January. What a time to be alive! It’s post-holidays. You’re broke, it’s cold, and you’re still getting up and going home in the dark. Your yoga gear is a little bit tighter than it was six weeks ago. And on top of all that, you’ve got to find the energy and enthusiasm for NEW YEAR NEW ME!!! (Shouty capitals and obnoxious exclamation marks intentional).
New Year’s resolutions are such a crock of shit. I’m sorry for swearing (well sorry not sorry), but during one of the most energy-sapping times of year, we’re told that we need to rebirth into our newest and bestest self. Urgh. I’m going to update my picture on the Sweat Yourself wall at the studio this month with, “New Year, Same Me!”
So what’s it for you? No more clutter? No more carbs EVER? Managing your savings better? Finally writing that book, learning a new musical instrument or never again losing your temper with your kids? With risk of being the unwelcome voice of pessimism, you will fail.
And no, I’m not going to write about picking yourself up after failure or keeping going or failure being part of the process. We know this. And despite knowing this, failure still feels disheartening and depressing when it happens.
I don’t think New Year’s resolutions should be banned, as some of them are actually quite good. Dry January, giving up smoking or trying to cut down on sugar or caffeine (the latter two are what I am trying) is achievable and will have positive effects on your life.
The problem with most resolutions is that they’re framed wrong. It’s heartening to me that the Sweat Yourself goals on the wall of the HYS studio foyer are wonderfully achievable and important goals: You’re sweating yourself happy, calm, energised, less anxious, focused… And it’s pretty impossible to feel bad about attempts to be more calm and mindful, as it’s the attempt itself (going to yoga) that makes you feel so good.
We love to feel bad about ourselves and our decisions. It’s almost as if the New Year is a chance to think up some new ways to feel bad about how we behaved last year. Even when we try to think up something positive as a resolution such as attend more yoga classes, we frame it with the mind set that we’re making such a decision as we didn’t do our best last year. It reminds me of that immortal line on all my reports from school, “must try harder”.
We are all a work in progress, but why do we always focus on what we need to do to be better, rather than what we’re doing already that is actually working out quite well? So last year you averaged two yoga sessions a week: Rather than wondering how you can re-jiggle your timetable to fit in another class, perhaps the first thing you should do is congratulate yourself on all the times you got up early or got home late to make it to class. Think about all those times you begrudgingly trudged to class and stayed in the room for 90 minutes. That’s worth celebration, not a ‘must try harder’ frame of mind.
One of the things I’m doing this year is directly related with Half Moon pose. Every time I bend forward at my hips, I do exactly what the teacher says not to do which is spend most of the 30 seconds looking at my toes and thinking about how years of running and dancing have taken quite an damaging toll on my feet. This year, I’m taking direct action to combat this frame of mind: I’m making regular appointments with a podiatrist. During the first week of the year, I got my first treatment and I’m planning to get at least three more before 2017 is done and dusted.
I will probably miss a few appointments and I will forget to do the exercises I’ve been prescribed, which is OK as this isn’t a life-changing resolution, and I won’t feel guilty if I don’t finish off 2017 with new and improved feet. There is no point. I will not buy into the cycle of self-criticism as that is way more damaging to my health.
Whatever your goal is this month – or year – promise yourself that you will not fall into the pattern of indulging in mental self-flagellation if it doesn’t go according to plan. Update your Sweat Yourself photo with a caption that speaks the self-acceptance, confidence and positivity. Maybe the 2016 version of you doesn’t need to be improved and bettered: Maybe just being you exactly the way you are is not just good enough, but actually bloody amazing.
Yogi since 2005, Alex has practised hot yoga in studios across Europe and the USA, but Hot Yoga Society is her favourite!