I have always loved New Year. The New Year represents a clean slate, a fresh start, a whole 365 days ahead of possibilities. All the sins of 2017 forgiven and forgotten overnight!
Every year since I can remember I have religiously made New Year resolutions. In fact for the last 5 years I have put together a detailed goal orientated plan both for 5 and 10 years – if you doing to do it right, why scrimp eh? It included specifics of what I wanted to achieve in different areas of my life – health, family life, my relationship, work and my dreams and aspirations – and what I had to do next to achieve these goals. I do love a good plan.
On the positive side, it did help me identify what my goals were and come up with a practical steps to realize my dreams but it was a bit regimented and didn’t leave much room for unexpected curve balls or indeed opportunities that often take you off your set course.
And in the rosy, enticing glow of New Year, we see our life how it could be through insta-filters. We will be more successful, more productive, calmer, healthier, happier versions of ourselves…if only we tick off the resolutions on our list.
And from recent online threads, it seems that a lot of us have life changing plans this year – new homes, new jobs, new babies, new relationships. But if we bowl into 2018 with a long list of idealistic must-do plans, we head for burn out, overwhelm and possibly disappointment if we don’t get exactly what we want.
So for me, this year has been different.
My yoga practice has been evolving from an athletic power workout to an intuitive, gentle practice. I am listening more to my body and what it needs. I am recognising that I often push myself too hard both on and off the mat.
I have realized that I need to give myself space to develop my teaching and practice in the long term. And before I set myself new goals, I need to create space for the opportunities and possibilities of 2018.
We all need space to evolve and grow and we need to create space in our lives to let in the new ideas of 2018, all the opportunities and possibilities. This is what yoga is all about.
I love this quote from US yoga teacher, Baron Baptiste. The first time I read it, it just clicked for me.
“Ultimately, yoga is about creating space: space within your spine; space within those secret pockets of tightness; space between your muscle fibers, bones and joints; space between your doubts and beliefs; space between your emotions and reactions; and most important, space between your ears. With new space we become an open vessel to receive new insights and inspiration.”
So how do you go about creating space through yoga?
Calm your mind
If time is short, then setting aside a few minutes every morning for a breath work and meditation practice is a great start to the day. Practicing deep belly breathing will calm the nervous system and settle the mind. Try these deep belly breathing exercises by breath worker, Rebecca Dennis.
If an evening practice if more practical for you, then try a Yoga Nidra meditation. This is meditation designed for insomnia and there are heaps on You Tube to choose from. I like this one by yoga teacher, Richard Timu.
Soothe your body
To create space in your body, start by lying down on your back and stretching the body out to its full extension. Raise your arms above your head and reach out with your hands and press away with your feet, enjoy the feeling of space you are creating as your body lengthens.
Then choose a series of poses to unlock the tension in your body. This may vary from day to day, depending how you feel. Your jaw, neck, shoulders, back, hips are all common places where hold tension and feel stiff.
Neck release poses feel great. Sitting in a comfortable position, allow the head to fall forward. Interlace the fingers behind the head and allow the weight of your hands to gently melt the neck towards your chin. Breathe deeply and feel your face and jaw soften as your neck slowly releases. Hold the pose for 8 to 10 breaths and come back to neutral position. You can then extend the neck to the right and then to the left, again holding for 8 to 10 breaths each side, directing the breath to the muscles on the side that is extended. Breathe space into this area and enjoy the feeling of any tension being released.
During your practice, ask yourself “what do I need to do to create more space in this pose?” It may be a very small, subtle movement but you will notice that even a tiny adjustment will change how your body feels.
My plan for 2018
This year I have one plan.
To give myself space on the mat every morning before my family wake up and do whatever I need to do at the time.
It may be simply breathing, it may be basic stretches or I might take myself by surprise and end up doing something more intensive.
But the plan is to allow my practice and life to evolve intuitively, live in the present moment and let the good times roll.
Happy New Year,