Inspired by new beginnings we find ourselves full of resolve and motivation, but all too often our busy minds fill with the urgency of any number of immediate calls for our attention and our resolutions are left to be recycled. At some point, we all have emphatically declared “This is going to be the year that I….” only to reiterate the same goal with slightly less belief in ourselves 365 days later. Our good intentions actually get in the way when we ambitiously tackle too much. What we know from research is that when it comes to behavioral changes, trying to make several changes at the same time is not the best strategy. Simplify. Pick one thing, just one. Something important to you and write it down. Make note of your intention somewhere other than in the recesses of your busy mind. Perhaps even share it with someone for a degree of support and accountability. Then break it down into specific small steps that seem doable and realistic. Think in terms of measurable changes. In the short-term, we need to be able to look back and say, “Yes, I went to two yoga classes this week,” and if not, then go back to simplifying and creating a realistic goal. The common resolution to “eat better” can become adding one healthy food to your meal. Cutting out comfort foods and old-standbys can come later after we have already started feeling successful. Celebrate those small successes with some recognition or reward for following through. Additionally, thinking about the bigger picture, (e.g., why it is important that you are healthy or how being healthy will help you help others) can provide the context for consistency. The good news is, if you practice yoga and meditation, your body and mind manage stress more effectively. Yoga and meditation actually improve your attention, focus, and self-awareness, changing the functionality and structure of the brain. As a result, your willpower is greater — giving you a greater chance of accomplishing your goals and sticking to your resolutions. For more on willpower and how to influence your health check out The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D.

by Denise Antonini, MS, LPC, RYT
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Dynamic, soulful, and empowering, Denise pours inspiration and creativity into her teachings, using her expertise in health psychology to elevate an ancient practice to a state-of-the-art yoga experience. Yoga is her art of movement, mindfulness, her art of attention, and awareness, her art of intention. At Stanford University Denise studied psychology and the mind-body connection graduating with honors. At Chicago Medical School her thesis and doctoral work in clinical psychology focused on maintaining health, improving quality of life and achieving wellness. As a therapist, consultant and professor she has helped people create the life they want to be living. As a yoga instructor her invigorating, fluid yoga sequences challenge the body helping students to disconnect from the busyness of day-to-day life– tuning in to their intuition by stabilizing the mind with the breath. Denise effortlessly guides anyone who comes to the mat to a place of meditative calm–finding the perfection of the present moment.

Denise and her husband Eric are the owners and co-founders of You and the Mat, an independent yoga studio and gallery for yoga inspired art. Together they strive to make yoga accessible to students, instructors, and the community through their classes, art and music events, Master Teacher and Support Local Workshop Series. Celebrating yoga as a fusion of art forms, they support artists, musicians, and creatives who share their vision.