Getting Going in the New Year
Goal and resolutions may not be the best way to achieve your desires, but rather the yogic concept of sankalpa – intentions – could be a better way forward. January is named after Janus, the Roman god of gates, doorways, bridges and passageways, all of which symbolise beginnings, transitions and endings. Janus is depicted with two faces looking in opposite directions. January is often considered the month for deep reflection which fits well with the idea of sankalpa: like Janus, we look back at a year gone and forward to what we often hope will be a better year.
Years ago when I taught fitness classes in the London clubs, the studios were packed from the very beginning of January with fit young people getting going in the new year with their resolutions. The young, free, singles who crowded into the gyms in the evenings and weekends from the very beginning of the year were free to use their time as they pleased. Most of them had been celebrating hard over the festive season, but were now back at work and anxious to get going with their health and fitness plans. As my clientele matured, I noticed a difference: regimens didn’t really get going until a week or so into the new year. They wanted to ensure that everything else in their lives was in order first so that the decks were cleared and they could devote some time to themselves: children back at school, visitors gone and the home back to normal, signaling an ending to one thing and a beginning of another.
Timing is everything and it can make the difference between maintaining new routines and reaching goals or dropping out pretty quickly. Sometimes, though, we just get stuck: we’ve resolved to do certain things, but here we are a week or two into the New Year and we still haven’t made a start. There could be lots of reasons for this from a lack of planning to making unrealistic resolutions.
The problem with resolutions is that they are often started by a hungry ego, with a focus on appearance, a sense of lack and the feeling that we aren’t good enough as we are. They are often the same ones we failed to stick to in years gone by. They are usually big, life-changing decisions, somewhat daunting and based on negative deprivation, relying totally on will-power which will wane within 3 to 5 months. The timing has been set by the start of a new year rather than at a time when we feel ready.
Sankalpa is like a yogic form of resolutions, a Sanskrit word meaning setting an intention from the heart rather than from the mind. Sankalpa goes deeper than just setting a goal and asks you to explore the reasons behind your resolution. For example, the most common goals are: “I want to get fit” or “I want to lose weight.” The way in which most people go about doing this is by depriving themselves unrealistically of the foods they love and a harsh fitness regime at some unthinkable hour of the morning. Now think about a resolution you have made but are finding difficult to start and ask yourself what’s beneath it. Imagine how life will be, how you think you will feel as a result of losing weight and getting in shape. Is it a sense of self-love or self-hate, physical well-being or freedom? What is the longing in the heart that is pointing you in this direction? You will probably find that you can re-frame your intention/resolution in a way that supports and honours the challenges of your life rather than adding to them and is much more realistic and achievable.
So if you are stuck, this could be a great opportunity to reassess, think more deeply about your resolution, break it down into something more manageable and make this year different from any other. Use during yoga nidra: it is said that a sankalpa made during yoga nidra never fails.