Stick to Your In­ten­tions

This Kun­dalini-in­spired se­quence can help you re­lease bad habits and boost your willpower and well-be­ing as you pre­pare to usher in amaz­ing things in 2018.

Yoga Journal - - Contents - By Tommy Rosen and Kia Miller

Train your body and mind to re­sist temp­ta­tion, and dis­cover a whole new level of self-em­pow­er­ment with this Kun­dalini-in­spired prac­tice.

Story and Se­quence by Tommy Rosen and Kia Miller // Pho­tog­ra­phy by Joe Han­cock

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME you re­ally thought about what you were do­ing when you reached for cof­fee in the morn­ing, the candy jar at work, or your phone to check your email or so­cial me­dia? Odds are it’s been awhile. We all run through thou­sands of ha­bit­ual be­hav­iors like these ev­ery day. Although you may get a fleet­ing boost from that hit of caf­feine or sugar, by watch­ing the lat­est, fun­ni­est vi­ral video, or by hav­ing an­other drink, chances are you’re dis­tract­ing your­self from stress and pain you don’t want to deal with. Re­mov­ing your­self from the present mo­ment can jeop­ar­dize your long-term health and well-be­ing in the process.

Fac­ing your demons is es­sen­tial for break­ing bad habits, but many self-help meth­ods and treat­ment sys­tems fo­cus on ad­dress­ing symp­toms rather than help­ing you dis­cover why you’re reach­ing for dis­trac­tions. The key, instead, may be to reach in­ward, and that’s where yoga and med­i­ta­tion can help. Prac­ti­tion­ers know that mind-body prac­tices like these can foster the self-aware­ness, self-con­trol, and self-re­al­iza­tion nec­es­sary to go through a deeper detox­i­fi­ca­tion—and re­search out of Duke In­te­gra­tive Medicine helps to con­firm it. One re­view on the ef­fi­cacy of mind­ful­ness as a com­ple­men­tary ther­apy for ad­dic­tion found that mind­ful­ness-based interventions, in­clud­ing yoga, may en­hance ad­dic­tion treat­ment, preven­tion, and re­cov­ery.

Even armed with all the ben­e­fits yoga and med­i­ta­tion pro­vide, it can still feel like an up­hill bat­tle to kick a bad habit. That’s be­cause these be­hav­iors get hard­wired into our brains. Neu­ro­science re­searchers have de­ter­mined that the more we do an ac­tiv­ity that feels good—even one with bad con­se­quences, like abus­ing drugs or al­co­hol—the less neu­ral ac­tiv­ity we use when de­cid­ing to en­gage in that ac­tiv­ity. Instead, we act on au­topi­lot, even if we are no longer get­ting that ini­tial buzz. But that doesn’t mean we’re help­less. Re­cent find­ings out of MIT sug­gest that our pre­frontal cor­tex, the brain re­gion re­spon­si­ble for in­te­grat­ing past ex­pe­ri­ence with present action, seems to fa­vor new habits. The trick to mak­ing these habits stick is to re­wire your neu­ral cir­cuitry by find­ing some­thing that gives you a sim­i­lar thrill, but on a deeper, health­ier, and more sus­tain­able level. Breath­work, mind­ful­ness train­ing, and yoga de­liver on all fronts.

Kun­dalini Yoga, specif­i­cally, is de­signed to strengthen in­tu­ition and willpower. Yogi Bha­jan, who brought Kun­dalini from In­dia to the West, was in­ter­ested in help­ing peo­ple break un­wanted habits and ad­dic­tions. He cre­ated a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­ter in Tuc­son, Ari­zona, that was part ashram, part pri­mary-care fa­cil­ity for those in re­cov­ery. Through asana, pranayama, mu­dra, mantra, and deep re­lax­ation, Kun­dalini asks you to sum­mon the phys­i­cal and men­tal strength to mind­fully main­tain repet­i­tive ac­tions, such as us­ing Breath of Fire while hold­ing Half Boat Pose, or Ardha Navasana, for up to three min­utes.

By com­mit­ting to each move­ment de­spite your mind’s de­sire to stop, you are train­ing your ner­vous sys­tem to re­sist temp­ta­tion (in this case, the temp­ta­tion to give up), just as you might train your mus­cles at the gym. And it comes with some in­cred­i­ble ben­e­fits. Your en­docrine sys­tem re­acts by se­cret­ing chem­i­cals that cre­ate feel­ings of bal­ance and har­mony, ac­cord­ing to Yogi Bha­jan and other Kun­dalini teach­ers. And you gain the aware­ness and power you need to re­sist the temp­ta­tion to fall back into those bad habits you’re re­solv­ing to break for good next year. Start with the se­quence on the fol­low­ing pages.

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