I recently completed my annual thirty day yoga challenge with myself! This is the second year that I opt’d to challenge myself to sign-up at a studio and go to thirty classes in thirty days.
It brings me great joy to be able to share with you the findings of this ongoing experiment. And, to inform you that I will in fact keep this experiment going.
I started practicing yoga ten years ago. Prior to that, I had attended one yoga class when a colleague invited me. I hated it. My colleague was a former ballet dancer and looked so graceful on her mat. I couldn’t hold a pose and felt as though the class would never end. I left and vowed to never (ever) attend a yoga class again.
Fast forward a few years, I was a member at a little YMCA in Arlington, Texas. I worked out religiously at the YMCA. One particular evening, I decided to find a class instead of hitting the equipment in the gym. The only class that was available was a yoga class. Against my better judgement, I entered the room, found my mat, and have never looked back. Yoga has become a regular part of my life now and I could not imagine my life without YOGA.
But, my yoga practice has changed during the course of the last 10 years. I remember a time when I could not handle the thought of a practice that did not have some form of spiritual wisdom for me to graciously slurp up in 1.5 hours. A class that did not end with a long meditation was not even yoga (even though I never enjoyed sitting meditation)
Yoga became a form of religion for me and in a sense the dogma that I once held around my religious beliefs held true on my yoga mat. Now, I realize that I like my yoga as I like my religion. – many forms, many ideas, many different movements, some with music, some without music, some in the heat, some without heat. The choice is always mine – to take what I like and leave the rest.
Last year, I challenged myself to thirty days of “hotter than hell” Bikram yoga. It was new and it was different. I had just returned to the country from 5.5 months of humanitarian work and traveling around India alone. My foundation had been shaken during my travels and it was DAMN cold when I returned to the states. Thus, I loved the heat of the Bikram rooms. I also loved the fact that since my sleep patterns had been totally high-jacked upon my return (waking up at 3AM each morning) – Bikram was available at 5:30 each morning (it was warm and it was early). And, in many ways – I loved the fact that it was so structured. The same poses done in the same sequence each time for ninety minutes was comforting. The world around me has been spinning around so fast – but, for ninety minutes of a given day – I knew exactly what I was to do. I knew deep inside that Bikram and I were not destined for a long term relationship – but, I enjoyed the hell out of the thirty days. Bikram is not for everyone (including myself). But, I truly respect and honor those that are drawn to the practice.
On the 29th day of my thirty day challenge with Bikram – I was so exhausted when I climbed on my mat at 5:30 a.m. – I went through the first series of poses – then, promptly laid down in savasana for the remaining 60 minutes of the class (something I had never ever ever done in my life). I was DONE! I telephoned a friend following the class and asked if she thought It would be o.k. for me to count that 29th day – being that I had laid out in savasana for the entire practice. She confirmed that she was counting it as a class. But, then, day 30 arrived – I went back for two ninety minute class before calling it quits with Bikram. We were done. I was happy with the experience. Thankful for the practice and ready to be on my way.
So, this year – it was time to seek out and find my next thirty day challenge (which by the way are most notably found by the big sign hanging out front that says – 30 DAYS FOR $30DOLLARS). And, it might not come as a surprise that my life was in another major transition when it was time to embark upon the next 30 day challenge. We arrived in Boulder on February 01, 2015. We knew no one and had no definite plans upon our arrival in Boulder (this has become our new normal and we love it!).
This year it was thirty days of BAPTISTE yoga! I have to share with you – I LOVED every single moment of Baptiste (even considered becoming a monthly member – commitment not made at the time of this writing – times, they are changing)! Bikram has many elements of all the lineages of yoga that I have ever partaken in and enjoyed the fruits of. It had moderate heat (not the temps of a Bikram room), but enough to really make you sweat. There were some elements that were always the same – thus, you knew that at some point during the practice, you’d get to said pose – But, it allowed the teachers the flexibility to add their own flavor and style (which I loved – it wasn’t a cookie cutter with the same things being said over and over).
I enjoyed the wisdom of all the teachers and tried my best to get to classes offered by each and every teacher without becoming attached to certain teachers. I gave myself permission to go at different times to shake up the routine – some weeks I went to the 6:30 a.m. class, some weeks it was the noon class – I gave myself FLEXIBILITY.
So, I will share with you 10 great things that came from my 30 days on the mat.
Without further adieu….
