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“Don’t tell me what to do.” Most of us have channeled that as a mantra. At a lot of points in life, we bristle at other people telling us they know us or our goals better than we do. They know exactly what we should be doing—and whatever we are doing, it’s not it. So, why we do hit times where we feel crushed by peer pressure?

The deluge of tips, tricks, and hacks to make 2018 the “best” year—from how to do Crow Pose to how to lose five pounds—is enough to feel like we are being told what the standards of acceptability should be. We, implied, aren’t good enough. We look at all the contortionists doing yoga, the perfect Instagram fitness stars, the fashionista bloggers and all those “experts” telling us we need to change, and, suddenly, we’re buying into the idea that whatever we are/do/achieve, we should be being/doing/achieving more.

New year, new you? Why? What was missing in the “old” you? That’s not to say that you should accept where you are as your full potential. What is key here is that you need to make a commitment to be your truest self, whatever that means. If you dream of flying into Crow Pose, go for it! But, if you hit the mat because you need to fly away from your day, keep that the focus of your practice and let Crow come as it comes.

At the start of your next practice, find a comfortable seat. Make sure your sitting bones are grounded, close your eyes, straighten your spine and move your hands into your lap. Take a moment to begin peeling away the layers of other people’s expectations. Ask yourself “what do I want?” Think about the answers that come into your mind. Try to filter out whose voice that is. If you feel like you’re tensing your jaw, breathing faster or experiencing tension in your lower body, breathe it out.

On your next inhale, ask yourself that question and just listen. Be open to what comes in—there is no right or wrong. Then think about one thing you can try or one thing you can risk that will make you feel more complete. See yourself coming into focus. Exhale out any doubts, open your eyes and get ready to embrace what it means to be fully you. Here are some poses to put your own stamp on.

If you find clarity in stillness, try this and feel free to progress however works best for you.

 

Child’s Pose (Balasana)

Come onto your mat. Sit on your heels with your knees roughly hip width apart. On an exhale, lay your torso between your knees. Place your arms on the mat, fingers pointing toward your feet, palms facing upward. Stay for 30 seconds to one minute.

Garland Pose (Malasana)

Start in a squat, feet as close together as you can. Bend forward so that your body comes between your thighs. Press your elbows into your thighs and your palms together. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute

Crow Pose (Bakasana)

From Mountain Pose (Tadasana), squat down. Place your hands on the mat, elbows bent and shins against upper arms. Press your inner thighs into your torso as you lean forward. Shift your weight toward your hands. When you are ready, try lifting one foot off the ground, then both. Hold for 20 seconds to one minute. Keep your core engaged.

That’s one option. If you feel calmer with a more fluid practice, try this progressive sequence.

Version 1

Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana) to Seated Forward Bend Variation

From Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana), step your right foot between your hands and. Sweep your arms up over your head as you look up and drop your left knee to the floor, then exhale and lower your hips to your left heel, arms to the floor in front of you. Repeat 20 times, then switch sides.

Version 2

Set up as for Version 1. When you sweep your arms up, keep your left knee off the mat to come into High Lunge. Repeat 20 times each side.

Version 3

From the same base as Versions 1 and 2, replace the seated forward fold with Warrior III Pose (Virabhadrasana III). Repeat 20 times on each side.

 

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