I challenge you to think of one experience in life that does not lend itself well to a yoga metaphor. Okay, you win. Candy Crush may not mirror the intention of finding balance, strength and renewal, or does it? The best yoga metaphor is subjective. For me, singing and playing music parallels my yoga practice in the dual quest of letting my best expression emerge out of chaos; the practice of finding a balance between not trying too hard to the point of affectation or artifice, yet trying just enough to hit the magic. I would imagine the parallel for, say, a painter or a glass blower might be similar. Even a robotics engineer may on some level seek that place where strength and creativity flow without unnecessary struggle, as yoga has taught me to seek. Yoga may be an especially helpful metaphor when we think about change and renewal in the coming year. As 2015 descends upon us, most of us find ourselves reflecting on the year and contemplating our perceived successes and failures as we look forward and formulate our new years’ resolutions. Though doing more yoga may be one of them, the metaphors within the yoga practice may lead us to other new years’ resolution breakthroughs. For instance, finding courage to try new things is one of my goals for 2015.
Have you strayed from yoga over the holidays? That’s okay.
If you are at all like me, you may have eaten too many chocolate pinwheels, bar-be-cued meatballs, and gravy-drenched side dishes at the holiday parties over the past few weeks. Not to mention the copious amounts of wine continually flowing, and bottomless Ben and Jerry’s tubs beckoning from Nana’s freezer. My Christmas week was an unplanned binge and purge rollercoaster, as the flue seized my body in chills and aches just before Christmas dinner. Taking the place of the previous days of indulgence, my next few days entailed frequent trips to the bathroom, and whimpering pitifully in the guest room while flipping through Nana’s People magazines. I sure up to date on the Hollywood gossip now, but I think Iwill pass on Cameron Diaz’ new diet plan since my body had apparently chosen its own unpleasant diet plan for me over Christmas.
Needless to say, I went without doing yoga for days on end. Sure, I would sneak in a standing bow here, a half tortoise there as the north winds wheezed at the gables, but my body was in no shape to plunge into the Bikram series. It was all I could do to stagger down the stairs to watch Homeland or grope in the pantry for yet another swig of Pepto Bismol. I found that I deeply missed my yoga practice. I needed it. Not only has my body suffered from abandoning the practice over the Christmas week, my sense of purpose and pursuit has blurred and loosened its clarity. I need to find that secret place again that lets me breathe, see more clearly, and let go.
Change is not only about resolutions. It is, above all, about actions.
New years’ resolutions remind us that we do not have to continue our same habits and patterns that constrain and limit our potential. They remind us that we need only choose to change in order to inspire real change in ourselves. Many of us use this time of year as a catalyst to launch us into the self that we most aspire to be. We say we will eat healthier, quit our unhealthy addictions, exercise more, do more for our friends and families, and the world, and pursue our dreams. These resolutions are little victories in and of themselves, yet when we take the action to make them real, we begin to feel the transformations of these resolutions. All we really need to do after we decide to do something different is to do it. As simple as this sounds, procrastination too often rears its lazy head and keeps us from awakening these changes in our lives. Margaret Atwood puts it beautifully in her timeless advice for writers:
“I think the main thing is: Just do it. Plunge in! Being Canadian, I go swimming in icy cold lakes, and there is always that dithering moment. ‘“Am I really going to do this? Won’t it hurt?”’ And at some point you just have to flop in there and scream. Once you’re in, keep going. You may have to crumple and toss, but we all do that. Courage! I think that is what’s most required.”
For me, Bikram Yoga has become this catalyst that breaks through the roadblocks of procrastination and fuels me with courage to change. Not only do I aspire to my best self, physically, spiritually, and emotionally through yoga, I strive to simply take the action necessary to make it happen in the first place. That is, on a good day. It is a continual challenge though, to hurl aside the insidious excuses that tempt us to do anything but our resolution. Sometimes that first step is the hardest part. But looking at it in another way, it is easy. In the yoga context, this is how easy it is: Check out the yoga schedule, pack up the mat and yoga clothes, jump in the car, and head to the studio. Then the real action begins. Yoga teaches me to surrender to my intention and take action accordingly.
In order to ignite ourselves fully to the awesome potential that we know is sprouting within us, we must follow our aspirations by springing into physical action. Roll out your mat. Resume your practice. The rest will follow.