Ok, the title of this piece may be a little optimistic, but I really do think that we can challenge our way to a different life. A case in point is our Beginning Yoga-thon hero Rob, who this week is coming to the end of his challenge: attending a class a day for the whole month of July.
Get Inspired By Others
It’s been amazing to share his experiences as he charts the physical and mental highs and lows of the challenge. After learning three very useful lessons the week before, he successfully ignored ALL of them. He’s not alone. We might know what’s good for us, but it doesn’t mean that we necessarily do it; the doing is so much harder than the knowing.
His hard-won conclusion was that:
You never stop learning, and if you think you have you’re not trying hard enough.
Zen Monkey also ran another challenge for the month of June, the Zen Monkey Asana Challenge, where participants had to share their own photo of the pose for the day, every day.
Alexandra was one of those that took part in the challenge and has written about how, although she felt reluctant at first, this experience has made her feel part of a yoga community. She also finishes her article with a call to action:
…try something you are afraid of and you will reap tremendous benefits.
My Personal Challenge
My current yoga challenge (actually my teacher training homework) is to practice four times a week at home, as well as any classes I can get to. The sequences I am doing are ALL the Level Two poses, split into four sections of 11 poses. The first section includes the revolved standing poses, starting with Revolved Triangle Pose and gradually increasing in difficulty, ending with Revolved Half Moon Pose.
The first time I did them, I had a little cry at the end. I just felt a bit broken, especially as I was using B.K.S. Iyengar’s poses in Light on Yoga. Why could I not keep my hips from splaying out to the side when Mr. Iyengar’s legs were all neat and tidy? Why do I sway like a leaf in the breeze on my right side when my left is sturdy as a rock?
The second week when I attempted these poses I began with much lower expectations, “Just get into the pose and hold it briefly, inhabit it, if only for two and half seconds,” I pep-talked myself. This approach helped and I got to the end of my practice without any tears, and felt lighter.
However, last week I only managed three practices. This is partially due to having two young children at home for school holidays, having Nerf gun fights and making dens out of my yoga blocks. As Alexandra explored in her article, there is always a long list of excuses and mitigating circumstances and it’s just about finding a way through and past those distractions. One way of doing this is to set yourself a yoga challenge.
Yoga challenges are a way of channelling and focusing our energy to do something that will stretch and excite us, take us out of our comfort zones, and into (to quote my wise life-coach friend) an ‘achievement zone’! Here are three more reasons to set yourself or take part in a challenge:
1. Make Yoga Your New Good Habit
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
There’s a popular myth that it takes 21 days to form a new habit, although new research has shown that it’s more like 66 days. Either way, I think we can assume that if you can repeatedly do yoga for a month, it should lay the foundations of a new good habit.
There are lots of 30-day challenges out there, and some studios (like Yotopia in Covent Garden) offer an unlimited period for a discounted rate to let people try out their classes. This works well for both studio and attendee, as the practitioner gains a new habit, and the studio a new member. Plus, we all know that once we’ve paid for something, it gives us another reason to want to see something through…
2. Develop Your Yoga Community
Taking part in an online or group challenge is a great way of reaching out to other yoga practitioners. As Alexandra said, it was a way to “connect with others around the world,” at all levels of yoga. It’s also a way to involve our friends and family, and a way of letting them know that yoga is something that’s important to us now, something that we are prepared to commit time and effort to.
3. Kickstart A Home Practice
Many of us love going to one or two classes a week. We have got used to the teacher, the other students and there’s a comfort to the familiar routine as a part of our week. There’s nothing wrong with this. However, at some point, we need to take ownership of our own yoga journey, so it’s worth beginning a home practice. This is easier said than done. Our weeks are already full enough and the thought of fitting something else in, especially at home where there are so many distractions, is overwhelming.
This is where a yoga challenge can come in. You could start small and simply challenge yourself to do three poses four times a week. You could think big and aim to do an hour a day for a whole week or month.
Over To You
Feeling inspired yet? If you’re not sure where to start, try starting simply. Write down your goals, make a timetable and tick off the days as you go. Write about how you feel at the beginning and end of your challenge and chart your progress. Hopefully by the end of the challenge you’ll be ready to change your life to fit yoga into your week, not just as a passing phase, but as the habit of a lifetime.
…and then check back in with us and let us know how you’re getting on! We’d love to hear how your challenge has affected your practice!