Let me begin by saying that I'm not a big fan of the New Year's resolution. I gave up on these things in college, following the year I vowed to lose my freshman 15 (or was it 30? Irrelevent!). I was determined to get skinny by completely changing my diet, which at the time consisted exclusively of fried chicken fingers, french fries, and soda. I was sure I'd be able to flip a switch and trade in my fast food ways for tofu and bean sprouts overnight. Here came problem: by January 3, I was ravenous. So hungry that I ate an entire bag of potato chips, a carton of ice cream, and a medium pizza—or something like that. I vowed never to splurge again. A few days later, the hunger was back. This did not end well either, particularly when I weighed myself on January 7. So that was the end of that.
Coincidentally, this was about the same time I took my first yoga class, which taught me a healthier way to approach all kinds of life goals. See, not all New Year's resolutions are doomed to failure. Resolutions can be a driving force for positive change, but you've got to approach them in a reasonable way.
For anyone starting to give up on theirs, I say wait. First, try one—or a few—of these yoga-borne strategies and apply it to your goal(s). Let me know if it helps!
1. Increase Mindfulness. Whether you're trying to get healthy, get out of debt, or just become a better person, becoming more mindful of your habits make it easier to make changes. For example, mindfulness that starts with the body and breath during a yoga class often spills over into other areas of life. When I first took up yoga I started to naturally crave healthier foods—not because I was trying to be healthy, but because I noticed that I felt better when I skipped the drive-through. Yoga helps you pay more attention to the foods you put into your body, what causes you to stress, how you spend your money, and so much more.
2. Celebrate the Small Shifts. It's much better to be gentle with yourself and slowly work up to a pose than to hurt yourself by trying an advanced pose before you're ready. This philosophy is perfect for life goals, too. Make little, tiny changes and celebrate each one.
3. Just Breathe. In yoga, there's a big emphasis on your breath. How can this help you reach a goal? Are you thinking about breaking your resolution? Stop. Close your eyes. Take five deep breaths. Your breath has a lot of wisdom if you just pay attention. When it is short and shallow, it's a sign that you're stressed or overwhelmed, which isn't a good time to make any decisions. Make important choices when your breath is slow and deep—a signal that you're relaxed and calm. Calm people make better decisions.
4. Replace Bad Habits with Healthy Ones. Yoga is more than a group stretching class at your gym. Today, there's a whole lifestyle associated with the practice. You don't have to embrace it all, but by just choosing the things that resonate most with you, you won't have as much time for the unhealthy habits you're trying to change. I suggest taking a time out for conscious breathing just two minutes a day, cooking healthy foods, and reading a yoga-related blog to keep you motivated. (You can check that last one off the list already! Go you!).
5. Try, Try Again. It's incredibly hard to make lasting changes. So when you slip up, don't beat yourself up. It's just like losing your balance a little bit during a yoga pose. Don't take it too seriously. Laugh at yourself. Try again. You'll get there, but only if you take the little bobbles in stride with a smile on your face.