Yoga can be healing to the mind, body, and spirit. Resolving to focus on your yoga practice in the New Year is a great choice, whether you’re just starting out or you’re a seasoned practitioner searching for a deeper challenge.
Amy Quinn Suplina, owner and yoga instructor at Bend & Bloom Yoga in Brooklyn, explains the difference between a traditional New Year’s resolution and a sankalpa (or “intention” in Sanskrit).
“New Year’s resolutions are great, but they are often laced with I shoulds, and they are often external, like getting a better job or a better body,” Quinn Suplina says. “That’s why people rarely fulfill their resolutions. There’s a message that we’re not good enough. Sankalpa is a kinder version of the resolution. The essence is similar, but instead of a more superficial goal, it’s about setting a positive intention on a deeper level.”
An intention can be as general as a positive “I am” statement (for example: “I am whole already”) or as specific as a concrete goal (for example: starting each day with sun salutations).
Once you have settled on a new intention, here’s how you can nurture it all year long:
- Be consistent. “An intention is a seed that needs to be watered daily,” Quinn Suplina says. “It might be something that you start the day with or something as simple as a one-minute meditation.” Whatever the goal,
having a plan to keep it consistently at heart—both in and out of practice—will help you succeed.
- Get ready to feel. “There’s an idea that yoga is always blissful, but it can be challenging, too,” she says.“Sometimes you can feel blissed out and in the flow, but sometimes yoga can kick up emotions, stir up doubt, or reveal injuries. You need to be willing to feel the full range of emotions, move through them, and find contentment before the sense of being in the flow happens more frequently.”
- Build your strength. If your yoga goal involves working toward more challenging poses or increasing your skill level, building strength and flexibility is key.
- Talk to your teacher. “I encourage people to arrive 10 minutes early to share with the teacher,” Quinn Suplina says. If you’re new to the class, introduce yourself and mention any health concerns or preferences you might have. If you’re already a regular, it’d still be beneficial to
share new goals with the instructor, especially if you’re working on specific poses.
- Consider attending a workshop. “The deeper learning happens in workshops,” Quinn Suplina says. “To break down a pose, understand the anatomy, [and] learn about back care, delve deeper [and] ask questions. Workshops are also a great opportunity to study the tradition and philosophy of yoga.”
- Don’t forget to breathe. “I always encourage people to focus on their breath,” she says. “Whenever you notice that your mind is wandering to your to-do list, take your attention back to the breath.”
Gear Up For Your Goal
If you’re planning on getting more serious about your yoga practice in 2016, consider taking a new class, trying out a new teacher, or committing to a certain number of classes per week. Grabbing some new gear can motivate you to succeed and equip you to try more challenging poses. Here are Quinn Suplina’s top yoga gear picks:
- Jade Yoga Mat. While any quality yoga mat will do, those getting serious about continuing their practice will love a Jade Harmony Professional yoga mat. “They are the best,” Quinn Suplina says. “They are toxin free, 100 percent rubber, and eco-friendly. They also last forever and are the perfect stickiness.”
- Yoga blocks. Yoga props can help you get more out of your practice. “Blocks are great if you have tighter hamstrings,” Quinn Suplina says. “They bring the ground closer to you and create a sense of spaciousness.” While any blocks work, Natural Fitness Cork Blocks have a density that gives substantial support to each of your poses.
- Yoga straps. Like blocks, yoga straps can boost your practice and allow you to get more out of your poses. Specifically, straps create more length in your arms and can be looped to support arm balances. The six-foot Gaiam Yoga Strap can add to your experience, no matter your skill level.
- Fun leggings. Never forget that yoga should be challenging and Quinn Suplina recommends investing in a few pairs of fun leggings that provide a comfortable fit and flexibility, as well as colorful patterns. Her pick for women are Onzie Graphic Leggings.