New year, new you: a different take
Using the principles of the yamas and niyamas to guide you in making real and effective change. By Gillian Osborne
The whole ‘new year, new you’ thing is undeniably a bit ‘same old’…yet the idea and the intention has great merit.
If we just stop, or even pause for a moment, and consider that motive from a different perspective, we may find something that could actually be sustainable beyond February.
A slightly tweaked, and different approach to the ‘fresh start’ dynamic can bring genuine insight, inner nourishment and a whole new understanding.
The significant point about the new year and the resolve to reinvent ourselves is that we desire to feel, be or do something different; we recognise a dissatisfaction with the status quo.
That’s a good thing because it reveals self-awareness and a willingness to change, both powerful drivers of positive metamorphosis.
However, the difficulty keeping on track with good intentions most often arises when we don’t set realistic and achievable goals; because we are inevitably then setting ourselves up to fail.
And failure does not feel comfortable, so that feeling of discomfort can feed into a downward spiralling of self-esteem which reduces our belief in our ability to remain resolute.
How then, might we do it differently? How can this year be the one where we make the shift that endures?
Yoga is one of the six major darshanas in India; a philosophical system of thought embracing much more than the physical movement modality in all the many forms that we may be familiar with.
Applying the system in its entirety enables us to take a much broader view of what to consider when planning change.
Here’s a way to harness the yamas and niyamas when approaching lifestyle adjustments, so that you can set your resolutions within a framework that optimises your ability to achieve and maintain them:
From the outset, be honest about your abilities and resources. This includes your physical ability, and it also includes your time and money. Don’t use it as an excuse to limit yourself but can you realistically get to five classes a week? Can you afford them and what does your body really need? Do you need a workout or do you need some restorative practice or other lifestyle modification? Rigorous self-honesty is key. Work from what is, and if you can change that, do so, cultivating courage if necessary. If you realistically cannot change something, then cultivate the acceptance that will bring a beneficial shift in your mental and emotional state.
Never, ever, use your goals as a stick to beat yourself with and don’t set targets that are so challenging, they move beyond self-nurture into harm. If you’re not able to meditate for 20 minutes or achieve a posture without discomfort or keep to a dietary or lifestyle approach then tackle it incrementally, or question if it’s right for you. If you can’t maintain your new routine for more than two weeks reappraise how realistic you’ve been with your goals. Start small. Far kinder to set achievable goals that will bolster self-esteem and cultivate self-belief.
Be mindful of not aiming too high and check your motivation if you repeatedly do that. Consistently setting difficult or impossible to achieve goals hints at a rejection of where and who you are and a lack of self-acceptance. We don’t need to grab life. Grasping is often at the expense of the wonderful gifts and opportunities that may be within easy reach but are overlooked because our vision is too rigidly focused.
Asteya - Non-Stealing
Try keeping a journal and notice if there are recurring themes or issues that are blocking you from moving forward. There are many ways in which we can steal from ourselves. Often, fear is the instrument by which we deny ourselves some of the riches that life has to offer.
Becoming aware of our limitations is empowering because we can then take steps to address them. But also notice your strengths: these are the qualities you can draw upon to bolster your confidence in moving forward with your plans.
Ishwara Pranidhana - Surrender
Always remember that, ultimately, you don’t have to be in control of everything. Implement your new regime gradually, with kindness, but let go of the results; surrender to something greater than yourself. None of us can manage all of the potential outcomes in the universe or foresee the direction in which life unfolds. Loosening your grip on the need to have all the answers will bring a peace of mind that of itself can take you in a new and liberating direction.
In reality, there is a great deal of overlap in the yamas and niyamas; these are just some ideas of how you might harness the principles to good effect.
Whatever your resolve, find a compatible teacher and surround yourself with fellow travellers. As you welcome this new year, extend that welcome to your own self in mind, body and soul. We can only build on what we have and when we genuinely do that, the foundations we build from are solid and strong, and will give support and stability as you go forward in life, wherever and however you go.