Thirty days have come and gone and I can say that I have successfully completed my 30 day Yoga Challenge. I did at least some form of yoga every day! Some days I cut it pretty close to the wire, practicing after 11:00 pm, but I did manage to make it happen every day! The impetus for this challenge actually was not about the practice of yoga for me necessarily, it was about consistency. There are many other practices in my life that I’ve been struggling to do with the regularity that I’d like, and this has been an issue for me for what feels like my whole life; practicing voice and piano, writing, songwriting, reading, exercising, eating greens, drinking enough water, you name it, I’ve probably told myself I would do it every day and sorely disappointed myself by not following through. I decided that yoga would be the vehicle to practice consistency because it has been part of my life, on and off, since I was about fifteen years old. Obviously it has not been a consistent part of my life for all those years (if it was, I wouldn’t be doing this challenge!) but it’s something I always come back to. Below I’m going to share with you what I gained over the course of the thirty day and what I will be embarking on next in my life, and sharing with you here!
What did I gain from the challenge?
A great start to the day – I made it a priority to practice yoga in the morning nearly every day. Practicing in the morning makes me feel clearer, both physically and mentally. It is a chance for me to tune into my body, move with my breath, and get out of my head. I literally feel the fresh blood and energy flowing through my body. My spine is very grateful for this practice – I didn’t really realize how stiff I am when I wake up! I hold a lot of tension in my neck and shoulders, so starting the day with shoulder rolls, neck stretches, cat and cow pose and a few sun salutations helps me feel relaxed, limber, strong and flexible. Even just doing those few poses or series of poses is an act of body care that I didn’t really realize I was neglecting. I always feel a sense of relief and release when I go into my first downward dog pose of the day; it’s when I start to really tune into my breath and feel the blood flowing through my body. I feel the strength in my arms and shoulders and the much needed stretch in my calf muscles. Although my practice tends to be short, usually ten to fifteen minutes, it really does improve the state of my mind and body for the whole day.
Motivation – Literally the day after I started my thirty day yoga challenge, I decided I would start a writing practice as well. I started doing morning pages every day. The technique comes from “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. It’s very simple; you write three pages, front and back, every morning, ideally first thing (I will touch more on the thirty days of writing in another post). Simply setting the intention to do yoga every day motivated a new writing practice as well. I think subconsciously I decided to embark on the writing challenge at the same time as the yoga challenge because I wanted to marry a physical practice with a mental/emotional practice. By completing these two activities in the morning, I felt clearer and more confident in all the other tasks I have coming up in the day. Even if I had an “off” day, feeling low, or not in a great place mentally, writing and yoga were at least two things I could do to feel clearer and know that at the very least I accomplished two things that are important to me. I am more likely to get more done after, but even if I don’t, I don’t feel as bad as I would have had I not done those two things.
The Value of Consistency – The whole goal of this challenge was to develop consistency. It’s something I’ve struggled with every habit I’ve ever tried to develop. Obviously this isn’t totally true; I brush my teeth, wash my face, and feed myself every day, so I can do some things consistently (haha). By practicing every day, I realized what I was missing when I didn’t do it! I didn’t actually miss a single day of yoga or writing, but there were a handful of days that I didn’t practice yoga until the evening, and there were a few days that I only had time to write one or two pages instead of writing three full pages front and back. These were days that I really noticed that my mood was lower, my body felt stiffer and uncomfortable, and my motivation wasn’t as high. I think this taught me the value of consistency because I noticed the benefits of my practice when I didn’t make time for them. It shower me that doing something every day creates benefits are cumulative and they compound over time. Sure you might not notice the benefit of doing yoga after one session, but you really start to feel the difference in your body after you’ve done it every day for two weeks!
Support and Strength – I was lucky enough to have two accountability partners for this challenge, my mom and my friend Josh. They did their own thirty day challenges. For my mom it was reading; something non-fiction and something in French, and for Josh it was exercising and meditating every day. I was very happy to have two people I could check in with, to support and to receive support from. It always helps to be held accountable for your actions and to encourage others making the effort to develop healthy habits. I feel like I’ve also developed more strength within myself. I have more strength of will; I don’t want to let my accountability partners down and most importantly, I don’t want to let myself down by missing a day of practice. Beyond flexing my mental strength through commitment and motivation, I do also notice that I’ve developed more physical strength. I can certain poses much longer and with more ease than before and I can see more tone in my muscles. Physical changes or “gains” definitely were not the motivation for this challenge but it they are a nice perk.
What’s coming up next?
I’m going to continue to practice yoga and writing every day – my next goal is 60 days of writing and yoga! I will check in again after Dec. 12th to let you know how I do. I also do have another challenge planned specifically for this holiday season. I’m going to do a 50 days of No Spending starting Nov. 16th to Jan. 4th. I will share more about this challenge and what it entails in an upcoming post. Also coming shortly is a post about Creating Rituals to Overcome Resistance, as well as an interview with my friend Josh to let you know about his experience with the thirty day challenge. Let me know if you’ve been working on developing your own practice and whether you’ve embarked on, or would like to embark on a thirty day challenge of your own.