By Randy Nellessen
We always try to start the New Year off on the right foot. Usually it starts with a “New Year’s Resolution” which might be to change a bad habit, lose some weight, get into shape, etc. and, there is nothing wrong with this. I’m sure you have won some and lost some, but finding a way off the “carousel ride” of “win some, lose some, try again next year” may be easier than you think.
An idea that could help with your resolution would be to apply Yoga principles to your resolution. As a gentle reminder, as sometimes we forget let’s explore how the Yamas (restraints) and the Niyamas (observances) can be a part of our efforts to successfully make positive changes in the New Year.
The Yamas and Niyamas are the first two limbs of Raja (Ashtanga) yoga or the Royal Path, of which there are eight limbs total. The Yamas and Niyamas can each be used or applied in different ways. Below I’ve listed them and given one or two suggestions for how I think they apply, but feel free to apply them as you see fit.
The Yamas (restraints) are:
· Ahimsa – The idea is non-harming or compassion for all. This principle could apply to a commitment to eat less, or only food that was produced responsibly and sustainably, thereby bringing less harm to the planet and it living beings.
· Satya – A word that simply means truthfulness. Being honest, with others in your actions and words but especially with yourself in your thoughts can go a long way when it comes to keeping commitments.
· Asteya – This is often translated as non-stealing. Being careful not to take that which we have not been given permission. This applies not only to material things, but to others’ time and attention. A firm conviction that all that we need is within keeps us from stealing, but more importantly, provides that place of inner strength.
· Brahmacharya – A word that denotes the moderation of the senses. This is often applied to the sensual pleasures such as eating and drinking but can also be applied to sex, but even music and film appeals to the senses. Garbage in, garbage out.
· Aparigraha – This can mean non-possessiveness. This can also be thought of as non-attachment to material object and even to our own existence in this material world. Our ego’s resistance to being dethroned keeps us from identification with our Divine center, where we find our strength of resolve.
The Niyamas (observances) are:
· Saucha – This means purity. The idea here is being free from immoral thoughts or actions. Many of our resolutions amount to taking better care of our bodies, minds and emotions and not “polluting” them.
· Santosha – The word can mean contentment or commitment. This can mean being satisfied with what we have whether it is material objects, money or our place in life.
· Tapas – This means self-discipline or knowing when we have enough of something. It can be your willingness to practice yoga or deepen your practice.
· Svadhyaya – This is self-study or taking time to reflect on our actions and think of ways to improve ourselves morally and spiritually.
· Ishvara Pranidhana – The idea here is self-surrender. We surrender to God or the “Divine Presence” within. What surrender means to each of will vary according to where we are along the path.
This may seem like a lot, but you could select one of the ten and pair it with your resolution. Suggestions might be, if you are trying to lose some weight, you could pair that with moderation of the senses or maybe breaking a bad habit could be paired with self-study (becoming more aware of our habits or patterns) or self-discipline (making better choices about where we channel our energy).
Finally, and most importantly, please remember to be gentle with yourself and if you do stumble on your path, forgive yourself and try again, no matter how many times you stumble. The Yamas and Niyamas have a subtle way of continually working their way into our lives and working with just one will certainly lead to the development of the others.
So give it a whirl, maybe put up some reminder notes and don’t forget to include Ahimsa in the form of liberal amounts of self-love along the way.
Happy New Year