blog for well over a year now. My intention is to make myself publicly accountable for creating and living “a good life”.  I love that phrase, so powerful and evocative, yet completely vague. A big part of why I have not written this blog is that I’m not even sure I know what that means to live a “good life”.

This avoidance is a common theme in how I’ve approached many of the important, rewarding and challenging experiences in my life. First, I get really excited about the possibility of change, how much happier (and healthier) I’ll be. And frankly, under all that pressure and expectation I become paralyzed at the thought of the whole project, look only at the improbable end goals, and never get close to starting. Like the time I was going to do the 30 Day Bikram Yoga Challenge, after being completely inactive for months.  Or better yet, the countless times I’ve sworn off sugar…forever.

The next logical question – why now? Why commit to writing this blog, at this time? Why take action to make the changes I’ve avoided up until now? For me, there are a few reasons: another birthday looming in a couple of weeks and a commitment to a new career that I am passionate about, in which self-care is an ethical obligation, and watching my grandparents get older.

I am writing this blog to share with you my experiences at confronting my tendency to become overwhelmed and paralyzed. In order to keep myself organized I’m going to use the Biopsychosocial Spiritual Model used in integrative medical practices. This model asserts that what impacts the body impacts the mind, spirit and the people that surround us. This framework will provide me with balance and an ecological perspective as I try to integrate new self-care practices into my daily life. The difference between this model and what I’ve tried to do before is that it takes into account what I’m already doing – the goal is to link new healthy behaviors to existing ones. My previous attempts at change were all or nothing additions to my habits and frankly they were unsustainable.

So… here I go!

 

The Biopsychosocial Model Meets the Bikram Yoga Challenge
yogachallengeI think one of the reasons why it has been such a struggle for me to incorporate healthy choices and habits into my life is that I have been intensely focusing on being perfect in only one area. I don’t know if you know this, (I sure didn’t) but life doesn’t work that way. My family, friends, and job didn’t stop having expectations of me so that I could do 90 minutes of hot yoga for 30 days straight. Also, my mood and thinking certainly turned to the negative, as I fell further behind and quickly gave up on the 30 day challenge. The interesting thing about this was that to begin with I was practicing maybe once a month (and after the challenge I pretty much stopped doing it at all).  Why didn’t I think about making a more realistic goal, (i.e. going to yoga once a week) and then maybe adding in another day once I’d mastered the single weekly session?

Here’s how the 90-day Bikram Yoga challenge worked (or rather, didn’t work) within a Biopsychosocial context:

  1. Body (bio) – I was completely out of shape and wanted to get into great shape…overnight. Why spend months working up to something when you can crank it out in 30 days, right?
  2. Psychological (psycho) – I thought that if I could only muster the discipline (that I didn’t usually possess) I could white knuckle it through the challenge. What is a month anyway? I felt excited to start a new adventure and see how it would turn out, but I failed to account for my tendency towards depression (which makes starting new things hard). Lastly, I did seriously want to become more active in my daily life.
  3. Social – My family were all much more active than I was (and this is probably still true). Most of my friends, although not super active (in the going to the gym sense), seemed to have fuller social lives. At the time I thought these things were the result of chance or pure happenstance, I clearly did not understand that people were pursuing these habits. But honestly after working all day, I didn’t want to talk to anyone (did I mention I was also working for a nonprofit and traveling most of the week). But, I did feel on some level like I was missing out on a couple important pieces of life.
  4. Spiritual – Yep. Big zero here. Although, I did like the connection of yoga to energies in a larger universe…it wasn’t a motivating factor for me.

So, that is my version of the Bikram Yoga 30-day challenge through the lens of the Biopsychsocial Model. In looking back on this experience, it’s helpful to view it in a holistic nature. I feel less judgmental towards myself and see it as information to use the next time.

Oh yeah, um, I lasted maybe three classes…not in a row. Just in case, you were wondering how it turned out.

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Kate

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