Lessons from 30 Days of Yoga. You WANT to Try it
By Anne-Marie Kovacs, Chief Wife
When I heard about people doing the “30 days of yoga” challenge, I rolled my eyes.Why would anyone want to do that?
Although I’ve been practicing yoga, (and I use the term loosely) for 20 years, it’s never been more than once or twice a week, just to stay limber and strong enough so that my lower back wouldn’t give out and so that I could touch my toes. That’s my measurement for what will hopefully save me from needing a walker when I grow older.
Still, after all this time, I hate to admit that I never “got” the whole mind-body-spirit thing, that much-touted benefit of yoga. To me, yoga has always been a workout. A good workout with the benefit of a nap at the end.
I never connected with the whole serenity, peace, clarity part of yoga. It just never happened for me. So then, what could possibly be the appeal of doing yoga every single day for 30 days?
Because – suddenly – my stress level became unmanageable. Broken relationships, financial trials, lost opportunities, teenage angst at home… The buildup over time was taking its toll and I felt chest pains I’d feared were heart attacks. They were only esophageal spasms, but this physical reaction was frightening enough to have me urgently seek some sort of mental and emotional peace. Perhaps yoga could be the answer after all?
I decided on a Sunday night and began the very next day – with a 6:00am class. Yeah. Why not make it even harder on myself?
I had certain expectations for my 30 Days of yoga. Even though I had never before managed to seek peace through yoga, I was hoping to learn to calm my mind and find some stress relief. I also had more measurable physical goals. Surely, after 30 days, I would become flexible enough able to have my heels touch the ground in downward dog and have my palms touch flat on the ground in forward fold.
Here’s how it all played out:
DAYS 1 to 10
When I look back now, nearly two months after beginning this experiment, I realize how wimpy I was during those first 10 days. I was consistently the first one in class to come out of poses – OK, abandon them — way before it was time. This was a level 1-2. Certainly I could handle that! Pfffttt. Within 3 days, e.ve.ry.thing hurt. Muscles, joints, ego… I used Day 5 and Day 10 for restorative yoga (that’s when the ego got hurt most though my aching body was extremely grateful).
My mind buzzed non-stop throughout class: “Why is it so bloody hot in here? I wish they’d turn on the fans. I hope that new client will sign. I’m going to need more yoga tops to make it through 30 days. How is that woman twisting and binding like that? She must have long arms. Shoot, I forgot to answer that email! It’s great to see that men are finally getting interested in yoga. ” and so on…
Within 10 minutes, I was “done” with the workout. What? I have to last a whole hour? Ugh.
DAYS 11 to 18
I was slowly getting “it”. I began to appreciate and understand the real meaning of instructions like “breathe to lengthen” and “melt into it”. These had been poetic recommendations before. Now, they were now actual manifestations of what my body was doing.
By Day 16, I felt much stronger, no longer the first – or the only one – to quickly relinquish poses. By Day 18, I actually wanted to be there. Even at 6 a.m.!
My mind was still churning for the first 15-20 minutes of class, but the remainder of each session was meditative, with a focus on the movements, the asanas, and my breathing, not on whatever was racing through my head.
DAYS 19 to 30
Things started happening.
Physically, my body was getting stronger. I could actually flow through the entire class now and not cop out half way through. I could see a difference in my muscle tone. Not quite Michelle O arms just yet, but you just wait.
Spiritually, it was like someone gave me a good slap and said “Here are some major Aha! moments. Would you please take a look?” Serendipitous events started happening, opportunities just falling into place and new ideas pouring in. I felt like my creativity had been a dormant volcano that was finally awakening. How cool!
Then Patti, a fab yoga teacher at the YogaView studio where I was taking my classes, confirmed it all by mentioning an article from her latest alumni magazine. Neuroscientific brain imaging has proved that the brain responds differently whether it is stressed or relaxed: “Professor Mark Beeman has found that when people are relaxed, they increase the chances of solving problems through insights.”
There is something to this mind-body and meditation thing after all!
AFTER 30 DAYS
And how did I do compared to my expectations for this challenge?
My palms are still not completely flat on the ground in a forward fold and my heels don’t quite touch the ground in downward dog. Oh well. But I told our adorable early morning teacher, Jolynn, that the one hour early morning class that seemed eternal just a few weeks ago – now feels too short.
But, I finally “got it”.
I got the whole mind-body thing.
I’m committed to continuing my practice four to five times a week. The benefits are just too huge, too gratifying, too transformative and too profound to ignore: my stress level is significantly reduced; my “heart attacks” have disappeared; I am stronger and small things like running up three flights of stairs in my house are now effortless, I feel more patient and loving and less Type A…
But best of all is the clarity and the hard-to-prove manifestations of creativity, synchronicity and serendipity. The “forced” meditation that comes about with a regular yoga practice is such a gift. When you clear your mind of the useless and stressful chatter, you make room for new thoughts and ideas. In these last few weeks, my motivation and the bounce in my step have returned. I have devised a new business plan, worked on the redesign of this website (release in the new year) and been plotting all sorts of new and exciting projects.
All that stuff that people say happens when you start meditating…it’s true. And I got to meditation through yoga.
It took a crisis and mock heart attacks to get me started. I’m so grateful for that. Today, the hardest part of yoga class was getting out of Savasana.