The True Challenge (Yoga Challenge: Day 24)

I took another rest day today. It got me thinking what the meaning of “rest” is in this context.

On a busy day of work, yoga offers me a break from my computer, from staring at that bright screen and from words, in general. If I can turn that part of my brain off for even just a hour, it is a welcome alternative. And yet right now I find myself taking the time to write about Day 24 of this yoga challenge when what I really need and want is a break from the old MacBook. In that way, the challenge of writing each day about the yoga challenge has become a practise of its own.

I have to come to my Mac in the same way as I come to the Mat. With intention, focus and a desire to learn and share.

My other yoga teacher.

Lesson from Day 24

I’ve learned an important lesson through this whole challenge and that is that the true yoga challenge really exists off the mat. My time on the mat has given me valuable skills to take into my life, into my career, my day-to-day activities and my relationships. I’ve posted about each of these aspects throughout this yoga challenge.

So, my challenge to you is this: In what areas of your life could you be taking a “yoga challenge?”

© Meghan J. Ward, 2011.

Love Your Practise (Yoga Challenge: Day 22)

Sometimes it’s as simple as that.

Just love your practise. Otherwise, don’t bother with it. Yes, it will be hard sometimes. You might be sore. Your mind might start fighting off its own mental chatter. But, love your practise like it’s a deep tissue massage (which it is).

Most of us look forward to massages because, even though they may be painful in the moment, it is always better for us. Even the next day might be sore, but we would be worse off without it. I’ve discovered that this is how yoga is for me. It’s a chance to pamper ourselves, challenge ourselves, flush out some toxins, de-stress and grow to be better people all at the same time. I don’t think I’ve quite found something that replaces what happens on the mat, other than some yoga next to my tent after a long, rigorous hike in the backcountry.

Lesson from Day 22

We’re coming around to the last week of the yoga challenge now. I can hardly believe it. And while I’ve already been at it for 22 days now, I’d like to go in this last week with as fresh as slate as the first day I started. There is still so much to learn and to learn to love about yoga and I don’t want all the ups and downs of the previous days to influence my practise too much.

I have learned so much through the challenge already and also begun to put some of those lessons into practise. But, there is something to be said for approaching the mat like I never have before.

I need to learn to love yoga – again and again.

© Meghan J. Ward, 2011.

Finding Routine (Yoga Challenge: Day 18)

It should not be challenging to get to your mat. The challenge should begin once you are on your mat.

This is something our instructor spoke about today after class as we were all discussing the benefits of this 30 day yoga challenge. He mentioned that one thing that people often learn with a challenge like this is that it is possible to make time in your day to go to yoga. It’s all just a matter of choice. I find it’s true – before, I would look at my week and see where I could fit a few classes in. Now I look at my week, a week in advance, and decide when I’ll go to yoga. I do this before my week fills up.

I’ve been wondering lately what kind of routine I’ll get into once this yoga challenge is over. While I’d love to have a six day practise, I’m not sure if it’s what’s best for me. I’m a (bit of a) perfectionist and if I set out to go six days and I end up doing four, I might be disappointed in myself. I know I’m better off setting my expectations a bit lower and, if I manage to do six, than all the better. I’m not sure if this defeats the purpose of a disciplined practise. Anyway, I’ll keep thinking about this during the last 12 days of the challenge. My thinking now is that I’ll just try to go as much as possible.

The other area I would like to explore is a home practise. Yes, a home practise! This is a big leap for me. I know the postures and I am excited to begin exploring this option more.

Lesson from Day 18

Whatever I decide to do, the most important thing to keep in mind is that getting to yoga should be the least challenging part of my day. With this challenge I have found that the task of carving yoga into my schedule is no task at all. I simply have to, want to, get there. Once on the mat, I can decide how deep I want to take the practise and what I am searching for that day. This involves checking in with a few areas, such as how I’m feeling, where my balance is at, what the moon cycle is and what I am working through in my life in that moment.

Check in. Where are you at? How will this alter your yoga practise today? Think about it for a bit and then go with the flow.

