by Katherine Hartsell, PTA
The glittery dust of New Year celebrations has long settled, and for many of us, lofty resolutions have already been buried underneath the winter snow, the business of life, and by the very habits that we were hoping to transform. Two months into 2012, new goals and pursuits, however committed we were to them on January 1st, begin to slip off their pedestals and attending to them might feel like a burden. A recent health article in Time Magazine confirms that by mid-February, the New Year’s gym surge crashes and that only 10% of well-intentioned folks actually achieve their new healthy visions. Such statistics illustrate that the “old self” can’t just magically change with the calendar year. In a longing to be new and improved, we miss the step of seeing ourselves at our starting point and we feel defeated when greeted by the inevitable obstacles that are akin to any process of change.
When patients come to Boston Sports Medicine, an initial evaluation is conducted by his or her primary physical therapist. This assessment is crucial because it identifies the all important starting point. Goals are then developed and a plan of action is put into place. Fluctuations, improvements, and setbacks are all acknowledged and a constant assessment supports the process of change. In a similar way, starting points are also highlighted in the yoga classes I teach. I encourage students to spend the first few moments of class observing their baseline. Without this step, I have found that students are lost even before they begin. The most common scenario is a student rushing into class late, numb to their anxiety and unaware of the shallowness of their breath. They enthusiastically plunge into the practice, and ten minutes later, they are completely wiped out. Conversely, when students take a moment to observe their starting point, they can shape their practice accordingly (perhaps using a slower pace or a more conservative effort), while still working on longer term goals – a particular pose, a deeper breath, a stronger core, or a more relaxed brain. At the end of class, the process begins again- a quiet moment to observe, followed by a recommitment to intention.
The New Year is of course a popular time to set new goals, but February has proven to be a popular time to abandon them. However, we never have to wait until the next year to recommit to something that we want to bring to our lives – be it a regular exercise program or a healthier eating pattern. Both physical therapy and yoga work well because they acknowledge that obstacles will show up and that the opportunity to begin again, shift the approach, or change the plan is always there. When you find yourself on a plateau, stuck in rut, or sliding down a slope of habit, give yourself a break, because this is the landscape that often accompanies change. After your break, invite yourself to begin once more. Happy New Year. Again.
Katherine Hartsell is a Physical Therapy Assistant at Boston Sports Medicine