The best thing about this time of year for me is how many people are taking stock of their lives and making changes in order to live more healthily and happily. I’m talking about new years resolutions of course, and this process of evaluating your life against your ideals is a positive and important tradition. Unfortunately, when it is only done once a year, the changes that we attempt to make in our lives tend to get lost in the frenzy of life by March.

Wise teachers, both ancient and modern, tell us that we get what we focus on. By that wisdom, the more attention we give to the changes we would like to create in our lives, the more likely that change is to occur. As yogi’s, we have a wonderful opportunity to set aside some time to focus on the growth we wish for. Every time that we step onto our yoga mats, we step into a sacred space where we can focus on real, lasting, conscious growth.

My teachers recommend setting an intention for your practice each and every time you do yoga. Setting an intention is a powerful tool for creating meaning in your practice and creating change in your life. Many people have set intentions for their practice in a yoga class when the teacher mentions it. Get into the habit of doing it every time, whether it is mentioned in the beginning or not. Imagine you are trying to become more compassionate with yourself, to ease the self-critical voice in your head. Imagine that you make the resolution to do this one time per year. Now imagine what might happen if you focus on this for an entire hour (or more) several times a week. You can see how powerful it can be to take your resolutions into your yoga practice.

An important piece of Yoga philosophy is that we are essentially good. So when we talk about change–we are only talking about external change. That is the only kind that is possible– our true selves are both unchanging and perfect. When we desire change, what we really desire is for our external selves to more accurately reflect who we really are inside.

There are 5 steps to help us make this happen.

In order to know what changes are going to truly take you closer to your innate goodness, awareness is essential. When we practice hatha (physical) yoga, we are cultivating an awareness of our body and mind. Eventually this practice of awareness leads us to have an experience of our inner selves. It feels so right that we wish to recreate it. This is the seed that, if nourished, can blossom into a flowering of our potential. Awareness is the first step in creating change, but it must remain throughout the entire process.

Even when we cultivate awareness and know full well which changes we could make in order to come closer to our true selves, there are times when we simply don’t desire these changes. Without the desire to be your best self, change is unlikely to occur. Desire is a double edged-sword however; it is said to be the root of suffering. This is why we must remain aware. We must step back and observe ourselves from a distance, we must dive back in and look for that experience of ourselves.

The experience of the core of good within us will fade. In order to move towards this core, we must believe in our experience and we must belive that change is possible.

All the awareness, desire, and beleif will do us little good without effort. This effort must be disciplined and sustained over a long period of time. At times our desire will drive us to try to make changes too quickly. This is often unsustainable and will lead to failure. We all know the story of the tortoise and the hare, take it to heart. A little at a time gets the job done.

There is a time for effort and desire and there is a time to let go and let the bigger forces of the universe take over. Stay aware so that you know when it is time to let go. Maybe it isn’t the right time for this particular change. Or maybe after all the effort you put in, the change will occur once you have let go of it. Either way, you have changed for the better, whether it was in the way you were planning to or not.