Dear readers, say hello to Agni. She is our anonymous columnist who will be responding to your questions about what happens on and off the mat in the yoga world. She is a yoga practitioner and teacher with several decades of yoga experience. She has had many amazing teachers, and even more amazing students. She chose the “nom de plume” Agni in homage to “Dear Abby,” and because she hopes to help us burn down our obstacles to joy and freedom. Send Agni the questions you won’t ask your own yoga teacher at – no topic is taboo.
Some people write intentions and make ‘plans’ sort of to do something about their intentions. Yet some don’t follow through and express that since it was just an intention instead of an action plan or a goal that it didn’t count. Could you give us some insight on making plans for this 2016? Intentional


Dear Intentional,

This is such a great topic. I know over the years I and many people I know have see-sawed between making commitments or resolutions and bagging the whole thing due to past failure. Our culture likes to focus on what is missing and how to get it; this fuels capitalism and our consumer habits. And it sets us up for failure.

To me, this time of the year is an opportunity to take stock and carefully consider where I want to spend my energy in the New Year.

On New Year’s Day, I spent some time with the following process, one that comes from years of working with some amazing teachers of my own. I hope it’s helpful!

  1. First of all, make sure to celebrate 2015! Take some time to make a list of the amazing things you accomplished last year. What goals were met? What attitudes shifted? What new hobby or creative pursuit did you encounter?
  2. Consider why those accomplishments were meaningful. This will help you to clarify what is meaningful to you. Is it financial stability? More time for yoga or learning? Creativity? A new relationship?
  3. Ask, in this moment, what would bring most fulfillment to your life? Choose one thing, one attitude, goal, action that would bring a sense of wholeness to your being. Whatever comes up, go beneath it and consider what might be the source of that feeling of lack. This might reveal a deeper desire that would be more constructive to address.
  4. Consider what it would be like if you received or realized that goal. Can you craft a positive statement that describes what you wish for? In Sanskrit this is called a sankalpa, a commitment above all others.

I have decided that 2016 is my year of total self-acceptance. I have wished and hoped for that feeling for many years, but this year I plan to take action and accept nothing less. Because it is my commitment above all others, I will consider it daily. My smartphone will remind me every morning that my sankalpa is “TOTAL SELF-ACCEPTANCE.” My practices will be chosen to support this mantra, and I will make choices in my life based on this as the most important goal of this year.

And there’s one final step. One of the main challenges of resolutions is that they tend to be about deep-seated habits. It takes enormous presence and energy to change a habit. Fortunately, as yogis we have the ability to cultivate and gather energy. The key is to avoid wasting it, so a key part of supporting a sankalpa is to choose something that wastes your time.

  1. Make a list of all the things you do that waste your time. Choose one to give up, one that you can actually give up and would be tempted to do regularly, like space out on Facebook, check email compulsively, or watch reality TV. When you have the urge to do your chosen habit, or have already done it, don’t beat yourself up, or feel bad. Instead stop where you are, pause, take a few deep breaths and remember Source, whatever that is to you. Repeat your sankalpa several times. And then carry on with your day.

I can’t promise this will work, but I am going to give it my best shot. Keep sending your questions, and I’ll keep trying to answer them, and stop wasting my time with self-doubt. And every time I wander into that great big swamp I’ll pause, breathe deeply, and feel the fullness of Source.

Happy 2016, may all your sankalpas come true.

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