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New Year’s Intentions for Your Yoga Practice

Posted on December 28 2018



Happy (almost) 2019! We’ve made it through another year! January is always an exciting time – it marks the start to a new year and feels like a blank slate or a chance to start again new. Many people take this time to set resolutions & do some evaluating to see what is working in their lives and what needs to change. However, New Year’s resolutions seem to have a bad reputation, lately – mostly because people don’t stick to them after a few months (or even days!) So instead of considering them “resolutions”, I prefer to set intentions that create more of a mindful approach, rather than just a setting a specific goal. Intentions also focus on more positive change, rather than negative self-critical change (i.e. losing weight because you think you are fat).

 

In yoga, there is a Sanskrit word “Sankalpa” which translates to “Intention”, and it is generated for your soul’s growth. When you set an intention rather than a resolution, it will help you grow from a place of self-love. Instead of looking at bad habits or negative things you want to change this year, here are some ideas for positive intentions for your yoga practice in 2019:

 

1.  Be More Present

Imagine this: You are in the middle of a yoga class and all of a sudden you remember something you forgot to add on your to-do list for tomorrow. Your mind starts racing and thinking of all the other things you have to finish tonight, what you’re making for dinner, what meetings you have in the morning, and suddenly you are completely gone mentally from your practice. Sound familiar? It’s normal to have a racing mind, but yoga is truly a wonderful time to disconnect from the outside world. We all need time to unplug for a while and just focus on ourselves and our own well-being.  Allow yourself that hour or so to truly be present and concentrate on you and your breath. Everything else can wait!

 

2.  Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

Have you ever been in class and started comparing your practice to your neighbors? Maybe someone next to you can lift their leg higher in dancers pose, or maybe they are able to easily master a posture you’ve been working on for months? This drags you into a downward spiral of negative self-talk until you feel angry and frustrated with yourself. This does not serve you or your practice. Instead of comparing yourself to others, work on practicing “Ahimsa” or non-harming towards yourself and others. Be gentle with yourself because you are worth it.

 

3.  Slow Down

During sequences, we sometimes get so caught up with what poses are coming next that we often forget to enjoy what postures we are in currently. Rushing through postures can lead to misalignment, and even injury if not done correctly. By slowing down, you allow yourself the time to absorb the full benefits of each posture and will start to notice the very subtle changes happening in your body. Give yourself permission to enjoy each posture as it comes and to enjoy the present moment.  Focus on the journey, rather than the destination.

 

4.  Push Yourself Out of Your Comfort Zone

There is a quote that says, “A comfort zone is a wonderful place, but there is not much growth there”. Sometimes we get stuck in our comfort zones for too long - maybe you take the same class with the same instructor every week, or maybe you’re afraid to try certain postures because you’re afraid you won’t get it on the first try? Pushing yourself (safely) outside of your comfort zone can help you be more open to trying new things and can help you expand your practice. Don’t be afraid to try a new pose, teacher, or even a new studio – you might be amazed by how much small changes can impact your overall yoga practice.

 

5.  Have Fun!

Yoga should never feel like a chore or just something you need to finish to cross off your to-do list. Sometimes we take our practice too seriously and forget that yoga is meant to be fun! It’s okay if you fall out of a pose or lose your balance. It’s called a “practice” for a reason. Don’t be afraid to smile or laugh at yourself every once and a while.

 

What are your new year’s intentions for your yoga practice?  Here are three fun yoga poses to try as you head into the New Year:

 

 

Pincha Mayurasana (Peacock Feather Pose)

Benefits: This inversion stimulates blood flow to your head, strengthens your shoulders, and promotes core balance.  

How to do it: 

  • Start in table pose, move down to your forearms
  • move into Dolphin Pose
  • begin moving your feet towards your elbows
  • keep your elbows in line with your shoulders
  • keep your gaze towards your hands
  • lift one leg up, keep it straight
  • with the other leg, begin to hop, moving your body into position until straight leg is vertical. Eventually, you won't need to hop, and your legs will lift into place gracefully
  • once the opposing leg is vertical and the core is balanced, bring both legs to vertical. 
  • Repeat on the other leg

Ananda Balasana (Happy Baby Pose)

Benefits: This pose may seem awkward, but it has great benefits. It calms you, relieves stress, and helps to stretch tight muscles in the lower back, and groin. 

How it's done:

  • Begin on your back
  • Raise your legs, and bend your knees so that your thighs are parallel with the floor
  • Your ankles should be above the knee
  • Feet should be flexed
  • Grasp your foot (use straps if needed)
  • As you pull down on your foot, your back should be pressing into the mat

 

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel Pose)

Benefits: Because your weight is being supported by your legs and arms - you are strengthening your legs and arms, and wrists, glutes, the abdomen, and back. 

How it's done:

  • To fully come into this pose, back flexibility is required. Warm up and stretch your shoulders and hip flexors, as well.
  • It is also very helpful to make sure your quadriceps (thighs) are stretched out before this pose.
  • Make sure your weight is forward and over your shoulders so that your wrists are protected and not at an awkward angle. 
  • Keep your knees and thighs pulled in to center. 
  • Using slighter more force from your legs, push up onto your head, then push completely up, extending your heart to the sky.
  • Tilt your pelvis toward the sky, as well, to prevent crunching in the lower back.
  • Repeat 2 more times, holding each time a little than the first.  Remember to breath.

 

 

AUTHOR BIO 

Stephanie Morgan is a yoga instructor and lifestyle blogger from Chicago! Yoga has impacted her life in so many ways, and she loves having the opportunity to teach and share her practice with others. She hopes to encourage and inspire other people to follow their dreams and find new levels of possibility in their minds and bodies by bringing their practice off their mat and into their lives! You can find her blog at www.XoStephMorgan.com

 

Instagram: www.Instagram.com/XoStephMorgan

Facebook: www.Facebook.com/XoStephMorgan

Twitter: www.Twitter.com/XoStephMorgan

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