Yoga today might not go into any postures at all, other than seated Pranayama. And that’s perfectly fine.

© Meghan J. Ward, 2011.

The Up-Tick (Yoga Challenge: Day 14)

Halfway through.

Back when I was a Drama Major at Queen’s University, one of my professors explained how one of the major differences between a comedy and a tragedy is the “up-tick” at the end. Otherwise, comedies -à la Shakespeare and Molière – are like tragedies and are not always hunky-dory the whole way through.

Let me explain.

Like a comedy, a tragedy starts on the up-swing, reaches a high-point and then things start to go sour. Conflict arises over time and, as we know, the story ends in tragedy (think Romeo and Juliet). In a comedy, however, the formula is the same, but at the end of the play there is always an ‘up-tick’ – a resolution, lesson learned or a happy occasion (such as a marriage).

 

Comedy versus Tragedy

So, why am I writing about this as I reflect on a yoga challenge?

This all goes to say that this yoga challenge is starting to “up-tick” for me. No doubt, the struggles I’ve been experiencing since Day 4 have brought me to a place of deep reflection and introspection. The high energy I had embarking on this journey – we’ll call a “script” for comparison’s sake – suddenly went on a downward trajectory. But, now I feel that I am rising out of it. Not physically, mind you, but mentally and emotionally.

It’s not to say that my experience with this yoga challenge has for even an instant been “tragic,” but it has definitely knocked me off my rocker. I feel like I’ve been through yoga’s version of military bootcamp. For me, it has been mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting and actually quite disconcerting. I’m not back to normal just yet, but I’m confident that when this thing is over I’ll be a better version of me than when I started out.

Lesson from Day 14

At first I didn’t fully attribute my sore muscles, nausea, stomach pains, headaches and mood swings (yes, it has been that bad!) to this yoga challenge. But, through conversation with a few people, it has become obvious that this process of flushing toxins from my body has manifest itself in all of these ways. I have been so humbled by how my earthly vessel has reacted to a more disciplined practise. All the unhealthy things I have fed to my body – stress, food, caffeine, busyness – have come seeping out of my pores.

So, treat your body as a temple. Don’t feel you “can’t eat this” or “can’t do that,” but be prepared to take the necessary measures to flush it out eventually and bring your body back to all its shiny goodness. That stuff won’t come out on its own.

When you do, be ready for a slight downward spiral as your body adjusts. Then wait in anticipation for the up-tick.

© Meghan J. Ward, 2011.

When Is It Too Much? (Yoga Challenge: Day 8)

I don’t recommend doing an Ashtanga class after a 15 km ski tour when you’re already not feeling well.

Nevertheless, I wanted to go. I wanted to push myself to get out that door and on to my mat. I don’t regret it, but I don’t recommend it.

It got me wondering: when is it “bad” to do yoga? So often I think of yoga as a magic elixir that can cure all pain, heal old injuries, soothe any anxieties while making me more aware of all the other things I need to work on. For the most part, this is what I love about it. But, when is too much too much?

It’s not that I felt absolutely awful coming out of the practise today, but my instructor told me I looked awful and that I should go home and rest. Did I unnecessarily push myself tonight? Probably. I probably wouldn’t have gone if it wasn’t for this 30 Day Yoga Challenge.

At the same time, I had one of the strongest practises tonight since we started the challenge (until the last 5 minutes when I wanted to curl up into a little ball and never wake up again). I felt my flexibility and balance coming back after my month away from the studio over Christmas. I also think it was a strong practise because I was finally focused 100% on the practise itself. I felt humbled today by how “off” my body was feeling, and I surrendered to it.

Lesson from Day 8

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how you felt yesterday, how solid your practise was compared to today or what progress you’re making. Each day you come to the mat is a new day. Ask yourself, how am I feeling in this very moment? And that is where you are. Push a little harder if it feels right. Take a step back if it doesn’t.

Most of all, make it your own practise and don’t feel badly if you miss a day.

© Meghan J. Ward, 2011.