The new year is finally here, and you know what that means: it’s time to make some resolutions. All over the world, people are making plans to improve their lives in some way. Maybe they want to find a new job. Maybe they want to accomplish a major goal. Maybe they want to read more books. Unsurprisingly, most people (an incredibly 69 percent of people) focus their new year’s resolution around health and fitness.
Whether you are trying to lose weight, build strength, or simply maintain your fitness level, yoga is a great fitness choice for your new year’s resolution. The myriad benefits of yoga are well documented, from more flexibility and stronger muscles to a greater sense of calm and well-being. But how do you begin - and how do you keep this resolution from fading away by mid-January?
We have a few suggestions that can help you continue learning, growing, and practicing yoga all year long:
January: Learn the Basics
Jumping feet first into a new exercise routine can often leave you overwhelmed or even injured. After all yoga looks like a mere series of stretches to the untrained eye--something you do before a workout, rather than the workout itself. But join other yogis on the mat and you’ll soon realize how challenging yoga can be! This is why it is important to ease into your yoga practice, and January is just the time to do it.
Pick up an instructional DVD or browse YouTube for tutorials on the most common yoga poses, like mountain pose or downward facing dog. Try out a routine or two, but don’t be afraid to take a break if something doesn’t feel right. Learning the right way to do each pose will help you get the most out of your practice, and it will help keep you from losing interest in this new fitness plan.
February: Try Couples Yoga
By this point in the year, most of your friends will have pushed their resolutions aside and returned to their everyday routines. But not you; in fact, February is a great time to double down on your yoga commitment by inviting someone special to practice with you. You’re more likely to stick with something when another person holds you accountable, so why not try out couples yoga?
Believe it or not, yoga actually can help to improve your relationships. The meditation and mindfulness leads to better communication between you and your partner. The therapeutic elements of your practice can eliminate stress, so you have more time to enjoy one another. And let’s be honest--some poses in couples yoga are pretty darn sensual. With Valentine’s Day close by and love in the air, February is a great time to invite your loved one into your yoga practice.
March: Focus on Flexibility
Because of the many benefits yoga brings to the body, it tends to be a layered form of exercise. Are you building up your muscles with complicated poses? Are you lengthening your muscles by stretching and becoming more flexible? Are you exercising your body, or your mind? In truth, yoga accomplishes all these things, but that doesn’t mean that a newbie can think about them all at once.
In March, we encourage you to focus on improving your flexibility. This is one of the easiest benefits to track, (Could you touch your toes before? Can you now? Great!) so it can be exciting for those new yogis who are starting to wonder if Crossfit would have been a better resolution. Notice your progress however you need to: take pictures, make marks on the way, try to do the splits like you could in high school! Every inch of gained flexibility means a world of encouragement.
April: Boost Your Practice with a Boot Camp
It’s been four months. You understand the basics of yoga. You’ve tried out a few routines on your own and a few with a partner. You’re starting to see how yoga improves your flexibility. Isn’t it time we take things up a notch? The internet is filled with challenges and bootcamps to up your yoga game, so find one you like and give it a try!
Most yoga challenges are between 21 and 30 days. One month is all you need to learn new poses, get comfortable with another yogi’s teaching style, and increase your time on the mat - all important things for a healthy, thriving practice. Follow along with a youtube instructor or print out a series of asanas for you to follow. You’ll be amazed what daily yoga will do for you!
May: Find Your Center
By this time in the year, most yogis (even the most inexperienced) will be pretty familiar with the asanas and routines in his or her practice. Their bodies fall into place with muscle memory, and while they still reap the benefits of exercise, they may be looking for something more. That’s why this is the time to really delve into the mental side of yoga.
There’s no doubt that meditation and mindfulness are difficult. In today’s busy world, we are more distracted and overwhelmed than ever. But there’s also no doubt that a calm, centered mind awards massive health benefits, from better sleep to lower blood pressure. This month, focus on your breathing while you practice, and spend a little extra time in corpse pose at the end of each session. In time, you’ll connect to a sort of calm you haven’t felt in a long time.
