Kaizen is the Japanese art of relatively small, continuous improvements.
I first learned about this idea way back when I was an engineer working in aerospace. I was in a class about quality control and learned that Japanese automotive firms used the Kaizen principle in their manufacturing processes, achieving remarkably positive outcomes in product quality as well as employee well-being.. little by little. But, it wasn’t until recently that I realized I could use these same principles in all areas of my life.
In the past when I sought to improve something in my life, I would typically plot out an ambitious plan that would start out great, but invariably unravel when I failed to keep up. At best, the result was frustration and at worst I abandoned the effort altogether. Then, I started to take a different approach, asking the question, “How could I make things just a little better right now?”
An example of how I applied this idea is with my yoga practice. Throughout my twenties and early thirties I had a daily practice and was quite a Gumby. Then along came parenthood… next came my forties. I grew less and less limber and had less and less time available to practice. I kept trying to reestablish my routine in the way that I had when I first started yoga. The only problem was that I was twice the age and had half the free-time.
Then one day early last year, although I didn’t realize it at the time, I began to apply the idea of Kaizen to my yoga practice. At that point, I was practicing about once a week. Given I didn’t have the time to practice for 90 minutes everyday like I used to, I asked myself “How can I make things just a little better with my yoga practice right now?” The response to my own question was, “Do one sun-salutation sequence a day, for a week.” (for those of you not familiar, a sun salutation is a flowing series of movements that takes about a minute or two to complete.) The next week, I increased the number of repetitions by one per day, until I was doing five sets each day. I continued to build on this foundation by adding various sequences to the mix.
More than a year later, I have a relatively consistent yoga practice. No, it isn’t perfect, but it is continuously improving, and I feel SO much better. Now, instead of feeling defeated because I am not meeting my ideal, I am celebrating because… “it’s getting better, a little better all the time.” I have a lot more I could say about it, but I need to go so I can fit some yoga into my day! I am curious to hear about how this works for you!