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New year, a new you
Calendar change means a chance to be reborn
Yoga instructor Emilie Cook assumes the triangle pose Monday at Celestial Studios in the Main Street Market on the square in Gainesville. Cook has been a yoga instructor for four years. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

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Unity Church of Gainesville, 3361 Clarks Bridge Road, Gainesville, 770-534-0949.

Yoga with Emilie



In the best-selling novel turned movie, "Eat, Pray, Love," which stars Julia Roberts, a woman looks at her life's priorities and decides that most of them are all wrong.

So Liz Gilbert sets out on a journey to find the true meaning of life by traveling the world to find her destiny through love, yoga and prayer.

The idea of finding the real meaning of life spiritually, physically and emotionally is a positive way to begin 2011 and start a personal journey to happiness and fulfillment with the idea of a rebirth in the new year.

Which is exactly what Unity Church celebrated with members Friday night at the church's annual New Year's Eve service.

"We have several traditions that we go through," said the Rev. Sydney Magill-Lindquist, the pastor at Unity. "On New Year's Eve, Unity Churches everywhere, have the burning bowl. When people come, they get two little pieces of paper and when going into the service you go into a quiet prayer meditation time and you really open yourself to what attitude or belief that you want to let go of that no longer serves you and you write it down."

The bad habits or beliefs written on scraps of paper are then placed in a fire outside the front doors of the church.

"On the second piece of paper you write down what you should put in its place," Magill-Lindquist said. "So it's really a release and then a focus on what you want for the next year. Then on the very first Sunday of the New Year, in our Sunday service, we do something called ‘Letters From God.' Everyone gets an envelope and a piece of paper and again in the service everyone goes into a meditation and you listen and you really ask God ‘what are you telling me about this next year, what is coming up for me?'"

The letters are then sealed and mailed back to members later in the year to keep everyone accountable for their changes they wanted to make in their life.

"We have a special prayer chest and we pray over these all year," she said. "What we are doing is shifting our energy from 2010. Then we really shift it into where we want to go to. It's not so much as a new year's resolution but what do we want to get rid of and what we want to replace it with?"

Emilie Cook, who has instructed yoga in Gainesville for four years, believes that through yoga and meditation your body and mind will be more connected, which supports everyone spiritually.

"(Yoga) is not religious, but I think it supports all religions and all spiritualities," said Cook, who has practiced yoga herself since 1996. "That's one of my favorite things about yoga; it's not just an exercise, it's an entire mind, body, spirit thing.

"Because yoga meets you where you are, not just physically but emotionally, mentally. The more you do yoga the more the mind will settle down and then the body will start to do what you want it to."

Cook added that with any new resolution or goal for the new year it is important to take it slow and don't put too much on your plate.

"I think you have to do baby steps and you have to forgive yourself if you mess up," she said.

Cook and Magill-Lindquist both agreed that adding daily meditation also is beneficial on a journey to bring together the mind, body and spirit.

"Ideally I should be meditating in the morning and at night," Cook said. "You get into a zone where everything quiets down."

Added Magill-Lindquist, "You need to visualize while in meditation, that's what meditation is, getting a visual of where you are going."

In 2011, losing a few pounds and changing bad habits are many American's resolution, but to keep those goals throughout the year Magill-Lindquist did add a few tips.

"You may have a slip but don't beat yourself up, that part of the challenge of making the shift," she said. "Be gentle on yourself, get people around you that support you in the change.

"We all have the opportunity for change — it's called God's grace."