More Than I Thought

I had completed Day 6 when I decided to make it official and take it on as a 30-day challenge. I simply went to class one day, then showed up the next, then the next…you get the picture… and when almost a week went by it dawned on me that I should give it a try!

I had heard of others taking on 30-day challenges, but never really gave these notions too much thought. I mean, “Invest $10 a Day”, “Sleep Better”, and the old “Pomodoro Technique” challenge…sure, they are all worthy of a month-long commitment, but it would’ve taken me longer than 30 days to figure out where my first tenner would yield the best return. As far as sleeping habits go, I know I shouldn’t drink anything caffeinated after 2pm, but that’s not a vice I’m willing to part with, anytime soon. And the Pomodoro technique? Just a fancy name of a time management system that breaks work, chores, or activities into 25- or 50-minute intervals. Not necessary for me. You’d agree if you perused even one page of my daily planner.

No, the seeds of the endeavor I was embarking on were planted over the three years that I stretched, bended, and extended my limbs in a hot room with sweat oozing from my every pore. It started with the praise that was lavished upon those who survived 30 days in a row. The words spoken by our steadfast instructors were truly…inspiring! Then, it was the applause heard around the world from everyone in the studio – wow – a whole community offering up well-wishes. Talk about uplifting! And then there was the piece de resistance, the monetary reward – the equivalent of $75 – that would go towards future sessions. These enticements got me thinking. Should I…would I…could I…really do it? When I returned on Day 7, I never looked back. Well, except in camel and spine-twisting poses.

Unlike others bold enough to announce their intentions in class and out, I kept mum.  I told Robert, of course, but no one else until halfway through my trek. Maybe I was worried that I physically couldn’t last the duration. Maybe I thought it was a personal journey, not meant from shouting from the rooftops. Maybe it was the accountability factor. I just know I stayed quiet and journaled daily about my experiences. I even made a little project out of it, writing the day, date, feelings, and thoughts I had after each session on a little white tag that I planned to assemble into a collage when I had completed the final day. Such great expectations!

Some of the tags for my project

My challenge if you haven’t guessed by now, was 30 days of yoga. And not just any yoga. It was Bikram yoga. Hot yoga. Sweaty yoga. Pray you don’t pass out yoga. Renamed “the original 26 + 2”, this yoga was different from all others I practiced. Taking place in a heated room about 104 degrees Fahrenheit with 40% humidity, each posture or asana is done twice. Two breathing exercises called pranayamas are also included. One starts the 90-minute class and the other ends it. I was familiar with the flow of each session, but could I endure twenty-four more days?

The benefit of a 30-day challenge is that you really can achieve a goal in a month. Thirty days is long enough to see results and short enough not to be overwhelming. For me, attending class was just a small fraction of my day, so I could still follow my regular routine. However, any 30-day challenge has its…well…challenges!  Common reasons people don’t reach their goal are not planning ahead and considering obstacles that may come up, not having patience enough to go the distance, and losing interest along the way. Being the planner I am, I built in more down time each day to prevent getting depleted, physically and mentally. And already having had decades of practice, I knew I had the tenacity and desire, upping my chances for success. But still, it turned out to be a roller coaster ride.

From my journal: May 11 – June 4, 2010, London, England

DAY 6 – “Am a bit worried to commit for 30 days…Am I afraid of what others will say…”obsessive”…”crazy”. But maybe my friends would be supportive? I feel so much resistance. Is this normal?”

DAY 7 “While I want to do this 30-day challenge – I don’t want to look at the last day as the goal. I want to look at each day as a single day. I want to record and take notice of how I am feeling, my frame of mind, how my body feels, and how I feel overall..”

DAY 8 – “Had this thought in class…once anything becomes a part of your daily life it is not a big deal anymore, it becomes a part of you, part of your life…”

DAY 9 – “I still sweat so much but it doesn’t bother me like before…the heat almost feels comforting…”

DAY 10 – “Felt fluid – more flexible…got compliments on things I rarely get comments on – I am making progress!”

