The New Year is upon us, and with it the promise of transformation, in the familiar form of New Year’s Resolutions. Oh, the pressure.
Like all of us, I’ve had varying degrees of success with resolutions, and I’ve learned over the years how analogous they are to Yoga.
Resolutions are about practicing, not about being attached to results. And the ones that have served me best are the ones that I have approached in that spirit. Many years ago, having “failed” at the previous year’s more epic and grandiose goals (I can’t even remember what they were) I chose just one: “wash my face more often.” I don’t think you’ll be shocked to hear that it worked out really well. It’s a silly example, but it taught me a useful lesson about making choices that are positive and active rather than inspirational.
So here’s a suggestion as you consider next year: Use the Yamas and the Niyamas (many people consider these to be the 10 Commandments of Yoga) as a guideline for cultivating practices that will move you towards your truest Self.
Use the list below to think about things you would like to do more of (the Niyamas) and things you would like to do less of (the Yamas). For each one, come up with practices that seem both realistic and specific to you, rather than trying to conform to what you think the conventional wisdom is. Be simple and practical.
And remember, transformation isn’t usually about one big gesture. More often it’s a series of daily habit changes.
The Yamas (“The Don’ts”)
- Ahimsa (Non-harming) Pretty self-explanatory, but can be applied in such a variety of ways.
- Satya (Truthfulness or Not-lying) Sometimes comes into conflict with ahimsa … Which can be an interesting negotiation.
- Asteya (Non-stealing) This doesn’t just mean “don’t rob a bank” …
- Bramacharya (Continence) Traditionally translated as celibacy, but it can be more relevant to think of it as how you handle and share all the different forms of your energy.
- Aparigraha (Non-greed) We live in a world that revolves around consumption. What is actually necessary? What is pleasant? What is too much?
The Niyamas (“The Do’s”)
- Sauca (Cleanliness) What area of your life is kind of messy?
- Samtosha (Contentment) It’s a powerful practice to be happy with what you have.
- Tapas (Often translated as Purification or Austerity) My favorite definition is “the willingness to undergo great sensation in service of transformation.”
- Svadyaya (Self-study) There are so many forms of self-study – which one is most potent and revealing for you?
- Isvarapranidanani (Surrender to God) Or: letting go of the fruits of your labors, taking right action without being attached to the outcome.