I’ve been lesson planning and figuring out what it is I want to share in these early weeks of the year. My classes for the week are full, which is fabulous – but it’s also got me thinking about why now, in the darkest slowest time of the year so many of us feel under pressure to be better, do better and to change who we are?
So far this year I’ve seen just about every advert for slimming products, diet revolutions, manifestation programes, life coaching and gym memberships going, all directly through my front door, in my inbox or in my social media feeds. The message they are sending is that somehow who I am is not good enough. Yes I have enjoyed food in abundance, wine more frequently than normal and I have moved less, but my goodness I’ve enjoyed it. It was a holiday after all! It was a celebration of life shared with friends and family. It was filled with love, abundance and generosity. It’s one of the only times of the year when everyone I know has time off together, where we all open our homes, share food and spend time with each other. We’ve sung, danced and laughed together and I am immensely grateful. This is part of life, and life as we know ebbs and flows.
Resolutions in the new year can often come from a place of guilt for the over indulgence and my invitation in these early weeks of the year is to change that perspective. How about we find gratitude for the abundance? How about we allow the excess of the season to ebb away slowly as we gently look towards the long dark month of January. How about we use the celebrations we enjoyed as fuel? When we notice the physical effects of excess, how about turning our attention to how wonderful it felt, how grateful we are to have experienced it and to let it go, rather than punishing ourselves.
Resolutions fail when they are unsustainable. And if the intention doesn’t come from a place of self acceptance, awareness and love, then it will always feel like work, it even has the power to strip us of our joy. But resolutions which come from a loving place, from the place of acceptance and gratitude are a joy to cultivate.
When we set a Sankalpa in Yoga practice we are really responding to a deep need within us, recognising that need and setting a positive intention to meet that need – it’s inviting more of what we want not focusing on less of what we don’t want. For example; returning to work may be stressful, early mornings ,long days and commuting after the break is a big shift in routine, if we add to that the demands of parenting, relationships, lack of money and a new gym regime then we are under enormous pressure. When we’re under pressure we look for ways to relieve the pressure and often food and alcohol are first on the list. It’s easy to see how dry January might feel like more stress than it’s worth here? Or the gym regime going out the window by week two? How about we meet ourselves here with what’s really needed though, which might be more time, more space or less pressure. In setting a Sankalpa we meet those needs with a positive, present tense statement of intention. If the need is for less pressure then the sankalpa would be “I am Relaxed” if the need is for more space the sankalpa becomes “I am spacious” and if it’s more time we need “I have all the time in the world”. Initially we can explore these statements in words at a time when we have a few moments, maybe when we wake up in the morning or just before going to bed, maybe just after we’ve dropped the kids off, or on the commute. Maybe it’s something we explore in our Yoga classes, but initially at least we start to explore the sankalpa. How does it feel to say it silently mentally to ourselves? How does it feel to say it out loud to ourselves in the mirror? How would it feel if it were true right now? How would our bodies feel if it was happening right now? In time the statement becomes a feeling, the feeling infuses our actions and our actions impact our situations, whether it’s our relationships, the way we plan our work day, how we relate to the demands of life or how we cope with the commute. Eventually our entire experience of life can change for the better. If we’re feeling more spacious, more relaxed or that time is abundant, then the consequences may be that we make healthier food choices, we feel more gratitude, we enjoy exercise more or simply embrace all that we are as perfectly imperfect.
It takes time though, setting a Sankalpa is like planting a seed. The seed only grows if we tend to it, if we come to it regularly to feel and experience it. If we forget about it, it’s likely to remain a seed, if we come to it little and often and over a sustained period of time, it may just bear fruit!
“Mighty Oaks, from small acorns do grow” proverb