From Backbends to the Kitchen Sink – Goals and the Present Moment

Happy New Year!  Christmas and New Year is usually a time of reflection for me, I think this is because I usually have some time off work, away from my usual routine.  This gives me a bit of perspective on the way things are going and seems like a good time for me to set some goals for my future.   I think goals are important because if we don’t decide on our own direction, we put ourselves at the mercy of other people’s whims.  I  wonder how goals fit in with a commitment to being here and now, which I also have. I think that whilst we can have a version of a future which we will do anything we can to get to, all we ever really have is here and now.  It’s important to not only enjoy the journey but realise that we build the future in the here and now, in many baby steps and as we do this we interact with a world which is beyond our control and ever changing.  So we may need to adapt our plan but it is still worth planning, in fact if you didn’t plan at all you wouldn’t even get out of bed.


One of my main goals this year is to be tidier.  In yoga philosophy cleanliness is one the Niyamas (ethical guidlines concerning ourselves).   In truth this has been a goal of mine in the past and I have learnt a lot in my previous attempts which will surely help me to make the necessary changes.  I also have a wealth of experience of which to draw on.  I know that I have made other changes in the past and I know that this is something which is mostly within my own control.  It is easy for me to write blog posts about maintaining a daily yoga practice because I have been practicing yoga for years and I love it, tidying and me have had a different relationship in the past and it is possible for me to draw on what I learn from yoga and apply it to my life, sometimes in surprising ways.


I posted this picture of my practice on Christmas day.  I am doing a deep backbend whichHelen doing Kapotasana, yoga pose by Christmas tree is part of the Intermediate Series of Ashtanga Yoga. It is called Kapotasana and although I may look comfortable enough in this pose, it has been a really difficult pose for me to do.  Obviously it requires a great deal of flexibility, this has taken many years of daily practice for me to open my back up. I also find it emotionally and mentally challenging, I think there is something about having my chest that open, it has been very healing and empowering for me.  Recently I noticed that I would start to dread this pose about 5 poses before I got to it.  With this sense of dread I also had a mental dialogue that went something like this “you will never be able to do it today, your body’s too tight/tired/strong. Why are you even trying, blah, blah, blah! ” Once I noticed my little story, I think noticing is often the first step in change,  I started to notice the feeling of dread for what it was, a feeling at the pit of my stomach that I have habitually created.  Sometimes I would even laugh at it.  Sometimes I could do the pose, sometimes I couldn’t, ultimately it doesn’t matter, it’s a yoga pose. Day by day, this sense of dread started to lose it’s power, as it was no longer being fed by my thoughts.


Part of my plan in order to be tidier is to wash up immediately after eating.  I was doing washing up with faded picture of kapotasanathis a few days ago and I felt this amazing sense of dread at the pit of my stomach.   When I noticed, I laughed and told my partner about it. Hello dread, I know you, I thought. No wonder I have struggled to make this change in the past, there is so much emotion attached to it, to deal with it requires dealing with not only a lifetime of habits but also all the emotional negative feelings associated with not doing this.  Thanks to yoga, I am able to notice them and let them go. They don’t really relate to here and now, where I am washing up – it’s not  dangerous, there is nothing to dread.  When you make goals for your future, look back at your past and see how you have changed other things, then notice the present moment again and take it one step at a time.


Do you have goals yet?  What can you do right now to make them more real? How has yoga helped you?

About Helen Aldred

Helen Aldred practices and teaches ashtanga yoga in Liverpool. She loves to share and discuss yoga, as well as health and wellbeing. Follow her on twitter and join Ashtanga yoga Liverpool's Facebook community .


  1. Hey Helen! Nice post. I set a theme for the year. I´ve done this since 2010, so have only had three, but I find it´s just a bit like setting an intention for a class. This year is my year of tidiness and cleanliness, not just in the home, although that´s where I will start, but clearing the clutter of too much time on facebook, too much other general …. crap! Hope the year brings you good things and maybe I´ll get to a class of yours in 2013 when I´m back in the UK.

  2. Hi Faye, nice to hear from you! Themes is a great idea. Sometimes people aim to do too much, well I know I can be guilty of this. I imagine themes is a good way to keep the focus. Sounds like we have a similar idea for this year, we’ll have to exchange tips when I see you next. When are you coming back? Happy new year!

  3. Really interesting thoughts, about the importance of goals. I think I’ve spent so long trying to break my habit of making unrealistic goals that now I’ve maybe gone to far the other way. I absolutely get that dichotomy of living in the now v. making plans for the future. Haven’t reconciled the two yet! Personally, my ‘dread’ around the home actually comes from my garden – taking care of that can feel like such a responsibility. I think that caring for my garden would be a good goal, but also a frustrating one as there’s not so much I do towards it at this time of year.

    Faye, can I ask what other themes you have had? I like the sound of them.

  4. Hi Ragdoll,

    I am sure you’re not alone in giving up on setting goals. Having goals is challenging. If it wasn’t challenging we would have done these things already. Whilst setting unrealistic goals is one barrier to realisation, I think there are many factors at play. I would find a challenging goal inspiring and I would also break it down into what I can do right now. Looking at the big picture can lead to feeling as if you’re overwhelmed, so I always ask myself, ‘what is my next action?’ We also have to be willing to really change ourselves and I think for me that is the real benefit of setting goals, it’s not just about moving my life in the direction I am after but also about uncovering whatever barriers I have that are holding me back and transforming them.

    We also have to have a plan, it’s not enough to say I want this, you have to have some idea as to how, even if this will change as you go along. I think the process is different for all of us based on how we have gone about success in other areas of our lives. As I happen to know you have completed a phd I am pretty sure you could use that experience to achieve pretty much anything if you wanted it enough.

    Regarding the garden, as a non-gardner I find it difficult to advise. If it was my goal, I would use this time to read about gardening make a plan for the garden, talk to friends who have gardens I admire about how they stay motivated, etc. I agree it’s good to keep momentum.

    Look forward to seeing you soon.

  5. First, I wrote a long comment back in January which somehow got lost, and I was too disheartened to try again!

    Second, I did a load of weeding in that brief mild spell we had a while back. Journey of a thousand miles etc etc.

  6. Sorry to hear you lost a long comment Ragdoll. I know from experience how frustrating that can be.

    “A journey with a thousand miles start’s with a single step” Lao-Tzu One of my favourite quotes. I think the first step is actually the hardest. Well done you and to be fair it is only March, plenty of gardening time to come.

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