Yoga: Start the New Year on the Right Foot, by Shambunata Saraswati

When beginning a new pattern of behaviour, most of us face resistance and lethargy. We must realize that the thoughts and feelings we have today are based on yesterday’s actions. Yoga is an alchemical process and as such, we can expect base elements to be present in our attitude at the beginning.

Be like an awakened mother when dealing with yourself and act with an air of detachment, perspective and long term vision. A gentle command is paramount when dealing with the mind. No undue harshness is to be transmitted, as this may awaken fear and resistance from the ego.

Your need for space is far greater than your need for more activities in life. Treat time spent in your yoga efforts as a time to listen, feel and follow instruction. There is great nourishment in submitting to direction. It is a time when we can truly let go.

If at present you can not commit to a formal practice, there are many yogic practices that can be done in the midst of your normal routine, adding a joy to the mundane without adding undue pressure to your schedule.

Paramahamsa Satyananda, founder of the Bihar School of Yoga in India, said the majority of yoga’s effectiveness comes from one’s mental attitude. There is no greater vehicle for positive intention than one’s “sankulpa” or resolve. Satyananda says, “Anything in life can fail you but not the sankulpa. It is like a seed sown in the depths of your consciousness.”

Here are some yogic steps you can take within the first waking moments of 2012. Every yogic action you perform will bring momentum to your New Year’s resolutions:

1) Write your sankulpa for 2012. Place it near your bed so you can easily access it upon waking.

2) Once awake, before the endless stream of thoughts wash over you, recite your sankulpa with feeling for a few moments. Let it sink in and be felt through your whole being.

3) Next, to aid in motility after the long hours of sleep, perform Pawanmuktasana or Wind Releasing pose while lying in bed. This practice can rapidly remove lethargy from the body, inducing wakefulness. It can also be a godsend to those suffering from constipation. While lying on your back, bend the right knee and bring the thigh to the chest. Interlock the fingers and clasp the hands on the shin just below the right knee. Inhale deeply, filling the lungs. Hold the breath and raise the head and shoulders off the ground and attempt to kiss the knee. Hold for a few seconds while retaining breath and mentally counting. Exhale, lower the head and leg and repeat with the left leg and then both legs together. Perform 2-3 rounds of this.

4) Then step out of bed and start the day off on the right foot. Check your nasal dominance, in other words, which nostril is open. Whichever nostril is open, stand on that side for three breaths. This is an aspect of swara yoga and aids in balancing the polarities of introversion and extroversion.

5) Once standing, three exercises will awaken the spine’s full range of motion:
A: Stand with legs spread apart. Clasp the hands behind you, interlacing the fingers. Bend forward on the exhale while bringing your arms away from the back. Inhale coming up. Tilt the head backwards, keeping the arms extended away from the back. Repeat 10 times.

B: Keeping the legs separated, interlock the hands above the head. Exhale while stretching to the right, keeping your arms extended. On the inhale raise your body to the centre and repeat on the left side. Repeat 10 times.

C: Start in same standing position. Inhale. Exhale and twist the body to the right while swinging the arms, clasping your right shoulder with your left hand. The right right hand extends behind to the small of your back, your arms acting like pendulums, keeping them as relaxed as possible. Now twist to the left. The movement should be fluid with little break between the right and the left twist. Repeat 10 times.

Shambunata Saraswati is a Canadian-based Tantric yogi. Guiding others in the quest for freedom and unconditional bliss for the past 19 years, Shambunata offers healing and counsel combined with yogic teachings. He serves an international clientele.