DAY 12 – “It’s a great detoxifier. It’s helping to keep my allergy issues under control. Other changes…my body feels lighter, stretching feels good, I’m more focused in and out of class, I can turn down the noise in my head better, my heart feels calmer, I feel more creative…”

DAY 14 – “Proud of myself for persevering. Am very sore and achy and tired. Mentally & emotionally I feel clearer…when writing thoughts flow onto pages….I feel more sensations in my body. Maybe this is just the way things unfold. Situations and people present themselves when you are ready to learn from them…”

DAY 15 – “This is wearing me down…yesterday I felt as if I was in a fog after class. Mentally I know I am strong – I have no doubt I will finish, but my initial enthusiasm is waning as I look at the days ahead…knowing I have to show up each day until June 4th... Ugh.”

DAY 17 – “Tired, but the flexibility in my body is being reflected in my mind. The changes I want to make in my life – I’ll look at them as adjustments.  Just like in yoga when we are in a posture, we can always make slight adjustments. The changes don’t have to be big ones, just slight, deeper, more aligned…maybe looking at changes as daily adjustments is good because I am always thinking in terms of just one way of doing things like they are permanent, but is anything permanent?”

DAY 18 – “…only 13 days to go, impressive!  It is hard at times, but so is life.  It’s how you deal with things that counts.  We all have tough times but it’s how we react and deal with them that is important.”

DAY 19 – “Words that came to mind in class today..compassion…focus…find stillness.”

DAY 20 – “19 days completed! I’m happy that the Richmond Yoga Studio exists for me to go to!  I feel lighter, taller…yoga gives me consistency and a feeling of wellness. All the negative things in my mind and body come out in that room. I leave feeling grateful I went. Like life – when things come at us, it’s great to have tools to deal with them. Once I’m in the studio I’m there…I’m okay. I made it. That’s the real challenge.”

DAY 21 – “I love learning about myself…I’m capable of more than I thought. It’s almost like getting to know another person…it’s great to discover there is more to me than I knew or let myself know.”

DAY 23 – “I was equating yesterday’s class to Mile 18 of a marathon.  It’s the hit-the-wall mile when you’re tired, hungry, thirsty, and sore but you are so close to the finish line. You know it’s there but you can’t physically see it. Class just took everything out of me…I panicked and had to slow my breathing, I felt like I was suffocating.  It’s good to have a “kick your butt” day to appreciate the other days and to inspire me to get through it and move on.”

DAY 24 – “My usual tired state has become ‘relaxed calm’, my new normal. I love what I am learning – I love my decision to stick with something and just get out of my own way…”

DAY 25 – “Yoga is giving me a place to feel safe.”

DAY 27 – “Back from class, having a very low day. Sad. I keep telling myself I’m so close! Keep going! Mental strength! Great Job! Persistence Pays! Unwavering Determination! I can do this!”

DAY 28 – “Class so was challenging – blah!  What am I working through? Whatever it is I need to let it go…Just like in yoga, once you do something, let it go, release it and leave it on the mat.”

DAY 29 – “In 24 hours I’ll have achieved my goal! I have set up a massage for after class tomorrow– yay! I think mental strength and determination are really the most important things you need to achieve anything you want in your life. You can prepare your body for physical challenges, but you still need to persevere in your head. If you can visualize it, you can do it.”

DAY 30 – “I kind of feel like its Christmas day. A day you anticipate for so long and when it arrives –you enjoy it – but it’s over like that! It’s also like the first day of school – I’m nervous, excited, and anxious to start!”

June 4th was indeed a day for celebration. Hooray – I made it! Our instructor that day was Natalie, a new teacher in our studio. When this session ended, she made the announcement that someone in class had just completed their 30-day challenge. She talked about the time and effort it took to do it. Natalie spoke of how it changes someone on all levels. She went on to say that someone should be so proud. And at last Natalie said, “Congratulations, Sharon, well done you!” while she pointed – not at me – but at Wendy! The class erupted into cheers and as we exited, those who knew me, came up to say congratulations. It felt good. Actually, great. Yes, the accolades were appreciated but more important was what I learned in those 30 days. Mainly, I am capable of more, much more than I ever thought possible.

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