New Year’s Resolutions

By Claire Diab and Dennis Boyle
When a new firefighter first puts on the uniform, he begins to intend and desire being promoted to the next rank. Intention and desire for advancement is a natural part of our individual and collective psyche. As the new year approaches, this is the time to begin to pay attention to our intentions and desires. Abraham Maslow, the eminent psychologist, outlined intentions and desires as “needs” in his book Towards a Psychology of Being. He places our human desires on a scale of self-actualization.
Yoga takes a different perspective but finds that our desires are also in the direction of self-actualization. Yoga views intentions and desires as an impulse towards wholeness. As desires arise for basic needs, safety needs, belonging needs, esteem needs, and our most fulfilling self-actualization needs, the science of yoga views them from a subjective standpoint.
So, let’s take a look at the yoga view of intentions and desires and how understanding the basis of these desires will help us point them in the right direction. Yoga views desire plus intention as a resolution.
When an intention or desire arises in the mind, the mind makes a decision about whether or not to put the mind’s attention to fulfill the desire on it. The yoga view of the purpose of life is to expand, evolve and achieve fulfillment. As intentions and desires arise, the mechanics for their fulfillment already exist. When a firefighter, or any individual, sets their attention on the fulfillment of an intention or desire, the incredible organizing power of the mind is awakened to help orchestrate the desires fulfillment.
Yoga offers tips for both the proper identification of the desires to be fulfilled, as well as the right approach to the fulfillment of intentions and desires.
When identifying the intentions and desires that would best suit you, you must pay attention to your intentions. To do this, sit quietly in a peaceful place. Imagine your intentions and desires as a ripple in a pond which occurs when throwing a pebble into it. There is a breathing technique that will help calm and quiet the mind, making it is more aware, called alternate nostril breathing (instructions below). Practice the alternate nostril breathing technique for 4 to 6 minutes. When the mind has quieted down using the alternate nostril breathing, ask yourself the following three questions.
Who Am I? Who Am I?
You may not know the answer to this question however it is important to have this dialogue with yourself. Repeat the question for 1-2 minutes.
What Do I Want? What Do I Really Want?
The answer may be physical, emotional, material, spiritual, anything that you would like to see fulfilled. Repeat the question for 1-2 minutes.
How Can I Help? How Can I Serve Myself and Those Around Me?
Place your awareness on this question and let it go. Repeat the question for 1-2 minutes.
Perform the alternate nostril breathing technique and asking these questions for the month of January and anytime that you feel that you need to center yourself.
The Right Approach to a Resolution  

Once an intention and desire is placed in the mind to be fulfilled it becomes a resolution. Use this technique to decide your new year’s resolutions. Yoga teaches that the framing of a resolution, the pathway to your intentions and desires being fulfilled should be for the highest good of yourself and others. An archer doesn’t focus on missing the target; he focuses on hitting the target. Instead of “I don’t want to overeat and be unhealthy,” use the affirmative “I eat to enjoy abundant vitality and nourish my body, mind, and spirit.” The positive resolution of our intentions and desires will make all of the difference in their fulfillment.

Alternate Nostril Breathing Benefits
This technique balances the right and left hemispheres of the brain, bringing a sense of peace and clarity to the mind. It balances two of the energy channels along the spine, through which lots of energy flows. It relaxes and revitalizes the body and mind and develops concentration and prepares you for meditation.
1. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed.
2. Bring the right index and middle fingers together. Place these fingers between your eyebrows.
3. Close your right nostril with your right thumb and inhale through the left nostril.
4. Hold the breath, closing off both nostrils (use the ring and small finger to close off left nostril).
5. Raise the right thumb and exhale through the right nostril, keeping the left nostril closed.
6. Inhale through the right nostril.
7. Hold the breath, closing off both nostrils.
8. Bring the ring and small finger tips toward the palm of your hand and exhale through the left nostril, keeping the right nostril closed. (Steps 2-7 complete one cycle). Begin again inhaling through the left nostril.
a. Alternate Nostril Breathing is performed with a smooth, steady, and subtle breath.
b. Relax into the rhythm and flow of the breath without forcing or straining.
c. If your raised arm gets tired, support it by holding your elbow with the opposite hand.
d. Listen to your body for the appropriate rhythm of inhaling, holding, and exhaling. The rhythm will be different for each individual and will vary slightly from day to day. The standard suggested ratio is 2:8:4 seconds, that is, you inhale for the count of 2, hold for a count of 8, and exhale for a count of 4. As you become accustomed to this practice, you can increase the ratio to 4:16:8.
e. The suggested practice is 10 to 15 minutes daily. You may wish to start with six minutes a day and build your practice over time.
f. Maintain your focus on the forehead with eyes closed throughout the practice.
Holding the breath should be minimized or omitted for those with untreated high blood pressure, abdominal inflammation, lung conditions, hernia, or pregnancy.  

Yoga Pose with Claire!

Chair Side Bend Pose
  • Sit comfortably in your chair. Breathe in and out through your nostrils 6-9 times, full, deep belly breaths. 
  • Sit toward the front of your chair and interlace your fingers. Press your palms up toward the sky while inhaling.
  • Exhaling, reach over to the right. Relax your head between your arms.
  • Inhale. Come back to the center and then exhale to the left. Repeat 6-9 times.
  • Come back to the center rest your hands in your lap, breathing easy and receiving the benefits of the pose.
  • Lengthens the muscles around the spine and hips.
  • Nourishes and massages the liver and kidneys.
  • Increases blood flow to the heart and lungs.
  • Lengthens the muscles around the shoulder and chest.

Safety Tips

  • If you have discomfort or pain in your shoulders, keep your arms down.
  • Avoid this pose if you have herniated disks.
  • Do what is most nourishing for your mind, body, and soul.

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Claire Diab is an internationally recognized Yoga therapist. She is the director of the Yoga Program for the Chopra Center founded by Dr. Deepak Chopra and Dr. David Simon. She is an adjunct professor of Asian Studies at Seton Hall University. She is the author of several books and DVDs on Yoga including “Yoga For Firefighters.” 


Dennis Boyle is a retired fire director and acting chief with the West Orange (NJ) Fire Department. He was the recipient of the 1999 New Jersey Deputy Fire Chiefs “Fire Officer of the Year” award.




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