Wednesday, January 4, 2017

5 Yoga-Inspired Ways to Turn Health Goals into Healthy Actions

What does hot yoga and New Year's resolutions have in common? More than you would think. 

As I balanced in tree pose during a hot yoga class on New Year's Day, around 62% of Americans were trying to find balance through another method: New Year's resolutions. And while they made a variety of promises - whether to lose weight or spend more time with family - I heard a different kind of resolution: my yoga teacher's mantra of "experiencing what you know." 

You may know that you're determined and kind, but you have to act that way to fully experience those traits. Similarly, you can't just think - or want - to be healthier in the New Year. You have to act to make those resolutions a reality.

casey the college celiac new year's

Not sure how? Here are five yoga-inspired tips to make 2017 your healthiest year yet!

1. Be honest about the "why" behind your goal. 

That morning, I didn't necessarily feel like going to yoga. Even though I didn't stay up until midnight, 8:30 still felt like an early wake up time for Christmas break...and the studio across town seemed pretty far away. Yet, I got up, got dressed, and proceeded to balance, twist and sweat my heart out. Why? Because hot yoga comes with benefits that I can't find in other at-home workouts: detoxification, socialization and even a few spiritual moments. 

When you pick a New Year's resolution, you need to have just as strong of motivations. Have you ever promised to lose weight, get better grades or make more money because of an inner sense of competition instead a craving to improve? Or have you made a yearly goal simply because, when the New Year comes around, you feel like "everybody" does? 

If you're being driven by motivations like these, you probably won't reach the finish line. Studies have shown that succeeding at New Year's Resolutions often requires having a "higher purpose" - like losing weight so you can be healthy enough to play with your daughter. On the other hand, researchers have also found that people succeed more with "prevention goals" than "promotional goals." Promotion goals involve achieving hopes or dreams while prevention goals consist of fulfilling duties or avoiding punishment. 

Basically, the more you have at stake, the more likely you'll be part of the 8% of people who keep their New Year's resolution

2. Choose specific, realistic goals over vague ones. 

At the beginning of every yoga class, the instructor gives a mantra - a spiritual slogan, one might call it - for students to keep in mind. Sometimes it's staying present...which, oddly enough, always makes the class go by faster. Other times it's remembering what you're thankful for, reminding yourself of inner strength or even allowing yourself to ruminate on defeats or struggles. Whatever the mantra, they all have the same purpose: giving students' thoughts a "road map" of sorts to follow during the practice.

casey the college celiac new year's
One of my favorites...
Similarly, the best way to take healthy action is by mapping out exactly what you need to do to succeed. For instance, don't just say, "I want to get my first job." Instead, promise to apply to five positions a week until you get a job within your field that pays at least minimum wage. Or, rather than vowing to "be kinder of people in 2017," say that you'll do four random acts of kindness - from buying someone's coffee to spending thirty minutes talking to your lonely neighbor - each week. 

You want to be realistic about your goals, too. Although we may not want to admit it sometimes, we know how much work and time we're usually willing to dedicate to projects. So, if you know you're out of shape, don't strive to run a marathon by the end of the year. You want to set yourself up to celebrate a productive 2017 - so be honest about what you can do within your time, money and motivational constraints. 

3. Set yourself up for success with the right equipment

So you've got the right goal and the right reason for making it. Now, you need a secret weapon: equipment that will set you up for a win. After all, you don't go to a yoga class without exercise clothes, a yoga mat and water. Similarly, you can't tackle any other challenge without the right gear

This is where making the right investment can really pay off in the end. For instance, if you want to run a marathon for the first time, you may want to invest in a couple of training sessions with a professional. Not only can they help keep you from injuring yourself, but you can also learn valuable tips and techniques for your big day. 

Or maybe you want to drink more water - at least eight 8-ounce cups - each day. If you don't have easy access to clean water, though, you probably need to buy a water filter...like (my new and sponsored) Aquagear filter. Your goal for 2017 probably involves doing something "better"...and Aquagear has the same mindset with each filter removing over 2000% more contaminants than Brita. While I won't claim that Aquagear's water filter has turned me into superwoman or changed my life, it has made drinking more and cleaner water much easier as a college student! It doesn't hurt that the filter looks pretty sleek too.
casey the college celiac aquagear
A photo from their website...because my photography skills fail with water filters apparently!

The equation is simple: you can't do your best without having the best equipment at your side. While this doesn't mean you should blow your savings on New Year's resolutions (especially if your resolution is spend less money!), it does mean that your personal growth and self improvement are worth investing in.

4. Learn from your mistakes in previous years. 

Early last year, I made the goal to do a forearm stand in hot yoga. I looked up the proper form online. I found a wall in my college apartment I could balance on until I could hold the pose on my own. So, when my teacher invited us to go into inversions during one of my hot yoga classes, I jumped right in...and flipping myself over, slamming into the mirror. 

While I was (luckily) fine except for a few bruises (and one frazzled yoga instructor), that flip revealed one of my faults: impatience. Now, I recognize that I need to go through all the "boring" baby steps before trying a new, advanced pose. I use my past mistakes to help prevent future ones. 

It's time to apply this yogi lesson to your own history of New Year's resolutions. Do you promise to be more adventurous with your gluten free diet every year, but end up giving up once your schedule picks up? Then try tweaking some of your go-to recipes, like using your favorite enchilada sauce on a spaghetti squash instead of tortillas. Only you know what really caused your previous resolutions to not turn out as amazing as you planned...and only you can pave over those anticipated potholes this time around. 

5. Be flexible and set up a backup plan just in case. 

In my past two yoga classes, one of our ending poses has involved splits. Now, full disclosure, I ain't a split kind of girl. I can now touch my toes (when, years ago, I used to struggle to touch my knees), but I won't be making gymnasts jealous anytime soon. So, I change it up, and sit on a block to help stretch my hamstrings. And - shocker - no one cares

casey the college celiac
With my usual face...
The truth is, only you have the power of deeming your resolution a "failure." Maybe you promised to go to the gym everyday, but you end up running around your neighborhood instead. Some might say you didn't meet your resolution...but I'm not so sure. Of course, if your underlying motivation was making that pricey gym membership worth it, maybe you didn't hit the mark. But if you just wanted to get more active, you definitely checked that box - and, perhaps even more importantly, learned what kind of movement works for you

Instead of trying to exactly meet your resolution, be flexible. Go into crow pose if you're not comfortable doing a headstand. Lower your target monthly books to read from five to three if need be, and don't feel any less proud of your accomplishment. 

After all, the purpose of a resolution isn't - or, at the very least, shouldn't - be perfection. Instead, it's to be better than you were. And I don't know about you, but I think that small, yet consistent, progress beats big talk and no walk everyday! 

When I walk into my hot yoga studio, I never know how I'm going to feel when I walk out. Sometimes, I feel vulnerable after hidden emotions were coaxed out by that day's practice. Sometimes, like on New Year's Day, I feel refreshed and reflective after the mantra truly spoke to my heart. 

You may not have started out the New Year with a hot yoga class, but you can still kick off 2017 with a renewed understanding of how to turn thoughts into action. 

casey the college celiac
Rockin' my Enjoy Life Foods t-shirt!
You should know that you are a successful, powerful, unique individual. Use 2017 to show it. 


So you enjoy mantras during hot yoga? Do you have any New Year's resolutions? Tell me your thoughts! 



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