June: Take the Mat Outside
You’ve seen them all over Instagram: gorgeous yogis with perfect bodies, gracefully hitting their poses in front of breathtaking mountain ranges or warm, sandy beaches. They seem so in tune with the world, not to mention incredibly fit and flexible. Their post leave you, in a word, jealous. So why not become one of them?
Ok, maybe you don’t need to post your practice online, but June is a great time to try a change of scenery for your yoga sessions. Head to a nearby park, or check with your local parks and recreation department for a free outdoor class. With the weather heating up and the skies getting bluer, outdoor yoga might be just the thing to revitalize your practice and kick off summer.
July: Commit to a Class
Up to this point, most of our suggestions have made it easy for you to practice yoga on your own. There’s a reason for this: yoga is a very personal form of fitness, and when you’re starting out it can be less intimidating to learn at your own pace and away from the public eye.
However, there are also many benefits from practicing with a real instructor, rather than a digital one. There’s even greater benefits to committing to an instructor or facility so you can become a part of a community. This month, take a class or two a week at your local yoga studio. Some studios even offer free trial memberships, so you can find the right place for you.
August: Enjoy the Benefits
All year, you’ve been working hard towards cultivating a healthy yoga practice, and by now it’s bound to be paying off. You’ll feel healthier, stronger, and more flexible. Your mind will be centered and more at ease. You may even have new friendships or deeper relationships with the people you love. Thanks to yoga, you’ll already be a new and improved you--and there are still four months left in the year!
Be sure to take some time and enjoy the benefits you’ve earned with your yoga practice. Have fun with friends, treat yourself to a new outfit, take a trip to celebrate all your hard work. Of course, we suggest you keep up your yoga practice throughout the month, but we’re willing to bet that won’t be a problem. Once you’re comfortable with it, yoga is too much fun to give up!
September: Review and Refresh Your Practice
September is a unique month in the year, as it acts like a second new beginning. Summer is over and kids are going back to school, which leaves an air of resolution in the air - just like January! Even if you don’t have kids, you’re likely familiar with this feeling of renewed resolve in September (blame it on your years in school, when the month really did mean a new start).
If you’ve fallen behind in your practice--or even if you’ve met your every expectation--this is a good time to recommit yourself to your yoga journey. Review old asanas, maybe try a new challenge or bootcamp, go back to basics and refresh your memory. Once you have your foundation rock solid, you’ll be able to continue learning advanced poses.
October: Strengthen Your Immune System
Cold season descends on October before you know it. Getting sick can mean up-ending your entire life, so it’s no wonder that most of us reach for the vitamins and ignore sick people like the plague. But did you know that the right yoga poses can actually help your immune system fight colds and flu?
Break up congestion, detoxify the body, and keep yourself healthy throughout cold season by practicing a yoga routine built around germ fighting poses. If you do these every day, you’ll be more likely to keep healthy all winter long.
November: Downward Dog to Improve Digestion
From Halloween night through New Year’s Day, it seems that food is everywhere in the final months of the year. Co-workers bring cookies to the office, parties with friends feature all kinds of goodies, to say nothing of the granddaddy of gluttonous holidays: Thanksgiving. Many of us spend these months nursing a full belly and a tired body, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Try out some simple yoga poses that work to improve digestion. These poses can be part of a daily routine, or simply tucked in the back of your mind to help you get all that turkey down! No matter what, you are bound to have a happier (and more energetic) holiday if you use your newfound yoga practice to help your body handle all our food-based celebrations.
December: Keep The Holiday Stress Away
Ah, December. Firstly, be sure to pat yourself on the back: you kept your yoga resolution all year! Secondly, get ready, because no one is safe from holiday stress. Buying gifts, planning parties, dealing with the extended family--this season is a double edged sword, serving joy and anxiety in equal measure. If you aren’t careful (for example, if you let your practice lapse for a few weeks) you just might find yourself feeling overwhelmed.
On the other hand, the mental health benefits of yoga are great for keeping holiday stress at bay. Find a little time each day to get in touch with your calm, centered self, and you will find that you can tackle any egregious holiday task. Shopping on Black Friday? Easy. Quieting dug-up family grudges? Easy! When you are relaxed and stress-free, people will follow your lead. So keep your yoga practice going for a calmer, happier holiday. Then, when new year’s eve rolls around, get ready to do it all again!