For most people a New Year’s resolution is a time to start a new exercise regiment, just take a look at the gyms in January. But what tools do other fitness practices offer to keep you on track? Here are a few of the benefits that your regular yoga practice will give you.
- Setting an Intention
The problem with a New Year’s resolution is that it can feel overwhelming when you think about it for a whole year. Many of us are great at starting a new exercise regiment in January, but by February or March our original resolution may be forgotten. To be more successful at sticking with your goals, it’s helpful to break them down into smaller, more achievable parts.
At the beginning of each yoga class you are asked to “set an intention”. This is an opportunity each class to re-affirm your goals. You may have a goal that is just for the duration of the class time or possibly for the day or week. If you take class 2-3x a week this is a consistent way to stay on your original course.
- Discipline or Self-Restraint
Staying disciplined to achieve your resolution can be difficult. In the philosophy of yoga, there is an 8 limbed path to enlightenment. The second limb is called the Niyamas or Self-Restraints. Of the 5 Niyamas, Saucha (cleanliness of body and mind) and Tapas (perseverance and austerity), guide you to be more disciplined.
You can use these 2 self-restraints to create a resolution that encourages you to keep your body and mind clean from toxins while creating the vehicle to change habits through your tenacity. You may hear your yoga teacher mention these themes throughout class which will remind you to stay on course.
- Motivated by friends
When left to our own devices to work out we can often lose motivation. Even though yoga is an individual practice, we choose to do so within the settings of a community or group class. Friends can influence you to accomplish your goals by encouraging you to meet up with them for class which holds you more accountable. Also, you are more likely to continue your fitness routine if its fun and doesn’t feel like work. Connecting with like minded people will make your practice more enjoyable and motivating.
- Eating Less
Many of our resolutions have to do with dieting in some way. A regular yoga practice makes this goal easy to accomplish. Anyone who has gone to yoga too close to eating knows what I mean. Even a light meal in the stomach can make you nauseous and miserable during practice. The best is to eat about 2 or more hours before you’re attending class. This gives you motivation to eat smaller portions with more time in between.
After a consistent practice, you will feel more connected to your body and what foods make you feel better in general. Without setting restrictions on your diet, you still may find that you won’t have as many cravings for the foods that make you feel heavy and bloated. This makes your “diet” resolution more achievable and less confining.
- Stress reduction
Most of us have high levels of stress in our life. Physiologically this slows down our digestion and metabolism and can weaken the immune system. Any time the body feels threatened, real or imaginary, it prepares us to “fight or flight”. Our blood is moved away from digestion and to the limbs where it is needed to act. Over time this survival mode becomes our new normal making it hard for the body to heal and recover.
Yoga is a great tool to channel that nervous energy through the physical practice. A good teacher can also create a meditation in movement which can help to eliminate mental stress. Yoga was designed to keep the body and mind fit and free from distraction so that it was possible to sit in meditation. Meditation, or even just resting (Savasana), after activity, will prompt the body to go into healing mode. This “rest and digest” will reset your body to digest and your mind will be more clear and calm.