July Feature: The Beginning Yoga-thon

Living Mindfully

30 days. 30 yoga classes. Zero experience.

That about sums up the month of July for me. Call me crazy, stupid or brave, but I’m about to embark on a 30-day yoga-thon challenge at Yotopia, Covent Garden — knowing next to nothing about it!

Taking The Plunge

Yoga is something I’ve been intrigued by for some time. Who wouldn’t want to do something that helps tone your body, makes you more flexible and helps your mental state while you’re at it? Unfortunately it’s something that’s managed to remain on the ‘to do’ pile for some years now – always one reason or another getting in the way.

I work in theatre — the admin side of things, not performance — and I’ve met countless actors who swear by yoga. As actors, they have to be different people every day, and they say that doing yoga helps keep them centred. Alas, working in the theatre industry in London also lends itself to erratic hours and erratic pay, the combination of which means a proper routine at a studio has remained a distant dream.

Everyone at work recommends it, and there was a line in a recent show that hit home: the ‘old-and-out-of-shape’ character mentions how he can’t even bend over and touch his toes. He’s definitely not the only one… and sitting cross-legged ends up looking more like upright foetal position for me. I guess I’m trying to say I’m a little bit tense. Watching that scene was a bit a kick in the butt for me (as was seeing some of the gobsmackingly acrobatic choreography) and it made me realise I needed to make active steps to make a change in my body.

It’s taken a little while to get here, and I’m not expecting to be able to do a one-armed handstand after a month, but with the wonderful help of Yotopia I’m hoping I can find a way to loosen up my body and mind and become a happy fledgling yogi!

Conquering The Self-Doubt

Ask any of my friends, and they’ll agree that I can be a rather anxious person. However, I have reached a point where I’m happy to admit when I’m unhappy or uncomfortable. For a long time I wasn’t – I internalised everything, and spent a long time thinking I was crazy and that there couldn’t be anyone else who felt the way I did. In recent years I’ve learnt that my crazy isn’t all that crazy.

I’ve learnt to ask for help when I feel like I need it; I attended therapy sessions during university, but quickly discovered that it wasn’t for me. I wouldn’t consider myself unhappy at this point in my life, but I am fine admitting that I’d like to take positive steps to alter some less-than-positive thought processes. I tend to get inside my head and get trapped there – over-analysing and picking things apart before they’ve even happened.

I’m very lucky to be surrounded by some great friends whose positivity is enough to penetrate a variety of my neuroses. I know I’m not the only person out there who needs alone time, but I’m trying to make sure that when I’m surrounded by people they are the right kind. One in particular has been living by the ‘do something every day that scares you‘ rule, which this challenge certainly does. So here I am!

What Is The Challenge?

For the month of July I will be in a yoga class every day. I’m no stranger to being thrown in the deep end — like when I got a job in a call-centre to get myself over my mild phobia of phones — but that doesn’t make it any less scary. I can already foresee some obstacles, like my Dad’s 60th birthday forcing me to be creative with my schedule, or a few days of, “Oh my, why did I sign up for this?” Still I remain confident that once I get into the swing of things I’ll be gunning for more once the 31 days are over.

When I was first conscripted for the challenge, my first stop was the internet for some guidance (ah, the 21st Century). I didn’t realise just how many varieties of yoga there were! Articles aimed at beginners were really rather reassuring, and reminded me to take it at my own pace and not to compare myself to various friends who’ve been practising for years.

Another thing I’ve noticed is the most yoga practitioners I see are women. I do have a few male yogi friends, but they seem to be comparatively few and far between. Some people say that’s because yoga is known as a ‘girly’ activity, but to me that’s ridiculous. (That being said, I had quite an impressive Barbie collection as a child, so maybe I’m not the right person to comment here.) Hats off to the guys latching onto the bro culture and coming up with Broga initiatives – it does seem image counts big time.

It reminds me of when pen company BiC released ‘BiC for Her’, resulting in an onslaught of highly entertaining and sarcastic reviews on Amazon. On the other hand there are folk like the fine gents over at OHMME, championing the male yogi and crafting yoga clothing specifically for men. They suited me up for the challenge (and photo shoot) so we like them. To me, exercising your body and mind is a positive thing, but you need to find which suits you best. If I can inspire a few more guys — or anyone for that matter! — to sign up and join me in trying yoga then all the better.

Care To Join Me?

July is going to be a huge month for me, and it would be great if as many people as possible could join in! Has it been a while since you’ve gotten into class? Or do you know someone who’s always kind of wanted to do yoga, but never had an excuse to start? Well this is it, and we can even offer you a deal!

If you’re in London, the people at Yotopia even offered an exclusive deal for the first 20 Zen Monkey readers who join me! For the month of July, they’re extending their regular intro offer and you’ll get 31 days of yoga for £35! Simply quote ZEN MONKEY when you’re speaking to the friendly reception staff! If you’re not in London, you’re still welcome to commit to 31 days of yoga at your local studio.

If you want to join in, just let me know in the comments below! I’ll be writing every week about my journey and I’d love to receive your support by hearing about your experiences. Namaste! (That’s what yogis say, right?)

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