365 days and two weeks ago I stepped into my first yoga studio (and took my first yoga class since 2007). I had no idea what was in store that Sunday, but since that day, I’ve practiced 365 consecutive days and probably went to about 450 classes (I still need to count the exact number). This is a short reflection piece of my 365 days.
Daunting? In retrospect, absolutely. But I never thought about it in the moment. I learned to take it one day at a time.
At a studio? Almost entirely. But I did come to see the value in home practice as well.
Which studio? Core Power was my home studio. But I branched out quite a bit as well.
Hot yoga? Most classes were hot and above 90 degrees, but I didn’t focus on Bikram style.
How long were your classes? Studio classes ranged from 60 to 90 minutes. I typically spent 90 minutes for home practice.
By yourself? Yes and no. I went to the studio by myself a lot. However, when possible, I went with my friend Ruby. Last spring, I went a with my Teacher Training “omies” (e.g. kind of like homies but in yoga terms) when I became a certified instructor. During the 100 day Challenge, I went a lot with Leigh. And the last few months, I was lucky to find my amazing yoga partner B. We yogz together just about every day and it’s usually the highlight of my day.
Does teaching count? N/A. I don’t teach a permanent class yet but I hope to soon. But I did not include the community classes I taught or teacher trainings in my count. As many of you know, being a student and being a teacher can present very different challenges and opportunities.
What did you take away? A lot. But here are the first thoughts that come to mind, without too much polish to keep it as real as possible.
For me, the 365 days wasn’t about setting any streaks or personal records. In fact, I didn’t start day 1 with the intention of going for 364 more days. I was just taking advantage of my free week. I started with very different motivations.
Feeling Good. The first was that doing yoga just felt really good. I remember that feeling from the very first class. I’d never worked so hard and felt great physically but also still had a sense of calmness and relaxation afterward. This feeling did wonders when it was cold last winter and when my job felt stressful. It was also just different than my normal routine. After my first class with Maggie, I was immediately hooked.
Let’s Get Physical. There was also the physical motivation. At times, I’ve wished my initial motivations were more profound, but I honestly just loved the workout, the stretches, the heat and the physicality. A good sculpt class from folks like Conor at CPY is extremely physical. And good vinyasa class has proven to be a far better workout than so many of my other activities. I tend to get an aerobic and strength training workout. I love working into poses. And it can be so exciting when you finally nail inversions (thanks to Tricia for showing me what’s possible with inversions).
Looking Inside. At some point a few months in, my internal motivations also kicked in. I always love pushing myself, journeying into uncharted territories and trying out uncomfortable classes/poses to see how my body would respond. In yoga, I found that I enjoyed the challenge of taking on classes and poses where I might fail (I really don’t like falling or failing so yoga helps me get better at this) and where I can push myself to see what I am made of. Yes, physically but over time more mentally and spiritually. In the process I became more comfortable with falling out of poses, getting tired and doing things incorrectly. I still get embarrassed when I get tired and fall out of poses. And I especially get embarrassed when falling out of inversions/handstands and instructors ask me if I’m OK during the class (for some reason this always happens in Yasemin’s class), but I am learning to focus on the process as much as the outcome. And I try to think about where my boundaries are (the ones I’ve set mentally and the ones I’ve imposed on myself when I am concerned about what people think).
The Resistance. In the process, I’ve found the opportunity to be more honest with myself about some of the fears I have and where my resistance lies. The fears are some of the things I mentioned above – getting embarrassed when I get tired or fall. And the resistance is voice in the back of our heads reminding us of our boundaries. Telling us to back off or that we can’t do it. The one that makes us play it safe and care what everyone else thinks. The power of the resistance has been clear throughout the entire 365. In my first class when I was afraid someone would notice I hadn’t done yoga before. Three months in became apparent to me when I pushed through classes to prove that I was athletic enough to get through anything. A few months after that it was apparent when I wouldn’t try poses because I didn’t want others to see I couldn’t do it perfectly yet. So instead, I’d practice at home so nobody would see me fall. And then the same thing happened with handstand. I didn’t try my first one until about 10 months in. Even today, it happens with Feathered Peacock. My shoulders are naturally tight, and so the pose still challenges me in ways that no other pose does so often times I won’t try it in class.
