I recently taught a workshop on Setting Your Intention For The New Year that combined yoga with journaling exercises. I’m happy to share the lesson plan with you here below. Feel free to incorporate asana (yoga poses) or simply do the meditations and journaling.
To START: Envision a candle in the heart center. Breathing in, allow the flame to grow brighter; when you breathe out, exhale any clouds of unknowing, of mood, or story that may be obscuring your ability to see clearly through the heart.
Continue for a few breaths and then allow the candle flame to rise higher to the point between your brows, the third eye, the place of intuition in yoga philosophy. Breathe in and allow the flame to grow brighter, then breathe out whatever may be obscuring your capacity for self-awareness, inner knowing and clarity. After a few breaths, allow your breath and focus to return to the heart. Inhale from the heart into the point between the brows and exhale back down into the heart in a loop.
Writing Assignment: Journal on anything that arose during that brief meditation, even if it’s simply writing down the word “nothing.”
Asana practice: Anything that feels right for you. Allow for conscious movement with breath. Let each little sip of breath correspond with each little bit of movement for optimal concentration and focus.
After Asana: Sit back towards your heels with your hands over your heart. Breathe into the sides and the back of the heart. In your mind’s eye, go back over the past year– seeing yourself through all the seasons, your plans, where you were, what you did, any big events that took place. Allow any blessings from the past year to rise up to the surface. Breathe into gratitude. Then allow any lessons from the past year to rise up. Maybe things that tested you but at the same time showed you so much more about yourself, that may have, through your suffering, opened you to the intricacies and depths of life’s emotions. Breathe into gratitude here as well (the best you can).
Writing Assignment: Journal on blessings and lessons from the past year.
Asana practice: Restorative forward bend. Any forward bend of choice works but a restorative one– one where there are supports such as pillows, blankets, blocks, or even a chair– works best because you can allow the body to soften into the forward bend with as little effort as possible. This is a gesture of surrender. And the perfect place to focus on the exhale, the letting go part of the breath. This is where you can breathe out any area of your life that would best be served by letting go. It can be a thought, emotion, a way of being in the world, or maybe something more concrete, such as a project that is weighing on your mind. Important**: see if you can avoid dwelling and with as much love and compassion for yourself, simply focus on the exhale of letting go. Maybe it was something that served you well in the past but for whatever reason you’re ready to let it go and create space for something different. See if you can find gratitude here as well.
Writing Assignment: Journal on what you’d like to release this new year.
Asana practice: Restorative back bend— Place a pillow under your upper back and lay back over it so that your ribcage expands and broadens and you can feel your heart center lift. Rest your shoulders on the floor. Make sure your head and neck are comfortable (you can place a little blanket under your head but make sure you are not tucking your chin. Instead, allow the path from your collarbones up to your throat to soften and lengthen softly back without strain). You can place a blanket or pillow under your knees and/or arms as well. Again, restorative yoga is about being completely supported with as little effort as possible. Now that you’ve created space in the forward bend, you are ready to embrace a quality you’d like to cultivate more of for the new year in this back bend. Again, it can be a thought, belief, a way of being in the world, or something more tangible like a project that you’d like to create. Focus on the inhale. *Important: Notice how the inhale does not need to be “sucked” in. The inhale is the receptive part of the breath. You soften in order to receive. Even if you hold the breath, the inhale will make its way to you. The wisdom of the universe and the wisdom of your body are creating the conditions for you to take your next breath. Through the inhale, we can intimately understand that the world is a supportive, nurturing place. With this in mind, allow your inhale to arise and let your intention flow easily along with it.
Writing Assignment: Journal on what you’d like to cultivate more of this new year.
Here is where you set your intention for the new year by asking yourself what your most heartfelt desire is, what your heart most longs to express in the new year. Maybe there’s a voice that speaks to you, or simply a nudge, inclination, or even silence at first. Whatever arises, see if you can feel it as real, as happening right now, as coming true in this moment. How does it feel physically, in your body, to have your dream come true? Linger here for a few breaths and then move on to ask yourself the following questions:
What would I do, how would I act, how would I be in the world, if I could not fail?
What would I do, how would I act, how would I be in the world, if I was the most confident, boldest me I could be?
What would I do, how would I act, how would I be in the world, if I didn’t care what anyone else thought?
Writing Assignment: Journal on your intention (heart felt desire) + three questions listed above.
Finally, settle into savasana, final relaxation pose, stretching your body out, giving all your limbs their weight, letting your body be heavy and completely supported by the earth. As you lay here, allow yourself to open to spaciousness, and let your intention for the new year be implanted in this open field of possibility. After a few breaths, let it all go. This is the path of the yogi warrior: to act and then let it go.
We try not to be attached to the outcome of success or failure (or what we perceive to be success or failure). Instead, the brave warrior yogi/ini opens to whatever life offers her/him, knowing it’s all impermanent and nothing stays the same. We follow our heart and then give ourselves over to the flow of life. Our surrender (without fighting or refusing our experience) is our source of strength.
Let me know if you have questions by commenting below.