Yoga New Year’s Resolutions—Recalibrate and Balance!
The approaching New Year is a natural time of self-reflection—How am I doing? What do I want to change? One problem with New Year’s resolutions is that they often come from a place of self-criticism, for example “I really need to lose weight and get in shape!” That is why health clubs and gyms around the country count on the New Year’s “bump” in memberships for most of their annual revenue. Inevitably, the I-will-lose-20 pounds-by-February type of resolutions are doomed to fail and are simply another way to beat ourselves up for not being good enough. It becomes hard to sustain that type of relationship with ourselves and who needs it!
Nonetheless, there is an energy that comes with the New Year that we can use to positively and compassionately assess where we are and where we would like to go on this life’s journey. Most of you reading this blog have already recognized the power of yoga in your life and have already experienced what I call the “Zen glow” after a particularly calming or invigorating yoga class. We want to maintain and get more of this feeling. Maybe we think the answer is to take more yoga classes. For most of us, greatly increasing the number of classes per week is not practical, affordable, or even advisable. But, if we do sincerely want to strengthen our practice, now is a good time to start with an assessment of where we are now.
Am I taking the right classes? Classes need to feel like the right balance of challenge and ease, and you need to feel like the teacher understands, supports, and inspires you. Time of day is also an important variable. If you find yourself missing classes frequently due to scheduling conflicts or are simply too tired or distracted, it may be time to adjust your schedule. It may be possible to add a class if there is an activity on your current schedule that does not provide the value of yoga. However, be cautious about overscheduling. Maintaining some unscheduled time can be very important.
Is my practice balanced? Here I am speaking of the balance between strong (Yang) forms of practice, and slower, deeper (Yin) forms. I know many yogis who are perfectly content to stick with a single style of yoga, and are not satisfied unless their “workout” leaves them sweaty and near exhaustion. If an injury or illness prevents “success” in accomplishing poses, they will inevitably leave yoga altogether. Yogic philosophy teaches us that it is better to adjust our practice with age, health, season, and even daily rhythms to achieve a truly balanced practice and one that can be sustained for life. Maybe the New Year is a time to try a Yin, Restorative, or Tai Chi class. It may surprise you how beneficial a new experience can be for re-energizing your practice.
What about a home practice? I so enjoy the shared energy of a yoga class and inspirational teachers, that I don’t foresee ever forsaking the classroom; however, I feel that a home practice is essential to any serious yoga student. At home, alone, on your mat, is where you tune into your own voice and heart. Home practice need not be complicated or long, but a consistent home practice where you show up on your mat rain or shine reaps untold rewards. Your practice can be highly personal—it doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.
How do I define Yoga? Yoga is such a deep and rich source of self-discovery, with asana (poses) only a single facet or limb (there are seven other limbs!). Consider broadening your personal definition of yoga in the New Year to include meditation, chanting, good acts (karma yoga), worshipful contemplation, and developing a strong sense of self and ethics. Donating time to help someone in need or simply spreading your own form of joy will ultimately do more for the universal good than mastering that headstand!
I hope you will join us in the New Year’s Day Workshop from 2:30-4:30pm at Yoga Art Space & Mantis Kung Fu. Wishing you all the best for the New Year…namaste.