If you're setting intentions for your upcoming New Year, you need to read this before you do.
(And hey, if you're in NYC, join me for my free New Year's Evolution 2-Hour Yoga Class!)
Why? Because there's a razor's edge between resolving to do something, and then actually doing it. And I'm pretty sure that if you're making resolutions, that means you'd like to accomplish them. There's one main tool you'll want to have in your belt as you transition into your best 2010.
I recently had a student come to class, mat in hand, to all outside observers, she seemed ready to rock.
"I'm here to get my sweat on and lose some holiday weight!" she stated to the room. Yet once on her mat, she proceeded to sigh, complain and stand up, hands on her hips, in just about every pose she found herself in.
She was fit enough to do the class--it was her mind that stopped her. I wanted to scream "get off your asana, or nothing will change in the direction you want it to!" But, instead, I encouraged her gently to try more of the poses. "It's too hot!", she said, as she sat and drank her water. The room was 75 degrees.
One lesson of life I've learned the hard way is that someone either wants to change, or they don't. Nothing in the world, including you, is going to stop them.
After a few classes, she disappeared. When I asked her for the reason, she said "I'm not seeing any results!" I could see why.
When it comes to your best laid plans this next year, mentally blocking your body from moving your intentions out into reality will be your biggest enemy too. Here's how to make your mind your friend:
I have a rule in my classes: Either you do the pose you're in with 110 percent of your ability, or rest in Child's Pose with 100 percent of your attention.
This rule is for those people who truly wish to transform, and move to the next level of themselves, whether that's weight loss, getting toned, quieting the mind, or finding center in the midst of this balance-challenging life.
Because going to a yoga class where you can either do most of the poses, or you don't fully commit to most of them, isn't going to change much. I know this from personal experience. Losing 40 pounds and completely shifting my body, mind and heart into more balance took a hell of a lot of effort.
But, let me tell you--the rewards are so worth it. And, sometimes, the rewards happen within the work itself. But make no mistake--if you want health, you're going to have to do the good, strong work to make it happen.
Healthy resistance and confrontation is a unique and powerful opportunity to bring forward your integrity, compassion, and strengthen your resolve to be the person you wish to be, even in the face of what I call the Big Push.
When life pushes you in one direction, you can either go with it, or, if you feel it doesn't represent you accurately, you have the power to push right back, and hold your space.
The problem is, humans crave comfort. That's why macaroni and cheese was created. If we feel life's burn, whether it's in our quadriceps during Warrior Two, or in our hearts during a financial scare, the first reaction is usually to physically, mentally or emotionally flee.
Sounds easy enough, but when we run, we're actually running away from the integrity we own that can best serve us during the Big Push so we can make decisions that actually empower us instead of drag us into messes we have to take more time and energy to clean up later.
So, back to your New Year's Intentions.
No matter what you've decided to do differently, whether it's eat healthier, move more, stop drinking, take more time for yourself, get to that masterpiece, you are going to have to feel uncomfortable--really, deeply, madly uncomfortable--in order to attain it. And if you don't know what to do when you meet the Big Push, you will be Pushed right back into your old habits.
Don't believe me? You should see yoga classes swell every year in January, only to be right back where they started by February. It's well-known in spiritual circles that we have one month to encourage peoples to commit to themselves.
After that, the Push, otherwise known as "life", just magically seems to get in the way and we fall prey to the state of being what we were, or what we are, like that lady in yoga class who will never lose weight because she's not doing anything differently than the overweight person she is.
Instead, take the actions right this instant as if you are already who you intended to be in the future: Go to your edge in your yoga classes, try the next level, eat better today, start looking for a new job that suits you better.
Learn to take actions that match your intentions...and you've unlocked the doorway to a brand new life.
The Push consists of one basic element: fear. Fear of change, fear of losing comfort, even from unhealthy coping mechanisms, fear of failure.
Fear equals discomfort, because most of us fail to recognize that within fear lies the seed of realizing your own inner strength and capacity to meet your challenges head-on, with grace.
The best way to beat The Push is to expect it.
If you're waiting for your old habits to seduce you, if you are at the door already before fear comes knocking, and if you assume the responsibility of feeling intensity in order to create positive change, then you're already one step ahead of the game.
My students and I practice yoga not only to gain its multiple health benefits, but also to immerse ourselves in discomfort until it loses its power over us. When you can learn to remain nonreactive in the face of an eight minute Chair Pose, you can pretty much handle your breakups, your uncertainties, and your resolutions.
The feeling of transformation might not be totally comfortable--but it can be powerful, if you choose it.
To strengthen your resolve along with your muscles, and train in the art of giving all your energy only towards that which serves you, try out the following yoga poses.
And remember: though the road to real change may not be the easiest route...it is, for certain, the most freeing. So...Push!
NOTE: Make sure you're warmed up using my Core Sun Salutations or equivalent (See the free video here) before beginning--don't force any pose, but do press to your edge of stretch and strength. Breathe five to 10 slow rounds of breath through your nose in every pose before moving on.
CORE SUN SALUTATION WARM-UP
DOWN DOG SPLIT PULSES
We usually breeze through this one on our way to step the foot forward. For more back-body toning (yes, this includes the rear-end), try maintaining the lift of your right leg, and with toes and hips turned down, pulse the heel up higher on 10-30 concentrated exhales. Then proceed to Core Plank with the same leg!
THE PUSH: This pose shows you how rushing through the moment at hand will make you miss out on a wealth of present-moment benefits.
Instead of just stepping your foot to your hands, pause in this Core Plank transition for super arm, chest and core strength. Round your back and hips high and press your hands evenly into the earth. Then step forward to your right thumb with your right foot.
THE PUSH: This pose helps you learn to move through life's transitional moments from deepest center.
For an awesome lower body transformation that the regular Warrior Poses can't give you, round your back heel, keep your front foot bent, and clasp your hands behind your back. Bow either onto or inside your front knee, pulling up both kneecaps and your navel, and reaching your arms away from your cascading spine.
THE PUSH: Reminds you how to go with the flow, even when life gets intense.
Whether you hang onto your knees, press your fingertips into the floor behind you or reach arms up by your shins, this pose will shift you into real core strength, fast. Maintain your lower back pressing in, and your navel and heart lifting as you pulse your knees closer on the exhales.
THE PUSH: This pose shows you how to support the opening of your heart from your core connection to your inner strength. That fire will never burn out.
We often soften the belly after all our core work with a Bridge Pose. Try the added shoulder and chest stretching, quad-firing Bow Pose for another level of back-bends.
THE PUSH: Teaches you to commit to maintaining that open heart even in the face of great challenge. Pull your knees into hip-width to symbolize your ability to keep boundaries, even with an open, respectful and compassionate attitude surrounding them.