I go to the gym a lot. I may even be considered a gym rat. When it comes to working out, I can handle just about anything you can throw at me; anything except for my nemesis: yoga. I am a lot of things, but flexible is not one of them! 😉 For this reason, I’ve always had a fear and anxiety around yoga. I have tried it several times over the past decade, but not consistently. Every time I found myself struggling to get into positions and to hold them effectively without looking like a giraffe balancing on one leg. The fact that I always seems to be in a yoga room filled with what seemed to be former Cirque Du Soleil acrobats didn’t help my confidence either. So, I always got discouraged and walked away. But something always drew me back again. Deep down, I knew yoga would be something valuable for me. However it wasn’t until a client of mine asked me to support her by joining her in a 30-day yoga challenge that I ever really dove in. Here’s a recap of my experience and what I took away from it.
Day 1 – Day 6- Every one of these classes went the same for me. The first 15 minutes I was thinking “This is easy, no problem, I don’t know why I was hesitant.” The second 15 minutes, I was thinking “Ok, it’s getting pretty hot in here and my muscles are starting to shake. This is tougher than I thought.” The third 15 minutes, my only thought was “This has got to be over soon, this has got to be over soon.” And my last 15 minutes of thoughts went something like this, “Kill me now. Dear god- let shivasana start now. “The only day my thoughts differed from this outline was on Day 5 when there was a substitute running the class and it played out a bit like that yoga scene from Couples Retreat. I was too busy stifling my laughter to focus on my anguish.
Day 7- This day is very noteworthy to me because it is the first time I ended a class feeling like I could do more. It was such a wonderful feeling, I felt like skipping out of the gym!
Day 8- Day 14- This was a much better week for me. I started to feel a little more confident in the poses, like I might actually know what I’m doing and I didn’t spend the last 15 minutes of every class praying for death. I felt stronger and more confident and even chose not to hide in the back row at every class.
Day 15- This is the point at which I realized 30 days of yoga was a lot! I was starting to feel sore all over and like I might need a break. I spent the day considering taking the next day off. After all, it’s still 30 days of yoga if you do it in 31 days, right?
Day 16- Day 24- Well, I didn’t take the day off and I was so proud of myself for it. I pushed through and even worked the soreness out of my body. During the course of this week, this thought entered my mind several times” I kicked ass today! I’m getting pretty good at this.”
Day 25- Day 29- This is when it really hit me how long 30 days is. It was starting to feel boring. I was no longer intimidated by the class or its participants. I felt strong and confident. I felt more flexible than I’d ever been in my life (granted, that’s not saying much), but it was starting to lose its appeal. I was looking forward to being done.
Day 30- Not surprisingly, this was the best day. I felt so good about sticking with it and even better about my progress and I just rocked this class!
So, now what? What did I learn or gain from the experience?
FLEXIBILITY- This is a no-brainer and certainly something I expected to gain. But the degree was pretty remarkable. I am tall and disproportioned so touching my toes has never really been feasible. Not only did I improve in this area, I was now killing it in this area. I was able to do things that I used to laugh about when I saw others doing them. My line used to always be “I am nowhere near flexible” and I found I couldn’t use that line anymore.
SLEEP- This one surprised me, but I noticed over that 30 days that my sleep improved. I’ve always been a night owl and a sleep-as-late-as-possible person, but I found I was able to fall asleep faster and I didn’t need to sleep as long. Weekends were always about extra sleep (9-10 hours!) for me and I found I was easily waking up after 7 hours or so, without any alarm or need. I’m not sure if that’s a pro or not, since I love my sleep! But it definitely felt like it gave me more time.
TIME- This may sound silly, but I learned that 30 days of anything is a really long time! And because of that, I think what can be accomplished in 30 days is quite significant. Sticking with anything for this amount of time can cause a lot of growth or create massive improvements. If you want to learn something, tackle a fear, or just get better at something, this seems like a great way to accomplish it.
CALM- I am a busy person and always have a lot on my mind. I am always thinking, planning and running through my to-do list in my head. One of the reasons I have always loved the gym is because it was my time to get away from everything. But even at the gym, I’ve never truly been able to shut my brain off. With yoga, I actually succeeded at this. I’m not sure if it was the heat, the breathe focus, or simply to fact that I literally felt exhausted at the end of every class, but in that last few minutes lying in shivasana, my brain really shut off. It was a wonderful feeling, probably akin to true meditation. I loved every second of it!
PRIDE- I have always believed in the “If you set your mind to it…” mantra, but it is always had conditions when I applied it to myself. In this particular case, my height and my inflexibility were my conditions. I felt I overcame those personal obstacles and stuck with something that was difficult for me and time consuming. There were several times that I wanted to bow out of the challenge and I can’t tell you how proud I am of myself for not giving in to that.
So, now what? Well, there’s no denying the massive benefits I’ve received from this experience, however I have no plans to continue with this rigorous yoga schedule. I miss the rest of the gym and lifting weights. But I can already see how all of these gains will continue to benefits at the gym and in life, so I want to keep yoga in my routine. Right now, my goal is to incorporate it 2-3 times a week as a complement to my regular workout program. I like know I have it there to go back to whenever I need it.
Note: All yoga classes were either vinyasa flows, power yoga or hot yoga.