And then again it happened on Day 366 when I decided to keep the streak going. After an incredible practice on day 365, day 366 may have been the hardest day I’ve had as a student. I got tired and came to my knees 5 minutes into class, I left class to get water, and I had to take more than a few timeouts. The irony is that I felt great before the class, far better than the last few weeks. Further, the classes in the days before were far more challenging. So why did I get tired this class? It was mental. I listened to the voice that told me I was tired, even when I had more in me. That told me, I was finished after 365 so I didn’t have to get through class today. Sure we should all listen to our bodies in yoga, but I was listening to my head. The challenge and opportunity with yoga then, is to quiet the resistance, which I’ve gotten a lot better at since Day 1. It’s been a gift.
Patience. Further to the point above, through the yoga postures, I am also learning to be more patient. You have to. Changes don’t usually happen right away. It takes time for change to settle in. This is true for most things but especially when you practice yoga regularly. In the beginning, you see the physical changes rapidly and for me that was a great motivation to keep going. But later the changes starting happening much slower and it started taking far more time and dedication. Unlike many sports (e.g. track, basketball or baseball) where you can measure results based on statistics and percentages, your yoga practice is more fluid and harder to measure. One day your body might feel great and you land a handstand but the next day you might not be as open and you might struggle with basic postures. I’ve had no choice but to be patient and trust the process. To be patient and OK with where my edge might be on any given day. The good news is, that patience and calmness has had a way of seeping into other things. For me and most people I talk to it helps with our jobs; our reactions with family members; interactions with significant others and yoga partners. I haven’t always been naturally patient but the last 365 days have done wonders for me and for that I am truly grateful.
Creating space. In many cases though, the things above were the easy part. Creating space was often the hard part. At first, making time to travel to the studio after a day of stressful work, sacrificing the time to do other things (including my blog), getting up at 5am to go to 6am classes, carrying around a full bag of clothing during winters felt impossible. But at some point, I realized that the hardest part is making up my mind. I remember when I did 100 days of yoga in 2013. The first 75 days were difficult. I scrambled to the studio most days, barely made it into class and still forgot my towel most of the time. But by day 76 everything was exactly the opposite. It was a lot harder to not go to class. To miss how good I felt. To mess up my routine. All because I committed to making space for it.
The idea of creating space also made its way into my personal life. When you don’t create space to find a new job, a true job search gets delayed. When you doesn’t carve out time to call their parents, you look back only to find you didn’t call nearly as much as you should have. And when someone doesn’t create enough space for relationships, things usually don’t work out either. For me, I committed to all of the above and committing to doing things every day did wonders.
The Power of Everyday. I’ve been doing a lot of research about the power of once a day. A past teammate and hero once said it best, that if you commit to doing something simple one time each day, at the end of the year you’ll turn your molehill into a mountain. Don’t get me wrong,everyday for 365 days is lot and it’s almost 20 times more than the 21 days they say it take to create a habit. But in some many areas of my life, I’ve seen that I didn’t achieve my goals when I couldn’t commit to every day. Checking Facebook less. Calling friends more. Cleaning out my email Inbox. In part because I never created new habits. But what I found over the past 365 days is that the discipline to do the hard work everyday (especially when you don’t want to) was the most relevant part. It adds up. One day at a time, one failed handstand at a time, and one drip of sweat at a time.
In the end, I think that creating space to do yoga every day has been a gift. One that has helped refine the way I think and act, in all the ways I mentioned above. I also feel better than I ever have physically. I focus more on how I feel that what others think about me. I feel lighter than ever and have a better yoga partner than ever. All reasons why I kept going after 365.
So on Day 366 and beyond, I am going to dedicate the next part of my journey to helping others. Help them try yoga for the first time, find their consistent practice and/or take yoga off the mat. I’ll be doing so as a student now, but hopefully as a teacher in the near future.
Thanks to all of those who were part of the journey. I am grateful and can’t wait to see what all of you do next.
“Find the light, spread the light, be the light.”