With so many resolutions swirling around this time of year, yoga and meditation instructors in Asheville share their own intentions and offer guidance for the coming year. While we set intentions for ourselves, they remind us to use the resources of the community around us to maintain our focus as well as broaden it to the larger world.
“I set up a handful of important themes for the new year,” says Ryan Oelke, meditation teacher and psychologist. “A lot of people do new things like a random challenge, but to me it has to tie in to what is really organically relevant to your life.”
You have to get honest with yourself, says Oelke, who last month launched a side business in Asheville called Awakening in Life, which offers meditation practices and life coaching. “If you want a regular meditation practice to be part of life, maybe that means for the first 30 days the goal is 10 minutes a day and then reassess after that time. It needs to be personally relevant and remain open to how it takes form,” Oelke says.
“I’m trying to help people feel the relevance and depth and path of awakening in their lives and to see if meditation can be used for awakening,” Oelke continues. “To me that makes it easier. You don’t need to go somewhere else, because in daily life there are opportunities to open up in deeper ways.” Oelke says his online courses provide accountability, which can make it much easier to maintain resolutions and practices.
Vanessa Caruso, massage therapist and yin yoga instructor at Anjali Yoga Studio in Asheville, has been focusing on not being afraid of pain and discomfort. “I’ve been trying to let go of fear, because I think it will allow more space for transformation,” she says. “That is what I bring into my practice as well. By cultivating a gentleness and a patience for my own healing, I can bring that more to my sessions with my clients. Tension and stress cannot be forcefully released.”
Caruso notes that we have a need for connection and community around healing and transformation. “For 2017, I am hoping that we can each find that support and encourage each other to be more true to ourselves,” says Caruso, who holds these intentions not only for herself and the Asheville community but also for the world. “That is why for me the community piece is important,” says Caruso. “We can get distracted and fall into our own little worlds. We need to keep coming together for the purpose of feeling, connecting and reminding each other what is really important.”
The word “resolution,” says Sierra Hollister, a yoga teacher in Asheville since 1995, “comes from the Latin noun ‘resolutio,’ and this word means ‘to loosen or release.’ So to me, the energy of resolution is an energy of letting go. The foundation of moving forward into the new year begins with a letting go of, a releasing of, the previous year.”
The need to release is especially important at this time, she adds, as 2016 was a tough year for many people as well as the planet. “I am looking forward to releasing any incorrect perceptions and negative emotions I have had, as well as those of the collective,” says Hollister, a leader in the Asheville yoga community. She traveled to Standing Rock, N.D., to bring attention to the protest about water, and she co-founded the local nonprofit Light a Path, which brings yoga to underserved populations such as the incarcerated, at-risk youth, people in recovery and the economically disadvantaged.
“To me, yoga is love,” says Hollister. “It is the highest potential of what we are and what we can be. If yoga is a union of body, mind and spirit, I want my union of self to radiate more love, to be able to move with more compassion and more wisdom. My resolution is to release the previous year and step into the new one with a wiser, kinder and more loving self.”
Especially in these turbulent times, we need to take the time to ensure that our actions and words are reflecting the love and kindness of our most present, wise self, she continues. “We need to tend to our own body temples, simply because we need the energy, vitality and well-being to rise up and be the light, be the love,” says Hollister. “Without the balance of self-care and action in the world, we miss the mark. We can only run so far if our tank is empty.
“Those of us that have the good fortune of having practices of wellness to nourish ourselves need to take the fruit of our practice out into the world and share it,” Hollister says. “It is on us to discern where our heart is calling us and where we can stand on deck and make a difference. Now more than ever before, so much hangs in the balance, in not only humanity but our entire planet. … I believe that we are capable of this immense task. It is why we are here, now.”