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Yoga Basics: New Year's Resolutions

August 14, 2010
Let’s face it, we practice yoga because we want to change something in our lives. We may be seeking peace of mind, or perhaps improved health, a good night’s sleep, or a serene and steady temperament.

We’re in luck. Yoga offers a myriad of techniques designed to help us change. And so as we contemplate our goals and resolutions in the New Year, it's not a bad idea to consider just how we will get from here to there. Or more precisely, how we will follow through with our intentions and move in the direction of healthy transformation.

Be clear about what you’re seeking. Why are you practicing yoga? If you are looking for a good night’s sleep, your practice will likely have a different flavor than if you want to ease chronic hip pain, dissolve the mid-winter blues, or learn to stand on your head. But if you have no idea what you're hoping to unearth each morning when you climb onto your mat, how are you going to know what path to follow? And how are going to recognize transformation when it comes your way?

Be methodical and intelligent about your practice. Pay attention to how various poses and practices change your body, your breath, your mood and your mind. Use these observations to craft daily practices that help move you in the direction of your goal. If forward bends soothe you, then make these postures your focus during times of stress when you’re seeking a little downshifting. If sun salutes leave you energized, then slip them into your practice when you are looking for a burst of energy.

Be creative. With a little practice and intelligence, you will unearth creative ways to personalize your yoga in a way that helps move you toward your goal. If you notice that propping your body with blocks and blankets promotes calm and support, for example, then during times when you are seeking tranquility, consider ways you can use your props in a range of postures to increase support and diminish tension.

Listen to the experts. Ask a teacher, consult your favorite yoga book, or study the ancient yoga scriptures for guidance on how to evoke change and meet your goals. Those who have traveled the yoga path before you can offer techniques and strategies to help you move you wisely and efficiently toward your goal.

Be flexible. If you are seeking better breathing and you find that a particular posture or practice impedes your progress, eliminate it from your practice for a period of time and see what happens, or at the very least modify it wisely.

Some postures are better than others at meeting specific goals, and there’s no reason to expect that every yoga posture will be right for every yoga practitioner. In fact, certain postures and practices might move you farther away from your goal rather than helping you reach it.

Practice patience. While goals and game plans are important, don't forget that the joy is in the journey. The process of exploring, trying, failing, reassessing, and moving forward is what yoga (and life) is all about. Be curious, enthusiastic and engaged, and enjoy the process of opening yourself to the ever-changing play of life that yoga offers.


This article was originally published in Yoga Journal (January 2004)