New Year’s Resolutions are so last year

I mean, here we are only into the first week of 2013 and already my resolutions are lying in a crumpled heap on the floor. I think in a way we set ourselves up to fail by making this long list of resolutions, which come from a belief that we’re inherently flawed and need to change in order to be happy.

That’s why I find the yogic equivalent of sankalpa to be a much better deal. For one thing, you absolutely are not allowed to feel guilty if you slip up. You just renew your intention to live in the new way you want to, because it all happens in the present moment and the past is already old news.

Let me explain. A sankalpa is an intention that we set, that originates from an idea that comes from our hearts, from our deepest truth. Also, we don’t need to inherently change ourselves, as we’re already perfect as we are, it’s simply a matter of getting back on that path to yourself and to living a life that serves your highest good.

How to find your sankalpa in 3 easy steps:

1) Tune in Make some time to sit for a few minutes and become quiet. Start bringing your attention to your inhalations and exhalations and feel how your breath starts to connect you to the present moment and yourself. Ask the question of what your true desire is at this moment in time? You can write down any thoughts that come to you.

2) Present tense The things that will come up, will probably at first be expressed as a wish or might seem negative to you, e.g. I hate my job or I wish I could lose 5 kg’s. Examine the things that come up and see what lies beneath these statements. Often we react from a place of fear or suffering. Therefore it’s important to rephrase your initial sentences, so it’s a positive statement you’re making in the present moment, essentially something that has already occurred. So instead you might say: I have a job that I love which allows me to spend time with my partner or I choose to be well by eat healthy foods and exercising daily. This helps manifest the outcome as reality and not as some distant goal in the future. It also removes the negative association that there is something wrong with us that we need to fix.

Be aware that your Sankalpa may change during the course of a year, depending on your circumstances. It’s a good idea to check in from time to time to see if your goals have changed and then set a new intention.

3) Be kind If you fall off the proverbial wagon, be kind to yourself and know that it takes time for us to change our deeply ingrained habits or samskaras as they’re referred to in Sanskrit. Try to incorporate your sankalpa into your daily life, almost like a mantra. You could even write it down and stick it up on your bathroom mirror, so that you’re reminded of it daily.

So join me this year and tear up that list of resolutions and set an intention to live each moment of your life in a way that serves who you really are. Happy 2013!

Coming up against your edge

You’re likely to hear or to have heard this phrase many times in a yoga class: ‘Find your edge.’ So where is your ‘edge’ exactly? I would say it’s that place where you start feeling uncomfortable. Where you’re ‘gently’ being persuaded to become present. Your muscles, both those of the body and of the mind are being stretched in new ways. You can hear Dorothy saying: ‘I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto.’ Yes, welcome to the very frontier of your comfort zone. What do we do when we’re in this place of extreme agitation, irritation, fear or discomfort? Our practice offers us a safe place from which to explore this unchartered territory. We can use these lessons we learn in our yoga practice and apply it to our lives.

Case in point. I went on a little bicycle trip for 3 days this week in the countryside of Catalonia to Ripoll and Olot. On the second day, I had to cycle uphill for 7 km. To put you in the picture, I haven’t really spent any serious time on a bicycle, since my impromptu Cape Argus 109 km Cycle Tour in 1998. You could say I came up against my edge in a big way after the 2nd kilometer going up. I had to get off my bike and push it up the mountain for the next 5. I just couldn’t do it. My legs felt like jelly, it was hot, my heart was pumping in my chest and my breath was at this point not yogic. Closer to hyperventilation. I couldn’t appreciate the beauty of my surroundings; I was way out there in the Wild West of my comfort zone. And I had to remind myself of something I repeat often in class, really it’s the most basic of the pranayama practices, which is to just focus on the breath, on inhaling and exhaling through the nose. To come back into the moment and override the crazed panic-induced mental state that says you’re going to self-destruct if you don’t stop doing what you’re doing right now!

Needless to say, I made it. But it reinforced for me in a big way how our minds have this incredible power of setting boundaries for us. Measuring out our little gilded cage in which we feel we can cope with life. And how it is really important to go against this urge to live a so-called ‘safe’ life. If we don’t challenge our minds and our bodies, we don’t have the opportunity to grow and expand spiritually and it’s impossible to live our lives to the fullest.