Impressions and Intentions

This is it:  the reflections and resolutions post.  I spent a while last night reading through some of the early posts here at Damn Good Yoga, looking at how far I've come both in my practice and in my writing.  I was startled by how pose-centric my practice used to be.  Most of the first posts here are about which poses I practiced each day and in what order.  Though I suspect this is partially because I wasn't sure how to write about the more subtle elements of the practice at the time, this type of discussion seems so tedious to me now.  I consider this a sign of growth.

I don't mean to throw analyzation of the asanas entirely out the window.  It is encouraging and useful to look back and see what I was doing on the mat then versus now.  I have gained considerable strength this year.  This time last year, I had just begun to tentatively explore inversions, namely headstands and handstands.  Now, I spend at least 5 minutes a day in Sirsasana and my handstands are not too shabby, if I do say so myself.  It was also about this time last year that I became fascinated with Ashtanga and began to infuse my practice with it.  This led to many changes in the nature of my time on the mat.  I found a sense of lightness as I began to experience the bandhas more viscerally.  I learned how to float from pose to pose and fly from one position to another.   Then the YTT course over the summer took it up another notch and got me into the best shape of my life.  Now my practice is a whole new animal.  It truly is a moving meditation, a chance to simply feel along the edges and explore uncharted ground.  I am somehow both constantly amazed and never surprised by what I find when I step on the mat.

I've never been one to set New Year's resolutions.  The last time I remember making one was probably 16 years ago when I decided to quit biting my nails, which I did successfully, but ended up picking at my cuticles instead.  So it was more of a trade of one bad habit for another, which put me off of resolutions for a while.  I was reminded, reading through the archives, that I made a half-assed resolution last year to address my tight shoulders more consistently in my practice, which I had forgotten about but did pretty well with, regardless.  I have incorporated more shoulder openers in my daily practice, and the range of motion in my shoulders has improved significantly since last January, which counts as a successful resolution in my book, so I figured I would give it another try this year.  I have not just one but a whole list of resolutions that I intend to work on:
  1. I will reinstitute my morning pranayama practice.  I began to practice a morning ritual during teacher training but let it fall by the wayside over the past few months.  I've been continuing the pranayama practice just the same before my asana practice in the evenings, but I'd really like to get it done first thing when I wake up instead.  My willpower is weak in the morning and, most of the time, the coffee machine calls to me more loudly than the cushion, but I think I can change that.
  2. I will stop eating big dinners.  I tend to have the biggest meal of the day shortly before I go the bed.  I know that this habit makes me feel heavy and groggy in the mornings but I do it anyway, almost every day.  To combat this life-long habit, I will try to eat more substantially during the day so that I don't crash and stuff myself before bed.
  3. I will quit cookies and cakes.  Currently, I eat pretty well:  whole foods, mostly vegetarian, and almost entirely home-cooked with little to no pre-made or processed foods, but I have a weakness that's getting weaker:  sugar.  I love sweets.  I'm not interested in chocolate bars, milkshakes, or candy.  It's the bakery delights that I often cannot resist:  cookies, cakes, pies... anything bready and flaky or rich and moist.  As scrumptious as these foods may be, they hit my stomach like a rock, serve no nutritional purpose, and make me feel distinctly awful.
  4. I will take my handstands away from the wall.  I hesitate to set an asana-related resolution since this practice is not and should not become about achieving any particular pose, but in the case of Adho Muka Vrksasana, I think it's more about overcoming fear, a mental game.  It's time to wean myself from the wall.  By this time next year, I intend to be busting out handstands all over the place.
  5. I will seriously pursue my goal of teaching yoga full time.  In order to do this, I will need to embolden myself.  I will need to talk to people.  I will need to get out there and make myself known, to express myself and share my practice honestly in the interest of finding my place in this community.
And there you have it!  I've got a nice set of challenges for the new year.  What about you, readers?  How was your 2010 and what's on your plate for 2011?


  1. Great stuff. I've just blogged my intentions for 2011 :)

  2. I love reading your blog - for me, you just completely capture what yoga is. Well, as much as anyone can capture it in words.
    I've written a list of goals and questions I'm taking with me into 2011.
    I think I may add your morning pranayama practice to that list.
    I'm inspired by your resolution to get off the sugar. For me it's chocolate, but I've yet to summon the strength to tackle that one.
    Wishing you all the best for 2011.

  3. I know you will be a full time yoga teacher by this time next year!

  4. Brigid - Wow, what a very nice comment! Thank you. Good luck to you in the new year, as well!

    La Garza - Your enthusiasm never fails to boost my spirits. I appreciate the confidence. :)

  5. Beautiful goals! I might try taking headstand away from the wall ;)

  6. Due to my winter work deadlines (two books on the Big Island for Lonely Planet), I've been mostly MIA from blogging. But I stumbled up this post of yours today. I can relate to all of your resolutions, especially the ones about not eating sweets and about freestanding handstands. I've written several posts about avoiding sugar (see http://yogaspy.com/?s=resolutions) and, I must say, after nine to twelve months sans sugar (not counting an occasional healthy muffin--they do exist!), I don't crave it. (Prior to that, I liked ending my dinner with dark chocolate or a cookie, etc.) If it's not a habit, then when you do indulge, it's extra special and fun--and those occasional treats are fine--it's the daily consumption of sweets that's unhealthy.

    As for handstand, while I can balance briefly without support, I still need to "toe" the wall initially--to find my bearings. I probably need to go farther from the wall to learn to control the kicking up--to find my balance from my core. So, thanks for sharing this goal and reminding me of mine.

    I must visit Austin one day!

  7. YogaSpy - So far, I'm doing well without the sugar. I seem to be eating a lot more fruit to satisfy my cravings for something sweet, which is nice. I agree that, in strict moderation, a little sugar or chocolate is fine.

    Regarding the handstands, I've decided to try practicing 1-2 minutes holds against the wall to build more strength instead of kicking up a bunch of times for just a few breaths each. Something I read on Christina Sell's blog inspired this new approach. I'll let you know if it makes a difference.