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New Year’s Resolutions Are Getting an Upgrade

In the West the science of yoga is seen as something as a cure all.

You have a bad back?  
Yoga will help that.  

You have some asthma?  
Try a little yoga.  

You have “insert health concern here”?
“I heard my neighbor’s babysitter’s parent’s dentist took a little yoga and it cleared right up!  

Unfortunately, often times we in the West look only at the physical benefits of a yoga practice and completely eschew the higher purposes it was developed for.  Yoga is series of ancient techniques that have been collated to help practitioners gain a greater sense of inner peace, happiness, and fulfillment in this life.

You may be saying, “That’s great and all kid but I’ve heard these claims before.  How exactly is touching my toes supposed to help me become my higher calling/sleep better/laugh more?”

I’m glad you asked!  As a way of answering I have a question for you.  Can you touch your toes?  Well, can you?  Go ahead and try; I’ll wait.

Awesome!  You have now taken the first step along the path of yoga.  Because no matter if you can get your head to your foot or if you can’t get your hands past your belt the doing is what matters.  In doing we learn to try and in trying we learn to succeed.  Now then I’m about to take your idea of yoga and turn it upside down so hold on tight cause there may be some turbulence before we land.
Before you tried to touch your toes did you sit at the computer with your inner critic running full steam ahead?  When you read that request was your inner monologue reciting a litany of reasons why you would never be able to get that far down?  Did you accept these recriminations as facts and therefore not try at all?  What made you say to that doubter “I will stand up and try despite what you say.”?  Whatever your motivation to try, be it anything from anger to solace to curiosity, the important thing is you *chose* to do so.  Only a very small part of yoga is about taking deep breaths while your body’s like a pretzel.  Most of yoga is about choice; and right choices at that.
Now you’re saying, “Ok fine so right choices, like going to yoga class and paying some former gymnast in tight pants to tell me I’m not good enough at stretching.  Like I need more of that in my day…”

No you don’t.  And if you’re lucky, you never will.  What you do need is the ability to make right choices because chances are you are unhappy with at least some aspect of your daily life.  How do I know this even though I’ve never met you?  Because chances are also good that you made a New Year’s Resolution.

Nearly a third of Americans make promises to themselves at the start of every year (  Lose weight, save money, quit smoking, take a trip,… the list could go on and on.  These lists are representative of aspects of our lives that we don’t like and are looking to change.  So we *resolve* to do better and we *try* really hard and 88% of the time we fail. (  See, you can’t succeed if you *try*, you can only succeed if you *do*.  It is now time to turn the idea of resolutions on its head.  Hang on again, I promise there will be less bumps this time but also more foundation shaking.
When we resolve to do something we set ourselves against a hard challenge and through strength of will, succeed or fail.  What if we were guaranteed success because our goal was to invite more of something good we were already doing in our lives?  That is the core idea behind Sankalpa.  This is an old term idea in the yoga community and is quite similar to a New Year’s resolution but differs in a very important way.
A resolution is an intention, a fierce determination to change something bad in your life.
A Sankalpa is an intention, a fierce determination to accept what is good into your life.

Now you’re saying, “That sounds the same!”
…Not quite.

In the resolution we are changing something we don’t like about ourselves but in the Sankalpa we are accepting more of the things we already like about ourselves into our lives.

Let’s use the most common example, weight loss.
You say, “My New Year’s resolution is to lose 15 lbs!”  
“How’s it going?”  
“Terrible!  I haven’t been to the gym in 2 days so I can’t eat more than 3 carrot sticks for lunch and I’m SOOOOOOOO hungry!”
Does this misery sound familiar?  What if you heard yourself saying this instead…
“My Sankalpa this year is to enjoy my exercise regimen more!”  
“That’s great!  How’s it going?”  
“It’s been a blast, the crisp air on my morning walks has left me really full of energy and as a result I’ve had less mental fog before lunch.  Because I’ve been paying more attention at lunchtime I’ve had a different salad every day this week.  And I’ve had to start wearing a belt so my pants don’t slip!”

Three weeks later the second person has lost 6 lbs while the first person has quit their new, rather extreme regimen and gone back to her old, unhealthy habits.

This year, for your own sake as well as that of your children and spouse, set a Sankalpa and remove the stress of keeping up with some inflexible goal.  In doing so you will bring more happiness into your life and home as you rejoice in your success.
Congratulations!  You have now taken a first step into a yoga practice.  And after all, isn’t a greater sense of happiness the goal of yoga?  Phatabbi Jois, one of the greatest teachers of yoga in the last hundred years said “Practice, practice and the rest is coming.”  There is a long road ahead but in time we will see that 1% theory and 99% practice will indeed lead us by the hand, enjoying every step, to our higher calling and we might even be more rested along the way.

Brooks Langford

NEXT TIME ~ We’ll discuss some fun stretches you and your child can do together!