It’s the New Year! I don’t usually have New Year’s resolution, but this year, I have a big one. It’s to move away from being a yoga teacher, and move towards being a yoga visionary. What this means is basically moving away from working daily gigs to planning and implementing how I hope to serve you in the long-run. Shout-out to Kelly McHugh, founder of Digital Yoga Academy, for the inspiration!
What about you?
Are you planning to make changes for yourself. As a midlifer, we usually assess where we are and what we hope to achieve or acquire. Some of us hope to make changes to our health or wellness, some of us hope maybe work more in community work and give back to society.
Our midlife holds a myriad of opportunities because it really isn’t too late. The best thing about being a midlifer is we have a slew of experience behind and an accumulation of knowledge and wisdom. Plus, we have time to make changes, if we take the correct measures and are patient with ourselves.
Changing is as easy as you think.
Our mind isn’t only the bulwark of our transformation, but the fountain from which we draw our ability to change. For me, some things can be easier to change – for example, I had little problem giving up sugar and high-glycemic carbs and meat during my yoga teacher training. I still have little difficulty abstaining from these.
However, I do struggle with abstaining from coffee. Not that I want to give up coffee completely, but just reducing my intake. However, I tried alternating cups of decaffeinated with my daily intake (which is a lot!), and I found that this really helps.
Another change I find I struggle with my impatience and judgment while driving. But years of working with tools learnt from yoga and reiki has led me to be a lot more equanimous than I ever used to be. I am not 100% zen, but I am more zen than not, which is something I am really happy about.
So how do we transform ourselves?
Just like me, you may find making changes within yourself a little less predictable; with some things being easier to abstain or to do, while other things may be a challenge. So here are a few suggestions from me to you on how to make a transformation for yourself.
Why the change?
When you seek to change, there must be a reason. It helps if the reason is intrinsic, meaning that it comes from within. Although not impossible, external factors (such as “my spouse wants me to change”) are less persuasive for change than if the reason comes from within.
Let’s take me and my coffee. I want to cut down on caffeinated beverages because:
- I wake up early, and therefore, I want to be able to sleep – sufficient sleep is important to me because it helps me build my muscles, keeps me alert while driving and serving my community and may help prevent dementia-related diseases (of which my mother suffers
- Coffee isn’t cheap
- Too much coffee makes me jittery, anxious and irritable
All these factors mainly come from within me. No one has suggested I cut down coffee so these considerations are some that I have come up with on my own.
I am aware that the outcome will help me in the long-term, and I also am aware of how much better I would feel. And so, I have staggered my coffee with decaf and it seems to be working.
How about you? Why do you want to change and how persuasive are those reasons? Keep your eye on the long-term goal, and how it will help you, or your business or family, if you keep to those changes you seek to make.
Holding on to you ‘why’ is crucial for your overall transformation, so don’t lose sight on this. You may want to journal about this aspect, or even on the whole transformation you seek.
While having the vision for your overall transformation is crucial for your adherence to your transformation plan, when it comes to the actual change, you make want to work SMART.
SMART goals are super effective to help you change in something you may have a bit of a struggle with. SMART (or S.M.A.R.T.) stands for specific, measurable, attainable and relevant.
- SPECIFIC – it is best to state our goals with specificity in terms of what we want to accomplish. So we should get rid of any ambiguity. For example, rather than stating we would like to “feel better,” we can create a more specific goal, like “I want to spend 10 minutes stretching my low back before bed.”
- MEASURABLE – It is always best to have measurable goals so we can see if we are making progress. For yoga, and “feeling better”, this may be very subjective. Give yourself a scale (e.g. from one to five, with five being “feeling awesome”) to work in. Another way is to use an app, like Insight Timer, that has mood check-ins.
- ATTAINABLE – Our goal should be realistically within reach. When we manage to attain our goal, it helps us to commit to the change we seek. So, it’s best to maybe avoid goals like “doing a full vinyasa class in the morning” is less realistically attainable than “doing five minutes of yoga stretches when I wake up”. So, know thyself! Fix the goals to be attainable.
- RELEVANT – Our goal should be relevant to the transformation we seek. So if we seek to “feel better”, and our major issue is low back pain, it’s best to focus on our low back before we bring our attention to other matters (stress, anxiety, anger etc.). Getting low back relief may be more attainable and relevant than dealing with other issues that may take longer to unravel.
- TIME-BOUND – We should give our goals an estimated timeline. Our timelines can be both for the short and long term, and keeps us focused on the transformation we seek. So, we could work on weekly tasks (stretching for five minutes in the morning) for the short term for our low back, which helps us accomplish a larger transformation over a 6-month period. Throughout the period, we should monitor progress, perhaps through journaling.
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
Celebrations and … failure?
When we embark on something new, there is always a learning curve and there are ups and downs. What we should do at every juncture, of course, is to be mindful of the moment, and spend some time on reflection.
Maybe our project for transformation could look something like this:
- Did we cut down two extra cups of coffee in the day? How about we celebrate a little – maybe give ourselves some self-care (which isn’t coffee) or indulge ourselves a little.
- Did we drink an extra two cups of coffee in the day? Well, why did that happen? What were we thinking when it happened? Were we even aware?
In the first example above, we gave a nod of recognition to our wins – and rightly so – provided we don’t overindulge or over-celebrate (anything in excess isn’t exactly skilful).
In the second example, we spend some time in reflection. We can look at it as data for our project for analysis. No harm, no foul.
I think – and I am saying this from experience – when we have ourselves a project for change, we tend to look at it as an all-or-nothing affair. If we fall of the bandwagon (i.e. “fail”), we might as well give up.
Over time, I realise – at least, for me – that when I find it hard to give up doing something (or make a change to do something), then maybe it’s something inextricably linked to an emotional layer of something that really requires change.
So maybe, even if I do give up on the “project”, I will come back to it, and work on it. Change may never be easy but the results are very rewarding.
Grounding with yoga.
In yoga, grounding means bringing yourself to the present moment. When you are grounded well, you have greater clarity and through this you can handle the situations around you with calm.
Grounding helps us find our footing, and it also helps us identify capacities within ourselves to help us overcome struggles (confidence, power, clarity etc.) along our journey to transformation.
That there is a mind body connection that helps us tap into our capacities to be greater is not in dispute (read Amy Cuddy‘s “Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges” – I highly recommend it!). So in the weeks to come, we will explore yoga poses that helps us to ground.
Change and transformation takes some work on our part, so stay patient with yourself and keep to your programme. Now you know you have the power to do anything you want.
Join my Facebook group with full class sequences and talks on yoga & mindfulness!