My 30 Day Challenge

So, if you're like me, all you've needed lately is a quick glance at Facebook to realize that there are a million and one challenges going on for users these days.

Currently in full swing are the 100 Days Happy challenge, and the #365Grateful challenge. I haven't jumped on board with the 100 Day Happy one, only for the reason that if you're grateful for something every day then happiness should follow right?

One challenge I have begun though is one you won't find on FB, or Twitter, or Instagram - unless you're following my feeds and random updates. On April 7th, my yoga studio - Bikram Yoga Red Deer - started the 30 Spring Cleanse Challenge. Essentially, it boils down to a pretty simple premise (in theory).  For 30 days straight, you do 30 yoga classes. So, you go to yoga once a day for a month, essentially.

Sounds pretty simple right? Think again, friend. Now, that isn't meant to sound discouraging. Trying to make it to 30 classes in 30 days is a noble endeavour - take it from someone who's trying. I decided to sign up for the challenge for a couple of reasons.

First of all, I had been gone from the studio for nearly a month. When the chaos of my life set in with starting a new job, I let my practice sit quietly on the back burner. If you think that yoga doesn't have any benefits, let me disabuse you of that notion right now. I got grumpier in the mornings, and I mean hell'a grumpy. I'd stumble like some prehistoric cave creature to the coffee machine and shoot daggers at any moving thing within a 10 foot radius. I wasn't sleeping as well I was before. I started eating really really bad food and felt like shit. I had lost a little flexibility, which I worked so hard for. So, I knew that the challenge was a good way to bring back the happier, peppier version of myself.

I also knew that in order to do this challenge, I was going to really have to prioritize myself and my practice. All too often I think we let taking care of ourselves sit on the back burner and we don't really think it's important. Well, it IS important. I can attest to the benefits my practice has taught me, and the lessons you will get out of every single class. It doesn't matter that you're doing the same 26 postures every day because every day is different and we face countless struggles, stressful situations, highs and lows every day and how we mentally prepare for each class will be different. I knew from the get-go, that I was really going to have to focus on just even getting to the studio. And sometimes, just getting there and showing up in that hot room, lying on your mat is a victory in and of itself. Those 10 minutes before class, where I'm just lying on my mat, eyes closed, and trying to relax might be most difficult 10 minutes of life. I have to learn to just let go of whatever it is I'm feeling, find something positive to anchor myself to and then just do my best in class.

And I can pretty much guarantee you that your "best" for every class will be different. For example, I will tell you about my expereince in Day 2 and Day 3 of my challenge.

Day 2 was one of my most difficult classes. Josh was guiding us through class. He's a born teacher and I think I'm safe in saying that I speak for everyone in the hot room when I say that he really pushes his students. He'll get us to hold posture for just a second long, an inch higher, pull a little harder, stretch a little further, breath a little deeper and when you're in Cobra pose or Camel the last thing you want to do is push and hold it there. I've somehow graduated to the front row - I think Jordyn put my mat down for me one day, the class was super packed and she looked at me and said "Trust me on your mat placement." So I did, and I haven't gone back to the second row because I didn't see why, after having such a good class with her - I usually do when Jordyn teaches. She really says things like "The hardest thing you will do in this room is deal with your own bullshit." and "I need to relearn some lessons, like how to relax in to life."

How can you not love that?! Anyway .. I'm wandering away from the point I'm trying to make.

Josh was teaching. And it was the first class I have ever had where, instead of coming out of it feeling better, I just got really, really angry. I mean "I'mma punch you in face, bitch!" kind of angry. It was awful! I felt like I was holding postures for.fucking.ever. I got caught quitting on camel before it had even started and swore a blue streak silently to myself. I may or may not have been secretly wishing Josh's demise. It was terrible. Every single button a possibly push to piss another individual off Josh pushed. I don't know why I was angry. It just happened. At the end of class I wanted to bolt out in to the parking and just scream. Failing that, I wanted to take my rage out on some poor unsuspecting pillow. Okay ... that's a slight exaggeration. What I'm trying to say was that I just really pissed off. And if that's what comes out in the hot room then so be it. Tomorrow will be a new day and you take it all one step at a time. But you know what, even after a shitty class like that, I still felt amazing in the morning.

