Ancient Babylonians were thought to be the first people to make New Year’s resolutions, roughly 4,000 years ago. They weren’t quite the same format as the ones we make today (reduce my screen time), and their New Year was in March (marking the planting of the new crops). But if we want someone to blame, we can start with them.
Every year we start the new year filled with good intentions. This year we’re going mould ourselves into a shinier, thinner, kinder, richer version of ourselves and not fall at the first hurdle and…oh, we just fell…
The same applies to New Year’s ‘yoga resolutions’. So here are some ideas about how to make New Year’s yoga resolutions and actually stick to them, so that by the end of this year, you can look back with a glow of pride, not a large helping of self-contempt.
Resolve not to have any resolutions
This one might come across as a cop-out, but hear me out.
What if there’s actually nothing wrong with the old yoga you? What if making a list of what you need to do to improve yourself and your yoga practice is just a way of always reinforcing the sense that you’re not quite good enough. That your efforts on the mat during this year are not enough? Well, what if they are enough?
Maybe you had other challenges that you had to face in your life, maybe you missed the odd class, but you were there 9 times out of 10. Maybe your home practice was a bit erratic because you know, life happens, or maybe you even became a yoga teacher. Sometimes it’s enough to just say, I resolve to not make any new resolutions but to simply continue being fabulous yogi me. Well done me.
Break down your resolutions into TINY steps
Your list of resolutions might start out seeming perfectly reasonable and do-able, but then real life starts back up again, and suddenly putting a wash on and getting a micro-food shop done seem much more urgent than fitting in an hour’s home practice every day.
So instead of resolving to get up at the crack of dawn like all those celebrities seem to be able to do (and still look incredible – how?), just get out of bed 5 minutes earlier and do one pose. Or two, if you feel like it. Downward dog, for example, is one of those poses that stretches every little bit of you and wakes your body up in preparation for the day.
Make fewer resolutions
Simplifying your resolutions means that you are more likely to achieve them. I love the BKS Iyengar quote which goes:
Let the goal be to reach Perfection, but be content with a little progress toward perfection every day.
Light on Life; B.K.S. Iyengar
So your New Year’s yoga resolution might be to create your very own yoga teaching empire, by starting up more yoga classes, running your first ever workshop and leading your first retreat in the Maldives. If we are too ambitious with our goals, they become overwhelming and in the end, we may not achieve any of them.
So instead of trying to do it all in one go, perhaps it might be worth thinking, what is it that I would actually like to do that would make me feel the most satisfied? Or, am I trying to do all these things because I want to, or because I feel I should? Just choose one of the goals and break it down into smaller sections that you can schedule into your diary. Then, once one of your resolutions is achieved, the others may well fall into place.
Ask for help to keep your resolutions
“No man (or woman) is an island”, said John Donne, and he’s quite right. We are social creatures that exist in a web of wonderful human relationships, with family, friends, and colleagues – and fellow yogis, of course.
If your New Year’s yoga resolution is to establish a daily home practice then perhaps you can buddy up with a fellow yogi, and challenge each other to keep up a home practice every day for 21 days. At the end of each practice you could text each other an update, or keep a home practice diary and then share your updates on a weekly phone call (because that takes you back to your youth, when people actually CALLED people).
Make better resolutions
Have you ever considered that one reason why you might not have smashed last year’s New Year’s resolutions, is because they were things you actually didn’t want to do to begin with?
Just because someone else can manage to be some all-singing, all-dancing yogi with bells on, doesn’t mean that’s what you need to do. Perhaps your yoga is a small, quiet practice for yourself. Maybe those advanced poses are just not for you, and that’s okay too.
This year, choose resolutions that you want to keep and then keeping them will be oh so much easier.