- Gratitude: It should be simple to wake up each day and just be thankful that I am alive. Alas, I forget this on MOST days. The gentle reminder of hearing the word “gratitude” always bring me back to the richness and vastness of my human experience.
- Checking In with ME: On one particular day, a teacher started the class by asking people to stop for a moment and check-in to see what they needed on this particular day. Without hesitation, my very first thought was calm the F*c& DOWN. Calm Down, Brandi. Life really isn’t as difficult as you sometimes make it out to be. This thought was immediately followed with an internal belly laugh!
- Taking time to notice the world: I watched the sun rise each morning as I drove to the yoga studio (on the days that I opt’d for the early a.m. practice). It amazed me how often I forget to simply stop and watch that beautiful sun make it presence known to the world. Whilst I was living in Bali, sunset and sunrise were two of my top priorities. I never missed either of them. But, life gets busy and I get forgetful. Then, one afternoon, I was out running through the mountains. I stopped and threw tear filled eyes admired the beauty and awe of the mountains.
- I can always come back to my breath: Life can be scary and overwhelming (as can holding a warrior pose for what seems to be an eternity) – But, I always have the option to slow down and come back to my breath – to give myself permission to stop what I am doing and take a breath.
- Community: As any good student of life knows – community is all around us – you simply have to be open to embracing it and engaging with it. I met some really great yogi’s during my thirty day challenge. I have met many great people in yoga studios and classes all over the world. Many of whom I still keep in touch with in some way.
- Making a Commitment and Staying the Path: My general nature is that of a Type-A machine — always searching for my next challenge. I equally love and loathe this part of me (but, it is me and I must find healthy ways to embrace these parts of me). Sure, there were days when I really didn’t feel like driving to the yoga studio and crawling on the yoga mat – But, I made the commitment with myself and I could not and would not allow that commitment to be dishonored. This is a valuable lesson that I take with me in all parts of my life. I often remind myself – I can do anything for XX amount of days – and, truth be told – I always felt like a TRUE ROCK STAR after every class that I took.
- Restore and Relax classes are just as good as POWER: I took several relax and restore classes during the thirty day challenge. I once held the belief that if you weren’t sweating and exhausted at the end of a yoga class – you must not have worked hard enough! I utterly and thoroughly enjoyed holding poses and taking time to breathe!
- Honoring & Acknowledging the teacher in all: It was a great honor to practice and hear the wisdom of each person whom lead a yoga class during my thirty day challenge. Each one of us bring such vibrant color, conversation and experience to the world. It was a true honor to be present and allow people to share this in community. To take the wisdom of each person who dared to sit in front of a class and be the guide. Namaste – I honor the wisdom in each of you.
- The great yogic reminder: I have tight hips. I may always have tight hips. Thus, there are poses that no matter how long I practice – I may never (EVER) master the pose. And, this. this is OK. 40 years, people! It has taken every single day of 40 years of being alive to be OK where I am and with who I am.
- Things Change. Perspectives Change. Do not resist the change. Honor where you are today: As I mentioned earlier, Yoga has been an evolutionary experience for me. My yoga practice has kept me grounded during some of the toughest times of my life and some of the most daring times of my life (arriving in a new country with my yoga mat). At one time, my yoga had become dogmatic. It had to be structured in a way that was catapulting me to enlightenment. My time was short here and I couldn’t be bothered with something that wasn’t moving the needle forward. Case in point, I used to get utterly and totally offended if a teacher would play mainstream music during a yoga practice – to the point of walking out of a class. – I realized the times of change had made there way onto my yoga mat when during my recent thirty day challenge – a great yogi walked in with a shirt that said: “Outlaw Yoga” on the front with skull and announced that he might have partaken in too many beers the night before – but it was time to get this “F&C****” yoga practice going! This great yogi shared some truly incredible wisdom in every single class that I partook with him. This great yogi infused some of the greatest music into some of the greatest mat time I have experienced. It was beautiful. It was different. And, I liked it.
My thirty day challenge is over. I am back on my mat with my home practice. And, I am ever grateful for the time and space that I participated in for thirty days. I love having a healthy home practice – it is incredibly convenient to be able to get on my mat at a time that suits me. But, there is much I will miss about being part of a community for 30 days. I am thinking of doing another 30 days with another totally new style of yoga.
Until then, being in great gratitude for the rest of my days is all I got.
Would love to hear from you.
Great Gratitude, Brandi J.