So, Day 3 of my challenge rolled around. I was stoked for class. Trista was teaching and I hadn't been in her class in weeks and this woman also drops some major yogi wisdom in her classes like "You just have to trust in the process." So, there I was all proud of myself for being positive and getting a good center for myself before class started, with my mat and towel in the front row.

Before I say anything else ... let me say this. Being in the front row is hard. Why? Because of the mirror. You want to face your own bullshit? You want to really connect with yourself and block out everybody else? Stick yourself in front of that mirror for 90 hot, sweaty minutes and you'll very quickly realize that the only person who matters is you. The only person who is in control of anything is yourself, and when you can't be in control you'll also learn that that's okay too. You want to learn how to let go of ... everything .. and learn to love the way you look and how your body moves? Get in front of that mirror. Being in that mirror literally makes you make a reckoning with yourself. You wanna cry? Go ahead. Nobody but the mirror sees, and you probably aren't the only one who's crying anyway.

Being in the front row, personally speaking, also means that you are taking your practice seriously and that your acting as an example to the new members that might find themselves sharing your class. At least, that's the expectation I put on myself anyway .. I have to lead by example, if I'm going to be in the front row. I feel like I have a responsibility to others behind me when I'm in the front. And maybe it's wrong of me to put that expectation of myself on my own shoulders but there it is.

Being in front of the mirror also means you have a lot more to be distracted by and it's really hard not to get caught up in what's going on behind you. Case in point: we're doing eagle pose last night, and we're nearly done and so close to the water break that I practically taste it when what happens? For a split second I loose my concentration. I'm watching a girl behind me out of the corner of my eye in the mirror, flinging her leg over the opposite one to get herself into the posture properly - which I can really only describe as being pretzel like - when what do I hear but this ugly, nasty, grinding crunching noise come from my right knee.

Oh fuck.

It HURT like a sonoffabitch. But, I'm in the front row I tell myself. You can't quit. Do what you can and don't push yourself too hard. That's what I try to tell myself. Meanwhile my brain is trying to get me to quit, and run away. And it very nearly succeeded. Still, I hung on for a couple of more postures before limping out of class. I grabbed a juice box from the fridge, wrapped myself up in my towel and put the juice box on my knee. (Don't worry, I bought the juice box afterwards.) I suspected Trista would come out when class had reached the first savasana, and she came out and asked what happened. She knew, instantly, that I was getting ready to quit and just go home. I think that my gym bag next to me on the bench was a dead giveaway.

It always amazes me, and totally inspires too, when someone who only knows you through a yoga practice has more confidence in my own abilities than I do. So, I got up. I went back in the hot room and did what my body would let me do. Did I get a little emotional and overwhelmed at the end? I did, but who cares? I won't be the first or last person that happens to.

So, the start of my 30 Day Challenge has been ... difficult, to say the least.  But it just goes to show that the dialogue in the room serves a purpose. It isn't just your yogi, stood there for 90 talking and listening to the sound of your own voice. No. You get in that room and you listen to that dialogue because it makes you stay present and in the moment. The mirror reflects back the consequences of your actions, and sometimes it may take a while to see those consequences or results, but sometimes the results are immediate. Literally, the second you check out, mentally, from that room the mirror will show you what happens, and I'm here as a testament to it.

So, if the dialogue says to lock your knee - lock it. Don't move, don't even blink your eyes - listen. Lie in stillness (even with sweat dripping in your ear) - lie in stillness. Breathing always normal, in and out through the nose - breath normally.

The words serve a purpose. Take them literally. Take your practice seriously, but also remember not to take yourself too seriously. Learn to love and learn to let go.

Trust in the process.
Deal with your own bullshit.
Everything you need, the body will provide.
Nothing bad will happen to you.
You will be stronger then your sweat. 


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