Guest post graciously contributed by Maria-Luisa Chea.

I find that there is an exciting feeling of freshness to these first days of the year, a promise of unlimited possibilities waiting to unfold before us. The holidays are officially over and it is time to get on with our lives. It is also the time to harness the heartfelt desire to bring forth the best in us, and integrate our intentions for the New Year into our lives. But where do we start?

The best place to start is to meet ourselves where we are. Seems obvious and simple, doesn’t it? Think again! During the last year, I have been sharing with my students and especially working on integrating into my own life, this apparently obvious place to start whatever it is we are starting, be it our day, our practice or even the New Year. And though I feel I have made some progress, I have to admit that I need to keep working on it.

Meeting ourselves where we are means taking a deep and sincere look inside so that we don’t confuse the place where we want to be, or the place where we think we should be, with the place where we really are. This is where the challenge begins. We might feel a strong resistance to accepting to see where we really are. We are caught within that lopsided image we have of ourselves. It is so much easier on our ego to see just the good and pretty and forget about the bad and the ugly.

Becoming aware of where we stand physically, energetically and emotionally might not thrill us. But the truth is that the only place where we can truly relax and release stress and tension is by meeting ourselves right there where we are. Furthermore, it is only by opening up to ourselves where we are, and relaxing into that space, that we can take a next step that is aligned with our own truth or Dharma.

Thankfully, Yoga and Ayurveda provide us with the tools we need to take that deep and sincere look inside, to work through our resistance, to relax in our space and to nurture our intentions for our next step towards our truth. Here are some of the practices that have helped me make some progress in this direction. Try them and I’m sure they will help you as well.

  • Take a moment to check-in upon waking. Taking a moment to notice how I feel as I wake up in the morning and connecting with my heart helps me start out on the right track. It allows me to figure out what I need this day from my practice. Do I need an early morning relaxation? Or is it a day for hearty sun salutations?
  • Abhyanga, give yourself a daily dose of self-love through self-massage, with the oil that is best suited for your dosha. I find that in addition to nourishing my body and my soul, abhyanga brings me to the now. It makes me more aware and present in my body.
  • Take time to relax deeply. Practicing deep relaxation, if not daily, at least a few times during the week, helps me cut through the armor of tension that builds up when I’m not watching. It helps me open up the heart. It is also a great preparation for the next practice.
  • Sit with the breath. This I find to be the most powerful of the tools. Just sitting with my breath, without trying to change or correct it, without trying to shape it in any way, just being with the flow and movement of my breath as it is. This quiets my mind and brings it inward so I can hear the whispers within. It helps me to release resistance by giving me perspective. It is all right to be where I am now.
  • Practice Yoga Nidra to plant your intentions deeply into your subconscious. Meeting myself where I am and relaxing into that space doesn’t mean that I will stay there forever. It just means that I am in the most suitable position to discover and take my next step. The practice of Yoga Nidra, or yogic sleep, is the perfect soil to plant my intention, or Sankalpa for my next step.

May the New Year bring light to your consciousness; peace to your heart and may your path unfold with ease and grace, manifesting your deepest intentions.

Hari OM!