Congratulations, you have now completed 1/36th of 2011! If you live in Boston, hopefully without a snow-related injury. And, perhaps, with some of your new year’s intentions intact. Or not. I usually fall into the latter category, which is why I don’t make many New Year’s resolutions.
I love the way yogic philosophy talks about what we’ve come to take as New Year’s resolutions. The word you see to talk about habits and patterns, eating habits, exercise patters, thought patterns, is samaskara. There’s no direct English translation, but my favorite analogy is that they are like grooves in a record. Your body, your brain get used to going to these places, so you play the same record again and again. This can be a good thing- always going to yoga on Mondays, or going to bed at a certain hour. They can also be less good- that extra glass of wine, or that hour with Snooki.
The good news is that, just like records, they can be re-pressed. (not repressed, that’s another conversation) For what it’s worth, here’s what works for me:
1. Start now. I’ve been really digging on a Rumi poem lately. It starts “This is Now. Now is. Now is all there is. Don’t wait ’til then.” If you really want to change something, change it now, even incrementally.
2. Aim big, work small. There’s a big reason that Alcoholics Anonymous and its cousins are so effective (relatively speaking) in helping people fight addictions. AA is not trying to get a member sober forever, it’s trying to get them not to drink today. You’re not cured, you’re free in this moment. (The parallels with modalities of mindfulness abound)
What does that have to do with resolutions? Even if you’re shooting huge, work in the moment. Don’t worry about losing x number of pounds, focus on eating healthy and moving your body today. If you’ve set a goal of getting to more yoga classes, or the gym more often, just focus on getting there today.
3. Diets are evil and must be stopped. (Disclaimer, I am not a nutritionist, and don’t pretend to be one.) For the first time in my life last week, my scale told me that I’m at a weight my joints won’t be happy with in the long term, especially if I want to do handstands and arm balances on a regular basis. And New Years seems a good time to deal with it, right? But I’m not dieting, no way in hell. The problem with diets, in my eyes, is they aren’t particularly sustainable. What does diet call to mind? For me, it’s living without, counting calories, and saying no. Which makes me feel like crap even thinking about it. Instead, I’m focusing on being more mindful in my eating. Specifically:
– Read the ingredients. If it’s an English word and I can’t pronounce it, or it has the syllable “poly” in it, do I really want to eat it? Also, avoid high fructose corn syrup at all costs- it’s everywhere, and your body literally doesn’t know what to do with it, it digests terribly. (This is harder than you think, sadly. Generally, the less processed the food is, the better off you’ll be)
– Small is beautiful. When I buy a drink when I’m out lately, be it a smoothie or a coffee, I’ve started getting smalls much more than I used to. (I grew up with the remnants of a depression-era, “always get every pennies worth” mentality, which is great buying toilet paper, but maybe not so good when it comes to eating) The funny thing is, I don’t miss the extra. I read some science to support this- apparently, your body gets a first “hit” of flavor from any food, and after that the sensation isn’t as powerful. I’ll try to link to it.
– White ain’t right. No this is not a political statement. Foods that contain a lot of corn, white flour and white sugar are basically empty calories, and enormous contributors to the current state of American obesity. (h/t Michelle Leonna Pfenninghaus)
4. Shower yourself with kindness. It’s easy to get down at the first (or fifth) breakdown in your resolve, don’t dwell on the failure. Allow yourself, to fall, and give yourself a chance to get back up. This month’s Yoga Journal reports on a study that people who showed “self-compassion” were less upset by failure, and therefore less likely to repeat it. Plus, if the goal is really a happier, healthier person, is anything gained by beating yourself up?
(and now, a shameless plug…) If you’re New Year’s resolution includes getting more out of your yoga, I’d invite you to a workshop I’m presenting at Prana Cambridge on Sunday (1/16) called, wait for it, Evolve Your Resolve. Details here. We’ll be working a lot with alignment in the core poses of power yoga, and how to be both more efficient in your movement, and to be your own teacher. I’d love to see you there.