December 31, 2011

Perky Holiday Letters, Yogic New Years’ Resolutions, and Valentine’s Day

Does anybody ever read those impossibly happy holiday letters that friends and family send out?

You know, the ones that say,

“Dear Friends, We had a great year! John got promoted to VP at the bank, Mary’s online business grew like gangbusters, junior is at the top of his little league baseball team and won his school’s spelling bee, we’re remodeling our kitchen with John’s Christmas bonus, and here’s a picture of us having loads of fun in Bermuda last August.”

Don’t these letters/emails always seem a little too… perky?

Once, just once, I want to receive a letter that says,

“Dear Friends, This year I broke my stupid toe in the same place as the last three times. I was out of commission for two months and when I went back to work I found out they gave my job to someone with the IQ of a gnat. In other news, after twelve years of marital bickering, my wife eloped with the butcher from the Safeway store down the street. Also, my five-year-old was expelled from kindergarten for Googling something I’d rather not tell you about. Oh, and remember the retaining wall that’s been a source of arguments with the neighbors for the last few years? It’s turned into a nasty lawsuit that has everyone in a six-mile radius shouting at each other.”

Wouldn’t this be a refreshing holiday letter, a little closer to real life? I think so.

So along with these holiday letters comes that other time-tested tradition, New Years’ Resolutions. New Years’ Resolutions is why all my yoga classes are filled to capacity this January and every single January I’ve been teaching for the last fifteen years. Who of us hasn’t vowed, “I’m going to work off all the lard accumulated during the holidays!”; or “It’s time to resume the yoga practice I ditched for family gatherings, Christmas shopping, wrapping gifts and composing upbeat holiday letters”? We all have. And I’m just like everybody else. I’m even re-reading Steven Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People to help with my New Years’ Resolutions. (I want to write a companion volume, The Seven Million Habits of Highly Ineffective Dolts, a book I am very qualified to author.)

So, yoga in January: I try to go gentle on the newcomers, I really do; but despite my best intentions, they soon discover that along with enthusiasm, it requires a little commitment. And if their spouse or their date doesn’t tell them how good they look by Valentine’s Day… it’s over for the newcomers till next January. Yep, February 15 each year marks the date when yoga class attendance drops back to its usual levels.

So, how can I help the great bare-footed masses stay committed to their yoga practice beyond the first six weeks of the year? Could I just announce on February 14th, “Surprise! Today’s not Valentine’s – it’s actually January 1st! The entire world just pulled a fast one on you!”? Mmmm. Methinks not. Even if it worked, at best it’d last just six more weeks… till the new Valentine’s Day.

No, I need to be realistic and come up with a solution that is far more long-term and far more motivational. All you yoga teachers out there, feel free to copy this idea and fine-tune it. Ready?

Here’s my plan: on Valentine’s Day I will get everyone in my classes to write their Christmas letters. Not the ones they neglected to send out last December: the ones they’re going to send at the end of this year! They’re going to talk about their lives in the past tense with the same hyperbolic exaggerations and happy-happy-happy phrases reserved for this type of epistle. Then, before the class is over, we’re going to the closest mailbox or internet access point, and we’re sending them all out! Not in December: now.

This will accomplish two things: (1) Their friends and family will actually read the letters, and read them closely and critically, since they’re not buried under many such other Pollyanna-esque messages; and (2) my students will get calls, emails and text messages from every single person on their list, wondering how they accomplished so much in just six weeks. My students will have no choice but to continue to come to yoga so they can keep up the façade of their accomplishments in strength, flexibility, balance, peace of mind, and open-heartedness.

Who said hyperbole, exaggeration and vanity couldn’t be put to good spiritual use?


Photo Credit: Vicky TGAW



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