Even when we know that change will improve our health, happiness, relationships, or circumstances we struggle to keep our new year resolutions alive for long enough to make a real difference.
In the space between Christmas and New Year, we start to think about the year ahead. The dawning of a new year is a time of possibility and hope, when we feel optimistic about the future, and the opportunity for change. Almost without thinking we begin to reflect upon choices that we have made, considering what we might have done differently, and look forward with bright eyes and dreams.
As the new year breaks we pledge to do better, to be better, to put our plans into action, but while we may be determined to get fit, to lose weight, to write the book we’ve always wanted to write, statistically, most resolutions are abandoned within the first three weeks of the new year.
The most likely reason for this is that in the beginning, the effort outweighs the effect. This type of change is not immediate – it requires significant long-term commitment, some initial discomfort, and quite often a full lifestyle overhaul that we hadn’t considered when we imagined our future self. Three weeks into a new fitness regime, for example, we are likely to feel tired, with painful muscles, and are unlikely to see or feel any immediate benefit. This is when our motivation begins to fade away.
The biggest challenge is to keep the momentum going until the end of January so that our dreams are not abandoned before they have even begun! The moment where change can be felt as a possibility is ephemeral, and unless we protect and nurture that feeling, cold, hard reality will sweep it away – we need to view change not as an end point, but as a series of small steps, each taking us a little bit closer to our final goal.
Upon the way our unconscious behaviour will work against us – our habits will most often be the undoing of our good intentions! Breaking a habit, or replacing an existing habit with a new one, is attempting to change programming that has been in place often for many years. Changing habit is a conscious endeavour, where we hear the inner voice directing us to continue as before, and we override it, replacing the old instructions with a new set of instructions. We must change the narrative,
Yoga can be a successful tool in the breaking of old habits, helping build mental as well as physical strength, and because it is tends not to cause the muscular pain and tiredness associated with fitness oriented classes, it is easier to maintain. That’s not to mean it is not challenging – on a physical level yoga will build strength, balance, flexibility, tone the waist, arms and legs – but it will also require breath-work, meditative awareness and relaxation. You will learn body control, breath control and will practice active concentration in the pursuit of stilling the mind. It is this mental space that will give us the ability to reflect upon the decisions we make, and how those decisions affect us.
Whatever goal you are hoping to achieve, here’s why starting a yoga practice might be one of the most positive decisions you make towards truly changing your life.
Change is uncomfortable, get used to it!
Discomfort is something you will come across regularly in your yoga practice – it can be physically challenging, it can be mentally challenging, sometimes the challenge is just showing up when you can’t be bothered. Each time you face down one of these small challenges you get a little bit stronger, and your approach to challenge will begin to change
Strengthen your resolve.
The reality of putting change into practice is difficult, and you must cultivate a strength of will that allows you to overcome resistance. Facing small struggles day after day through your practice helps develop patience, determination, discipline, and humility. You begin to work through difficulties as they come up rather than, putting them off, or just giving up, and this resilience will find its way into your everyday life.
Reflect honestly upon your progress.
When you encounter a challenge in your yoga practice, you learn to step back, take a deep breath, then try again, day after day, week after week, month after month. You learn to be an observer. To see how far you have come, you need to be aware of where you have come from, and also how far you still have to go. This way motivation is maintained, and ego is restrained, keeping you firmly grounded in reality.
Be flexible in your approach.
Yoga practice helps you to experience, over and over again, that things won’t always go the way you planned. In fact, they will hardly ever go the way you planned! You learn to adapt, to keep moving forward in the face of adversity, with determination, but without rigidity. Sometimes reaching a goal requires compromise rather than giving up at the first sign of difficulty.
Don’t give up too quickly!
Yoga asks us to practice patience, and patience teaches us to focus on the journey and not on the end result. Each small success in our yoga practice is a small change to our programming – we begin to see challenge as something to overcome and not as a reason to stop trying. We begin to see that change is the accumulation of small successes, and not some grand moment in time.
You can if you believe you can!
This new year I received a sweet, novelty gift from my mum-in-law – a shopping bag to carry around in my handbag. The message on the bag reads “Karen believed she could, so she did”, and it struck me that this is the most important thing when it comes to setting goals and keeping them alive. We quit because we don’t believe we can succeed. This year, change your story – tell yourself you believe you can and you will end up exactly where you want to be!
Have a wonderful 2019 🙂