I have been practicing yoga on and off since I was 18. Sometimes going years in between being on my mat. I always feel great while I am doing yoga, but life always seems to get in the way and self care has always been the first thing to go. So last month I challenged myself to do yoga everyday for a whole month. I have done this challenge before when I was younger, however, this challenge felt different. In the past it has been a very physical challenge. To push myself to new depths of strength and flexibility. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve become more gentle with myself and see my practice differently. Here is what I’ve learned:
- It’s OK to cry on my mat. Somewhere between the hip and heart openers, it happened. A few times actually. I laid there in Shavasana with tears coming down my face. I’m not surprised. There are many things that I keep buried through most of my daily life. But in the past year, I have made a point to face my fears. Yoga allowed me to reach down deep into both my body and mind and gently release of few of those fears. I called a friend after it happened and was relieved I wasn’t the only person it happens to. So I allow the tears to flow.
- Stop Judging myself! I know the mirror is there to help me with alignment, but some days I wish it wasn’t there. Some days I look in the mirror and think “Damn! I look cute today.” But there are also days where I am comparing myself to the other thinner students in the class. And let’s be honest, some yoga positions are not flattering. But every time that happens, it allows me time to let that negative thinking go and bring myself back to why I am on my mat…. to do yoga and not to judge.
- Appreciate the small changes. During one of my classes, the teacher was 8 months pregnant. Her practice was filled with so much grace and balance it was inspiring. I thought women who were pregnant were not supposed to be able to touch their toes or have good balance. And here she was floating back to her plank and still able to do inversions! Often teachers with say a pose, and then say “or you can do this harder variation”. And I giggle. Hopefully my amusement isn’t a distraction to my neighboring yogis. Maybe one day those things will be in my practice, but for now I appreciate the small strides I have made. Going a little deeper into a pose over time. Being able to keep my balance in a pose. Often when I am struggling in a pose I look around and it seems like everyone else is dong a much better job than I am. Yet when I feel strong I don’t look around to see who’s struggling. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. I may able to do something the yogi I admire next to me can’t. We are all on our own journeys, and for now I appreciate the tiny strides in my yoga practice.
- Child’s Pose makes me Happy. When I was younger I was constantly pushing myself. Sticking it out even when it was hard. Never give in! My favorite poses were the one’s that challenged me the most. It makes me happy to hear, “we will meet in child’s pose”. This past month I also allowed myself to surrender into Child’s pose when the class became too hard. I was able to do this by letting go of my ego. It is okay for me take a break while the rest of the class is flowing. I can catch up to them later. This is my yoga practice, and in my practice Child’s Pose makes me happy.
- Restorative & Yin Yoga is the best thing since sliced bread! In a world where we are constantly pushing forward to be our best, I appreciate the slow down. It seems even in yoga we are pushing ourselves. Some classes are equal parts yoga and workout, where I am sweating my butt off. Those classes are fantastic and very beneficial! But now I also appreciate those slow classes too. Where maybe I doze off for 5 minutes while we are in a pose. Even better is when the teacher comes along to do slight compressions along my spine. It’s like getting a mini massage!
- Reach for the Moon. In the end, I didn’t wind up doing yoga every day for the whole month. It was 5 or 6 days a week. But there were some days I did two classes in a row, with the second class being a restorative class. However, I didn’t consider the challenge to be a failure. I simply fell among the stars. I learned many things through the experience and how to further let go of my expectations.
- I feel like I’ve come home. I’m so grateful that I tried this challenge. More importantly I am grateful to have found such a nice studio so close to my house. I think it is important to keep trying different teachers and studios until you find one that you love. There are so many different types from Yin to Hatha to Kundalini. And there are many DVDs and videos online for you to try. I am going to keep yoga in my schedule- it’s not just a physical practice, but also allows for spiritual growth if you are open to it. I already signed up for 3 more months at Revival Yoga Studio. My goal is to do yoga at least 3 times a week, but I am just going with the flow.
PS. The above picture was taken when I was 26 at the Grand Canyon.