It’s not a big stretch to imagine that Yoga and Meditation classes are booming this time of year. At the close of each year, many of us find time to reflect upon our time and determine how we can “do better”, get fit, reduce stress, be happy. Yoga is one activity that allows us to work toward all of these goals in one practice, one commitment.
And it shows. Almost all of the articles and acknowledgments of New Year’s resolutions include yoga in the list. Classes at the local studios are bursting at the seams. You have to arrive half an hour early to ensure your favorite spot in class. For a while anyway, but eventually the hordes thin and things are back to “normal.” Why is it then that the collective “we” struggle so to hold true to these changes of self that we declare at the turn of the calendar year?
My very first, and still dearest, yoga teacher sent me an email that got me thinking. It stated very simply (and if you use your imagination, in a Brazilian accent), “blessings for this new “calendar year” that is approaching.” The “calendar year” as she states so subtly is not a momentous spiritual or natural shift, not one that coincides with natural or cultural phenomenon, but a more arbitrary and symbolic shift in time. So, is this why we fall short in maintaining our commitment to bettering ourselves? In truth, we could make resolutions at any time of the year, any day of the week, day or night, but scores of my friends and family were anxiously awaiting that flip of the calendar page to instigate major personal evolution.
Maybe it’s because we hate to let go of our old, destructive habits. So we allow ourselves indulgence time by saying in November, “I promise next year I’m going to quit fill in the blank. That’s my New Year’s resolution.” So we can continue in our denial or destruction for just a little longer guilt-free, as we have proclaimed the end is near. Or maybe it is a way to feel renewed and refreshed as we step forward into the next “year” of our human experience, “This year I will fill in the blank. This is my New Year’s resolution,” biding our time before engaging in the development of ourselves or humanity. Whatever the reasoning behind waiting, many of us do. And studies, formal and informal, are showing that this push toward setting resolutions is rarely successful.
Why? It seems that we keep the resolutions for as long as it takes to soften the blow of breaking them, then we spiral downward into rationalization and guilt as we drop or ignore each, one by one. So what’s the secret? How do we keep these “resolutions” that will so surely change our lives? Well there are about as many articles and rants about cracking this code as there are suggestions on what Resolutions should be. One article provided helpful, proven, gender specific suggestions on successful resolutions, i.e. men: be specific and focus on the rewards, and women: tell the world and receive plenty of encouragement.
It seems that the two most important components in achieving success in resolutions are commitment and confidence. This concept goes far beyond the turn of the year, and is not a new observation. Patanjali states in sutra 1:14 that “practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break and in all earnestness (Satchidanada trans.).” So science has confirmed the secret of resolution success that was uncovered millennia ago by the great sage of Yoga.
All serious students and practitioners of the discipline of yoga know that as with any positive change, it has its peaks and valleys, but with commitment and perseverance, the payoff is priceless. Commitment is never easy, but it is almost always worth the effort. As the commitment grows, so will confidence, and the practice of yoga will begin to blossom well beyond the mat.
Remember this as you teach or set down your mat next to the new guy or gal in yoga class. We as practitioners, students and teachers of yoga can set an example, be a model for those who are coming to the practice in an exercise of commitment and change. We can show that the practice works “when well attended for a long time…and in all earnestness,” even when the path to self evolution is fraught with obstacles, shortcomings and pitfalls.
Was yoga part of your New Year’s resolution? Please share your resolutions in the comments and let us know how we can support and encourage you to keep them throughout 2008.