I’ve never been a New Year’s resolutions person. For most of my life, that wasn’t because I didn’t think they were a good idea. It’s because my whole dang life was a new resolution — I didn’t really need the new year. That was just icing on the sadness cake.
My whole life was a resolution because all I did was hop from diet to diet to diet, always hoping and praying for when I’d lose weight and my life would instantaneously become perfect.
Spoiler alert: didn’t happen.
My life did get much better, though, but it wasn’t because I lost weight. Unless you count the weight of the diet industry’s BS, in which case I lost SO MUCH WEIGHT.
If you’re anything like me, you might bring some of this “let me transform my life completely and overnight” energy to many of the things you do — like, maybe your yoga practice? If you’ve ever thought to yourself that you “need” to “do better” with yoga, or that you can never get it together, or that you should be doing more of this (fast, intense) and less of that (actually works for your body — lets you move but without wrecking your body), then this is a great time of year to check in.
Here’s what I like to ask myself when I think about making my shiny new yoga practice. Because that is still SO tempting to me sometimes! When I hear that siren call, though, I like to stop and ask myself: Has this ever worked? In a sustainable way?
Obviously the key word there is “sustainable.” Because, sure, I might be able to do it for a few days, a week, or maybe even a month if some miracle happens! But longer? Um, no. Because it wasn’t created for my actual life; it was created for my fantasy life — where I’m never tired, I always feel great, I have an unlimited amount of time, and things never change in my schedule. That sounds like your life, too, right? Ha!
For a long time I felt like “giving up” on my fantasy life meant I was “letting myself go.” And, of course I would think that. I’m a human in this society, which is literally paid to keep those messages going. Because if we don’t believe that, what would happen to the many industries that profit from us thinking we’re not good enough?
So here’s my top secret of yoga practice that I want to share with you: If what you’ve been wanting is a consistent yoga practice (and, really, what yoga practitioner doesn’t want that?), then the key is to crafting it for your actual life, not your fantasy life.
Here’s why this isn’t “giving up:” When you create something for your fantasy life, you invariably “fail.” You don’t have time, you don’t have energy, and you’re not able to keep up with your Great Life Plan(™). Then some time goes by, you feel bad about yourself, and that cycle continues until you get so down on yourself that you recommit with the ferocity of a thousand suns and start the whole cycle over again.
Been there? Same. And I honestly just got so, so tired of it. Because, really, do we need yoga to make ourselves feel worse? I don’t think so!! After doing that downward spiral so many times, I just thought — is it possible that the problem is my approach, not me?
What a concept. (Also: yes! The answer is yes!)
Because when you create a practice that works for your actual life, it can become an incredible tool to support you over the years. It is adaptable to how life invariably changes because it’s not about checking off a box but staying on your own side. It is flexible to meet the needs and wants of your body over time because it’s about listening, not performing. It is engaging because it’s a place to be curious, not a place to blindly follow rules. It’s a place to grow stronger and more resilient with less injury because it’s about learning your own boundaries and where you can work, not pushing past them. It is a place to practice — kindness, compassion, love, a gentle voice, listening — because it’s about showing up for you, not anyone else.
So as you think about your yoga practice for the new year, here are some questions to consider:
- What is a yoga practice that might work for my actual life — my time, my commitments, my energy, my needs?
- Where might I be hanging onto a fantasy practice, and how could I acknowledge that in order to let it go to make space for what I actually want — a consistent yoga practice that makes me feel better about myself, not worse?
- What is a kind and gentle experiment I could conduct the next week or month (not year!) to see what works for me and what doesn’t?
- How can I let yoga support me, rather than the other way around?
As you move into the new year, I invite you to let your life lead you into your practice (and not the other way around) so it can become something that supports and sustains you throughout the year and the year ahead.