It’s the middle of January, deadly freezing, and a time when that New Year’s resolution starts to dissolve away – just when we need our tenacity the most!
We’re sharing advice from the philosophy of yoga below, along with some expert tips to follow your intention (funny, they sound a lot alike!)
1. Combat the Kapha Season
This is the kapha season – or “earth” season – in the Ayurvedic calendar. At a time when you dearly want to stay inside, you’re meditative or contemplative practice will benefit. Take time to explore – especially in these days around the lunar eclipse.
The downside is that the kapha season can bring us a little too low – there’s a tendency towards depression, weight gain, and inactivity. Combat this by getting to class! This is the one time of year where hot yoga (but not too hot) is truly therapeutic. Vinyasa and Ashtanga are great choices as well – keep moving once a day, favor warm cooked foods, and get as much of sun as you can.
2. Replacement Therapy? The Sutras Say it Works
Charles Duhigg, the author of “The Power of Habit,” recommends identifying the triggers to your old habit – which can be from time, location, people, emotion, or ritual. Once you find your trigger, you can intercept your pattern by taking an entirely new one. The Yoga Sutras state that:
“2.33 When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite (positive) ones should be thought of. This is Pratipaksha Bhavana.”
Next time you wanna reach for the cigarette, the phone, or the remote, try replacing that pattern with a positive one. Of course, the Sutras concern themselves primarily with thought. But as the thought always precedes the action (even if primal or subconscious), try to dig a little deeper into why you have been keeping that habit. Leading to the next step…
3. Get to the Root Cause
Many are taught that absolutely everybody has an objective, even if that objective is subconscious, and that every action – however negative – has some positive reward. Getting to the root cause is critical. We recommend journaling – sitting down and just downloading any “whys” of your old habits on paper. You can even burn this paper as a mental and ritualistic way of discarding your old reward system. Then, circle back to step 2, asking yourself, How can I get that reward in a healthy way?
The Sutras also say that ignorance is the root of all suffering. Use your inquiry of “why” to dig deeper for a more lasting result.
4. Find your Support System
Have you ever heard about the study that says that you’re only as healthy as your 5 closest friends? Pay attention to whom you are spending your time with, and what you are up to. Yoga class, a yoga training, or a meditation group are a great way to meet like-minded people who support your new intention.
5. Plan to Fail…But Celebrate Anyway
Odds are that not every day of January is going to be full of love & light for you, with 100% clean eating, pure thoughts, depressant/stimulant free, and full of yoga & cardio classes. Experts recommend cultivating a recovery plan for those not-so-stellar days. A go-to plan is to schedule in my positive behavior, marking on your calendar when and where you will follow through with healthy habits (especially after a day that involved –say, half a cake & Hulu binging). Whether you manage your tasks with a calendar or a checklist, be sure your new habits are on it.
In a great article on resolutions, the New York Times highlighted that small celebrations are a successful way to support your change. Celebrating is a form of reward and personal affirmation – and can be as simple as telling a friend about your success & taking in their compliments & support.
The most effective everyday celebrations are emotional – give yourself a pat on the back every time you follow through with a good intention (or discard an old habit). This is how we bring out the shy, new patterns, and say goodbye to the old routine.
“Alternate Nostril Breathing” – mistakenly called “alternative nostril breathing” by some news sites – is an old and reliable way of managing stress. It can take as little as 2 minutes, but no more than 15, to manage hormones, stress, feelings of anxiety and depression.
Here’s how Prema’s Mindfulness teacher, Karen Nourizideh teaches it:
Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing)
Purifies the body and stills the mind, brings oxygen to both hemispheres of the brain.
Place the right-hand index and middle fingers between the eyebrow center, the right thumb closes off the right nostril.
Inhale through the left, count “Inhale 1, Inhale 2, Inhale 3”.
Close off the left nostril with the right-hand ring finger, exhale through the right, count “Exhale 1, exhale 2, exhale 3”, inhale through the right nostril, close off the right nostril, exhale through the left for 3 count, inhale thru the left through 3 count, close off the left, exhale through the right, etc. End on the left side exhalation. Practice at least 10 rounds.
Nadi Shodhana has immediate effect on cardiovascular, pulmonary and higher functions of the brain. Nadi-shodhana pranayama practice for 20 minutes showed statistically significant difference in Heart Rate (HR), Systolic Blood Pressure (SBP), Diastolic Blood Pressure (DBP), Reaction Time (RT) and Peak Expiratory Flow Rate (PEFR).*
*Subbalakshmi NK, Saxena SK, Urmimala Urban JAD, Immediate effect of nadishodhana pranayama on some selected parameters of cardiovascular, pulmonary and higher functions of the brain. Thai Journal of Physiological Sciences, 18(2):10-6, 2005.