You are the Universe, Change is Uncomfortable and Other Yogic Advice for Change in the New Year

By Sari Gelzer

The new year is a time where we collectively encourage clean slates, energized motivations and specific goals. I  admit, I am a sucker for the new year. I am always trying to lead a meaningful life that includes reaching the milestones that I set out for myself. But, I've had my share of new years. Heck, I get two each year because I am Jewish and we celebrate Rosh Hashana. Thirty multiplied by two, well I'm a veteran. What I'm trying to say is that I know what it is like to set forth on ambitious change. Often, I do not meet the mark I intend to, which leaves me feeling down on myself and lost when I cannot sustain the rigor required to achieve my lofty goals. It's taken years to realize that although it seems cliche, life is a process and real change takes deep work. 

As I've gotten older it's become more clear that the new year for me is a time to take advantage of the slowed down pace of our society. I like to metaphorically sit alone on top of the year as if it were a mountain and look out at the months ahead from my calm quiet seat. I am aware that it is only a matter of weeks until the world starts to move faster and my intentions begin to bump up against the daily routines and demands of life. But, I appreciate that I can mentally return to that place on top of the year, the mountain, and remember how calm things were and how clean the year looked and what I most prioritized - at least at the time.

Yoga is beyond a physical practice for me, it is also a philosophy that brings me closer to understanding how to make change in my life. As a result,  I was curious to hear how some of my teachers approached the idea of New Year's resolutions. I did a New Year's yoga practice with my teacher Brenna Geehan and from her class I took away her words that "you are the universe." This idea that what's inside of us is also outside of us is an insightful message for the new year for a few reasons. It reminds us that we already have what we seek. It also highlights that what we seek to change in our outside world involves changes on the inside, and vice versa. We ended that practice in a savasana that focused on bringing awareness to this interconnection between ourselves and the outside world. It was very spacious and a great message for honoring this complexity when thinking about making change. (Another great read on this topic is Jean Mazzei's blog post: "Alignment and Community Gardening"

Brenna's teacher Rod Stryker, whose workshops I've attended and who I greatly admire, gave a talk about New Year's resolutions. I watched the video online today and it resonated with me. Here are four tips from his video, which you can watch below.  I listed the main ideas and grabbed a few quote, but I recommend you watch the full video.

Rod's final words in that video focus on the fact that we all have great work to do. I'll probably watch this video a few more times to let it sink in because it's that good. Wishing everyone a happy new year. May the work you do fulfill you and bring you closer to your most vibrant self!

Four Tips From Rod Stryker on Making New Year's Resolutions

1. Relax. 

"Your Soul Is Already Complete"

2. Identify and Name

"You need a name for where you are going... There is nothing we reach for and attain that doesn't have a name."  

3. Change is a Process; Be Aware of the Valley of the Void

"In the process of moving from here to there, you have the valley of the void."

“When we move away from the past toward the new we will naturally get uncomfortable because it will ask us to change.”

"If you don't encounter it (this uncertainty; discomfort; the valley of the void) the goal you are seeking is probably not worthwhile."

4. Tie Your Goal to Serving Something Bigger - The Macro View

"Be certain that your goal is in service of something bigger than that particular thing you are seeking."

"If it's detached from your full source of your soul's meaning and purpose then how valuable is it even if you do get it."

Sari is a certified yoga teacher in San Francisco offering group and private sessions in studios, community centers, schools and in the workplace. You can email her at sarigelzer (@) yahoo.com.

Sari Stankowski

Sari Gelzer is a yoga teacher and online media consultant based in San Francisco, CA.