It’s something that everyone talks about every year at this time yet, very few people seem to be able to follow through. I would see it all the time when I worked in the gym, the floor and the classes would be flooded with people, newbies and those who had set intentions before. Working hard and coming daily, then mid February, like all the February’s before it, the gym would be back to how it was before January 1st.
I too used to make resolutions, whether it was to get into better shape, or to be more consistent with crocheting, or read more or watch less TV. While all of those are admirable, just like a little kid at Christmas who has opened all their toys on Christmas morning with excitement and glee, who then stands there, completely overwhelmed and not too sure what to do next. Then like last years toys end up in the toy box with the rest of the “MUST HAVE” items of the year. Same goes with resolutions, we get all hyped up and excited just to realize that it’s just one more thing to add to the ” To Do List” and we gradually go back to our old ways.
Well not for me. For the last 4 years or so I have not set an intention, and not only do I accomplish more, but I have been able to do so in a way that feels properly aligned, like when you feel like you have found your expression of Triangle pose. Everything feels exactly as it should be grounded, expansive, light, and open. This is exactly how I have been feeling since I let go of the idea of setting resolutions.
Four years ago, I started my yoga teacher training journey, and through that journey, I found patterns that worked for me and patterns that were not serving me. One of those patterns not serving me being New Years Resolutions. For years I would make resolutions and the outcome was always the same. I’d fall flat on my face, not literally, but figuratively speaking, I would not achieve the stated goal and I could not really understand why.
Yoga means yoke, or union. The teachings of yoga are to listen to your body, love yourself, and expand and grow in a way that enhanced your life. When I would set new years resolutions, I would not set them with the intention of creating a union with the rest of who I was. Instead I was usually looking outside of myself to do something that did not necessarily make me happy, even though, I thought that it would. One year, I set a new years resolution that I wanted to make sure that I had a spot on my tennis team line up.
As a Freshman, I was on the team, but I was not in the line up. My resolution that year was to work on getting a spot in the line up for sophomore year. I hit the gym hard, I played as much as I could, joining tennis groups, playing all summer long. I was very particular about what I ate, and I did every workout that was given to us to do over the summer. I wanted to make sure that I left no stone unturned in my quest to achieve my goal. When I went back to school that fall, I was excited, to see friends, and play tennis. Long story short, I was in the line up. I played to help win points for the team, I accomplished my goal. I also hated myself. I was miserable, it was hard to maintain the lifestyle that I set up for myself because it was very strict and very isolating. So while I succeeded in attaining my resolution, I also developed an extreme sense of angst and agitation.
Another year I set an intention to read books. I mean I wanted to read books for fun, not just because it was required text. All my friends were telling me about great books that they had been reading. They were like you really need to read this because you will really enjoy it. That Dec. 31 I made it my new years resolution to read books for fun not just text books. I will just end it here by saying it was a total fail. Why? Because it was unrealistic. At the time I was going to school and working and picking up a fun book just to relax with was not in the cards for me. Could I have made time, sure, but that anatomy and physiology exam was staring me in the face and reading something other than notes and textbooks seemed daunting. Yet again, the following Dec 31 here I was and not a book outside of school had been read. Yet, here I was about to set another new years resolution. I was going to spend that next year, anxious, nervous, angry, frustrated and creating another recording of negative self talk that ultimately would seep into every aspect of my life.
Fast forward to 2013. I had this itch to dive deeper into yoga. We spent a lot of time not just on the physical asana portion of the practice but also the theoretical side as well. It was during this time that I came to understand that true meaning of yoga and how that meaning was not resonating with how I was living my life. During this journey to become a teacher, like the opening of a can of worms, all my thoughts and beliefs came sprawling out on my mat, and every single one of them was being challenged. I agreed with the teachings and I felt aligned with how it worked, but, when it came to putting it to everyday use, I was hit with conflict.
The best way I can describe it, is that I had allowed myself to live with this idea that everything had to be difficult for so long, that I thought that was the way. It was like the first time I went to see a chiropractor. I didn’t think I needed a chiropractor so I never went to one. Then, I met this woman who I became friends with, who was a chiropractor, and was curious about what this was all about. She told me to make an appointment and come in. So I did. I walked in feeling fine, “normal” so to speak. When I walked out I felt amazing, I felt aligned, light, and I moved so much better. Same held true when my yoga teacher pointed out my way of thinking. She called me out on it and started asking me questions. It was then that I realized that the conflict I was feeling was because my thought process was out of alignment with what I wanted to believe. She was like a chiropractor for my brain and when I allowed myself to start looking at my thought process, a lightness and an openness similar to my physical alignment began to start.
December 2013- into Jan 2014 was the first year I did not make a new years resolution. I had one more month of yoga teacher training and after almost a year of challenging my current beliefs and getting into alignment with what I truly believed that made me actually happy, I knew this was one “tradition” that had to go. So when it was my turn to answer the question “what is your new years resolution?” My reply then, and it is now, I do not have one. From now on if there is something that I want, I am going to set realistic goals with a start date and an end date. I am not going to be ambiguous rather, I am going to be intentional and specific. Since then, my level of anxiety has decreased. I am happier because I know I am not chasing some half-baked idea or chasing something that in the long run, is too hard to maintain in a way that is in alignment with me.
Now, every time I step into a yoga practice, I set an intention to open my eyes to areas of my life and business that are not serving me in the best way possible. In this way, I can spill the struggles I am having and the conflict that is rumbling onto my mat and sort out what feels right and in union with my beliefs and what is not. I am grateful every day for my yoga practice and my decision to let go of new years resolutions.