The origin of making New Year's resolutions rests with the Babylonians. The ancient Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. Though there is no direct line from ancient Babylonian tradition to modern New Year's resolutions, the desire to start anew pops up repeatedly in western civilization. New Year's resolutions have become a secular tradition, and most Americans who make them now focus on self-improvement. The U.S. government even maintains a website of those looking for tips on achieving some of the most popular resolutions: losing weight, volunteering more, stopping smoking, eating better, getting out of debt and saving money. The internet provides sobering statistics as to the success rates of these resolutions—studies apparently report that 80% plus of new intentions fail.
Going to yoga more consistently is often part of these resolutions and its follow-through can be similarly short-lived. I wonder how this tradition can relate most beneficially to our yoga practice—our practice that is based first and foremost on a commitment of countless lifetimes to ways of being that lead us to live comfortably on the edges of our egos. On the face of it, the two practices seem antithetical: the secular tradition of making a new intention or renewing an old one at the start of each year doesn’t quite intersect with a practice that demands daily resolve. One typically involves more worldly or mundane objectives; the other, while it may begin with similar goals, eventually prompts its followers towards more ethereal designations.
Resolution: originally meaning “a breaking into parts” from the Latin resolutio, “a process of reducing things into simpler forms,” resolution involves loosening, undoing and relaxing as well as resolute determination. The notion is of "breaking (something) into parts" as the way to arrive at the truth of it and thus make the final determination. Is this not our practice? Exhaling and inhaling, we loosen and release, only to find new psychosomatic patterns to grasp and follow.
In yoga, we often encounter the desire or need for an experience that will reawaken our practice and rejuvenate our commitment to show up on the mat and perform those same postures again and again, with the resolve to experience them anew with every enactment. Sometimes workshops with master teachers provide this stimulus; other times Ashtanga Yoga Confluences, or the right book, or simply the right confluence of events yields this revitalization. Because ours is a lifelong practice, we need ways to continuously renew our approach to this practice. Every day is New Year’s Day with Mysore Ashtanga. Every practice is the opportunity to find resolution again.