As a yoga teacher people often tell me that they have put yoga on their list of New Year's resolutions. Although I think that is great and will attest that January's classes are always packed, I have a few suggestions to ease the inspired student into the New Year. With careful thought and consideration about your yoga, there will be less threat of a crash and burn one month later due to a lofty and overgeneralized goal of "getting healthy."
Consider your Yoga a Solution instead of a Resolution:
An article in O magazine spoke to me several years ago. She proposed we change our approach to the New Year's resolution and see the lifestyle change as a solution instead of a resolution. Losing weight is usually at the top of the resolution list but without a clear and concise plan on how to make that happen; results will allude us. I'm not suggesting to practice yoga only for the weight loss benefits but the truth is that the practice itself helps to create a mind set of healthy eating and living. A teacher once told me that yoga is a process, you can't force your body into a pose; it needs to unfold before you. A mindful regular practice unfolds for many students as a healthier body and mind.
Practice for the Benefits
Several minutes on a mat each day has been shown to reduce blood pressure, improve cardiovascular function, and increase focus and mind clarity. This is a minimal list of benefits but medical research offers us many more. Recent science tells us that yoga for cancer patients speeds recovery and reduces your risk of recurrence. Students tell me on a regular basis that their back pain has minimized or completely disappeared. The thing I hear most of all is "I just feel better." Practice not because it is on your New Year's list but because instead it is just plain good for you.
Try it (more than once)
Every yoga teacher has heard it, "yoga is too slow for me." When I ask that individual how often they have practiced it is almost always "I tried it once or twice." Remember every teacher brings something unique and special to his or her particular teaching style. Find the teacher and the style that meets your need. Yoga Finder is an online yoga directory that will give you information about the studios and classes in your area. Try a few different styles and classes.....more than once.
Unlike other exercise disciplines yoga does not ask you to set a goal and then work like hell to achieve it. It asks you to be patient and develop an awareness of your body's abilities. I must admit that as a teacher I feel a great sense of pride when a student begins to feel the benefits and delights in the advancing of an asana. But I take more pride in the fact that my students don't injure themselves forcing a pose. So if your resolution in the New Year is to be flipping into side crane by February first, re-evaluate. Learn to appreciate the process and incorporate your breath. It is so much more rewarding when you become aware of how your practice has gently nudged you forward and you begin to reap the benefits.
And Lastly, Create a Yoga Community
It inspires us to be with like minded individauls. Find a group of friends to practice with or just a studio that fosters a positive and non-competetive setting. We know that community itself is essential to our health. Pair that with yoga and you have a beautiful thing.