Striking a pose to usher in a healthy new year on a natural high

New Year welcome: Masha Gorodilova with her yoga class at South Melbourne.
New Year welcome: Masha Gorodilova with her yoga class at South Melbourne.

ON MONDAY night, as the bulk of Melburnians pull together outfits for celebratory drinks on the town or backyard get-togethers with friends, yoga instructor Masha Gorodilova will be rolling out her yoga mat before a full studio of like-minded devotees.

''Not everyone wants to get drunk and hang out in the city,'' said Ms Gorodilova of the popularity of her scheduled New Year's Eve class, beginning at 10pm in the Power Living South Melbourne studio.

''Here, it's your own journey - a time to connect with yourself and place an intention for what you want this year to become.''

The class is representative of a growing band of the city's inhabitants who are seeking more from the momentous calendar occasion than a hangover and a series of hastily made resolutions.

Within Hawthorn's Augustine Centre, Jarek Czechowicz will be leading a non-denominational evening of music and meditation for about 100 attendees, culminating in a chant of om as the clock hands cross in to the first few minutes of the year 2013.

It is an evening of celebration that began in Mr Czechowicz's backyard back in the early '90s before growing crowds forced him to find a larger venue in 2003.

''In a way, these programs are a return to simplicity,'' the musician ventures. ''Because we don't have any drugs or alcohol, the high that you experience is a very natural high produced by the chemicals in your own body. It's about getting in touch with your natural happiness and the peace that is available to you at all times.''

Organisational and social psychologist Dr Josephine Palermo says alternative celebrations such as these are a sign of the ways in which Australians are seeking to bring meaning into their lives outside of traditional religious frameworks.

''We are turning away from institutions like religion to give us meaning so a lot of people are looking to something else to help them understand the world around them,'' Dr Palermo explained.

''In that way a lot of people are turning to alternative ways to view the world, and that may be seeking some meditation or some yoga to kind of get closer to - not just a healthier way of life - but a more comprehensive understanding of the world around them.''

She believes the growing presence of this kind of thinking in everyday life leads people towards a desire to incorporate these new patterns of behaviour into significant events marking our life within the calendar.

''These people are not necessarily 'wowsers', they just want to have an experience where they are very present and very connected. And some feel that alcohol can take you away from being able to have that practice,'' Dr Palermo said.

Certainly those comments ring true for yoga devotee Janine Gaddie, who is signed up and ready to greet the new year in downward dog.

''New Year's is New Year's and people build it up to something, but it's the same stuff all the time,'' Ms Gaddie reflected.

''I would prefer to be on the mat and connecting to myself and to others and experiencing something beautiful rather than getting written off.''

This story Striking a pose to usher in a healthy new year on a natural high first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.