I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions. To me, they are the product of a consumer-driven society, an overblown thing (like Valentine’s Day) that ends up being short lived and costly. However, I do like to set an intention for a period of time, whether it be a day or 300. So I figure this is as good a time as any to set a new intention, or sankalpa, as I generally designate the start of MY new year as January 14th (my birthday). Obviously I’m a little late (it’s been a hectic month, full of dance concerts and varying degrees of the common cold) and given my tardiness and inappropriate title of this post, this is not off to a good start, but here it goes…
I will practice, in-depth, the Yamas and Niyamas throughout the course of this year, one month at a time. This means devoting each month to a different to a different restraint (Yama) or observance (Niyama) of Yoga philosophy. (Of course, it is nice to believe that we are practicing ALL of the Yamas and Niyamas ALL the time, but that’s a little idealistic.) By focusing each month on one specific principle, I hope to really dive into what each idea means to me. Can I make better choices in my own behavior and actions? How can I more thoughtfully interact with others and live as an example, not a hazard? I should note that these are not goals, but practices, that I plan to remain fully dedicated to throughout each month, remembering that I am human and imperfect. “Slip-ups” are part of that practice and an opportunity to examine where I can reexamine or reinforce my intentions. Here, I have listed and crudely defined the Yamas and Niyamas, and briefly outlined what the upcoming year looks like for me:
February – Ahimsa (Non-harming): I will eat a vegetarian diet. My original idea was to be vegan for a month, as I am pretty much a pescetarian now, and vegetarianism is not a huge leap. But given my Vata-Pitta nature, I don’t think it would be wise to give up milk during these dry, chilly days. (Is there a such thing as a lacto-vegan?) Also, and perhaps more importantly, I will not speak ill (gossip) or act in a hurtful way towards anyone, including myself. Basically, follow the Golden Rule or “Do no harm”.
March – Satya (Truthfulness): I will only speak what is true. This is seemingly easy (just don’t lie) but I am surprised at how often I find myself sugar-coating or altering my words for one reason or another. A big part of Satya for me is not holding back when I have something to say, speaking up, and sharing MY truth. Stay tuned for Audrey: Unfiltered.
April – Asteya (Non-stealing): I like to think that I don’t steal on a regular basis, (no misdemeanors yet!) but I am guilty of over-consumption (shopping). When we take too much, we steal from others (i.e.”There are children starving in Africa!”). I will not buy anything that is not related to my health and wellness, or more than I need. (Food: OK. Another cardigan from Target will have to wait.)
May – Brahmacharya (Moderation of the senses): I will not watch TV. I am sorry to say I am not one of those people who can truthfully and proudly say “I don’t watch TV”. I LOVE TV. I don’t have cable, but I do have Netflix, Hulu, and HBOgo (ok, I borrow that one) and use (abuse) them often. I am guilty of getting sucked into a series for an hour or four, and while TV is entertaining and relaxing, and there’s nothing wrong with that, I’m sure there are better ways I can spend my free time, at least for a month.
June – Aparigraha (Non-hoarding): I will get rid of anything I have not used in the past year. I try to a do a big purge every few months, but probably not as thoroughly as I could. This is going to be BIG and probably harder than I am anticipating.
July – Saucha (Purity): I will not drink alcohol. OOF. Enough said.
August – Santosha (Contentment): TBA
September – Tapas (Discipline): TBA
October – Svadyaya (Self-study): TBA
November – Ishvara Pranidhana (Surrender to a higher power): TBA
As you can see, I’ve left 4 of the 5 Niyamas open for now, as they are in some ways not as “concrete” and I need more time to decide on what they mean to me in this context. You can also see that there are 10 Yamas and Niyamas (often likened to the Ten Commandments in Christianity or the Ten Virtues in Buddhism), which works out nicely given my late start, and also leaves December as a time to reflect on the year and integrate all of these ideas, in some way, into my life. I’ll be writing each week about my observations and experiences, and welcome your thoughts and ideas. Or, if you’d like to join me for a month, a week, or a day in this undertaking, I wholly welcome the support and camaraderie. It is my hope that by focusing on one principle each month, these ideals and practices become more fully engrained in my daily thoughts and actions. There are things we can all examine or change about our behavior, no matter how big or small. The Yamas and Niyamas are wonderful guidelines for anyone of any physical or spiritual background to follow, with understanding and compassion. Ultimately, I just hope to come out on the other side of this year as better version of myself (Me: 2.0). Here we GROW!