This article originally appeared on pages 17-18 of the January 2014 issue of Natural Nutmeg
It’s a new year once again; time for another change, time for a second chance. We may think, “This year I’m going to eat healthier and lose weight” or “This year I’m going to quit smoking once and for all” or “This year I’m going back to school to get my degree and dream job.” Each New Year, we dream of big changes and set high expectations for ourselves. Who can blame us? It’s a fresh start; anything is possible.
Set Realistic Goals
We put so much pressure on ourselves to make changes at the start of the year. We set resolutions to create new habits and a better life. We wake up, energized and ready to go for it, but soon, life gets in the way and our new habit disappears. Old habits return and we fall right back into that old, familiar groove. We often overreach our capabilities with our big goals and that is where part of the problem with New Year’s resolutions lie.
Change is possible and is worth it. As someone who dramatically transformed her life, I know this. What I also know is that it is more difficult, and nearly impossible, when we set unrealistic goals for ourselves. We ultimately set ourselves up for failure, burn out and give up. We expect too much of ourselves, berate ourselves for failure and quickly lose sight of our desired change.
Connect to the Fire Within
Make this year different. Set a manageable goal and connect to the fire within to motivate you as you go. Connect to your solar plexus chakra and allow that fire to burn brighter and show the way to your power. The solar plexus—an energy field in the body—is located two fingers above the navel, below the sternum. It’s where our “gut instincts” come from and if properly balanced, allows us to tap into our personal power, self-confidence, healthy self-esteem and appropriate self-discipline. From that balanced center, we find strength to rise to the challenges of life. An energized solar plexus, clear of blocks, is the driving force behind our motivation to lose weight, become fiscally responsible or any of our other desires we must work hard to manifest.
Eliminate Blocks Caused by Shame
This chakra center is most often blocked by feelings of shame. Shame can come from many different life experiences, such as physical abuse or simply fear of punishment. Living in an unsafe environment or being shamed by a loved one, especially a parent, can also contribute to feelings of shame. Since all experiences are buried in our cells, all experiences of shame stomp out the fire burning within.
The most healing way to counter the shame, like all intense emotions, is to face the shame and boldly walk through it. We eliminate the stress of shame, get to know our minds and bodies and use the breath to release the build-up of this emotion in our cells. Once we lesson the shame we feel, we ignite our power center and confidently move forward in life, getting unstuck from habitual patterns that no longer serve us.
Yoga for Clarity, Self-Esteem and Happiness
Therapeutic yoga can help. By activating the relaxation response in this deeply meditative practice, we relieve stress and tune into the natural wisdom of the body. We quiet the mind and gain clarity for healing. Once we soften around the drama and memories of shame, getting deep into our felt sense, we gently release shame, stress and clear blocks and resistance that have built up. Restorative yoga poses (where the body gently rests on props), in combination with gentle yoga, softly releases built up tension and holding in the physical body. With practice, a healthy sense of self-esteem becomes reestablished and our sense of humor returns. We stop taking life so seriously and see clearly the direction we want our life to take. We understand that there are no quick fixes and everything worth having or becoming is worth working for. True happiness comes from deep within, not from without.
From there, we start simply, with one manageable goal. With clarity gained through breath work and practice, we break down our goal into smaller, manageable steps. In January 2010, I knew I couldn’t lose eighty pounds overnight (though I wished I could!). I knew it would take many months, if not the whole year. After all, I didn’t pack on the pounds overnight, either! I knew that it would take hard work, small steps and every day decisions would affect my weight loss plans. I also knew that it would be worth it to be at my goal weight and healthy.
I committed to working out daily, changed my relationship to food and worked out the shame I felt from my past, no matter how difficult it was. I found that I allowed the shame to define me and hold me back, which is why I was never successful at losing weight on fad diets and with diet pills. I needed to release the shame I felt around my weight, find compassion for myself, commit to the hard work and allow the fire within to burn as vibrantly as possible.
I Will Lose One to Two Pounds a Week
Therapeutic yoga allowed me to reconnect to my inner being and wisdom. I knew when to push hard and when to back off. I witnessed my thinking and my relationship to food. I was able to re-wire my thoughts about food and about myself. Slowly, the weight came off. I set my goal to lose one to two pounds per week. I thought that was a manageable goal, rather than saying “I will lose eighty pounds by summer,” which was totally unachievable; I would have set myself up for failure.
I was dedicated to this new resolution and committed to it fully. As the shame dissolved, the fire within grew brighter. Each day, I let the big picture motivate me, while keeping in mind my smaller week-by-week goals. I not only surrounded myself with positive people that believed in me, but got to know the way my mind worked and eliminated self-doubt and negative self-talk. Therapeutic yoga allowed me to get to know the way my mind worked and to witness its negative nature. Just as I softened and released shame, so did I with negative thinking.
I encouraged myself and rewarded myself along the way. I renewed my commitment each day and refused to let a week where I didn’t lose any weight get me down. I figured since I didn’t gain, I was headed in the right direction. I knew deep down, I had the power to change; it was only up to me. Therapeutic yoga allowed me to tap into that power, ignite my solar plexus and, one day at a time, build the life I wanted.
Unreasonable goals = failure.
This year, choose a manageable goal and commit to yourself, because you deserve to feel better and live the life you desire. I invite you to continue to dream of big changes, not just at the first of the year. You have the power within to create lasting change. Your life is unfolding now; make it what you want! Each breath is a chance for a new beginning; you can start over any time, even with this next inhale.