Sunday, October 23, 2011

30 DAY YOGA CHALLENGE: MONTH #2

Two months ago I began the 30 Day Yoga Challenge and made the move toward a better, more mindful existence.  My dedication to the challenge evolved into a dedication to myself and to being present in every moment.  I grew stronger inside and out.  I saw my legs as the trunks of great redwood trees, anchored to the earth by my toes like roots.  My body grew lighter as my posture improved and the weight of the world gave me a break for some tea.  Living, laughing, and loving came easily.

I managed 23 classes in 30 days, and by class #22, I had changed the focus of the challenge from "30 days. 26 classes." to "30 days to being more mindful."  I realized that reaching my goal did not mean nearly as much as the beautiful flower emerging on the path along the way.  It was time to live my practice, to "be where I was."  It was MY yoga, after all.

The challenge ended the same week that Grad School began.  I found myself out of money, out of time, and wondering how and why I had thrown myself back into the mess that is my University and all that comes with it.  By week two, Grad School was there, larger than life, stomping its big hairy foot on my daisies and really stinking up the place.  It made itself at home in the void left by yoga and before I knew it, managed to devour my every moment.  I started losing focus, losing hope, and losing my footing.  I started to fall... asleep, mostly... at really inopportune times... like during a Calc lecture.  After my sixth all-nighter in three weeks' time, I decided that I needed to seriously detox... with a tea & yoga retreat.

And that, my friends, is how I found myself all alone on a bus to Boston at 7am, napping next to a stranger while snuggling with my copy of Pause-Cafe.  This, however, is a story to be told at a later date (with pictures and flair!) so I will provide you this brief summary of my excursion: vegan food, tealuxe, singing beach, and yoga.  After three tea-filled and meatless days, I was ready to get back on my feet.

It was time for Unlimited Yoga.

Monday arrived and the universe granted me safe passage back into my formerly blissful mindset.  I was miraculously not scheduled for work, my classes went well enough that morning, and I was decently awake when I found myself in savasana, covered in a blanket, and on a guided tour of my subconscious mind by way of Yoga Nidra.  I experienced discomfort midway through, but began to realize that I was sweating out the toxins I let build up during the month that Grad School ate my soul.  Afterward, we discussed our experiences and what the colors, poses, and other elements of our meditation symbolized and surfaced.  I found myself in awe and at peace for the first time since school began.  I was ready mentally for asana practice which followed.  Those three hours helped to begin the realignment of my body, my mind, and my life.

Tuesday came and I planned to heal by sleeping in.  I had the day off and wanted to take full advantage.  Good thing I received an e-mail from Lotus offering a FREE 11:15am Yoga Power Hour class the night before and found an alternative to Margie's 9:30am class.  I made myself a meal and headed downtown to hunt for parking and settle in before the class.  Apparently there was no rush necessary, because I was the only one who showed up.

This was the first time I have ever had to OM by myself while in the presence of another.  It was a strange, but unifying feeling.  Judy and I have the same pitch.  I closed my eyes as Judy read aloud from her copy of Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh about being present in the moment.  I'd nearly forgotten the wisdom I'd come to embrace just a few weeks prior and felt refreshed by the reminder.  She then explained that the full moon was in Aries that night and that if there was something in my life that I wanted to change or which needed to change, that now was the time to do so.  This particular alignment of the moon would help me along... especially because I was born in Aries myself.  I felt as though I were meant to be there at that moment... that Judy and I were meant to cross paths and help to improve one another's day.  This thought inspired me and further motivated me while also helping me to understand why I suddenly felt this tugging need for change and reacted so impulsively about bringing it about.

The asana practice which followed was challenging; my body was just beginning to readjust to the postures and poses... but Judy's words rang like a gong of motivation.  Her reminder that in every twist we are squeezing our toxins and that lions breath releases everything that we no longer need served to make each breath and asana meaningful and productive.  The image of myself as a tree of plenty as I stood on one leg with my arms outstretched and holding gyan mudra helped me to feel empowered and confident.  I felt my figurative roots beginning to shoot through the ground and anchor me into steadiness as my self-love and inner strength were given the water to grow with the reminder that everything a yogi needs can be found within... that all the love and acceptance we require can be found within ourselves.  I left the class sure that I would return again as per Judy's request.  I was once again balanced... grounded and light.

When I returned home from the class, I attempted to do homework and passed out for hours.  My body was reclaiming my life at last, and if I wasn't going to let it recharge, it was going to imitate my phone and shut itself all for a while until I did something about its drained battery.  I woke up just in time for another yoga class that night.  Teresa is always good for inversions.  She did not disappoint.  Inverting your view of the world can often make it appear more clearly, we are after all seeing everything upside down.  The blood rushing to the face also helps to keep it young.  Headstands reverse the effects of gravity on the body and energize the brain.  Inversions also help to regulate the metabolism and calm the mind.  If you have never tried one of these poses, find a modification that best suits you (like folding as if you are going to touch your toes, leaning your back against the wall and hanging for a few minutes... or sitting on your couch upside down with your head hanging toward the floor and your legs on the backrest) and you will quickly understand what I am talking about.

With that said, I will cease to bore you with my personal yogic revelations.  I will close by saying that the last two weeks of yoga have helped to calm my mind and to improve my focus in all aspects of my life.  I am becoming more mindful and therefore more at peace.  I am excited to say that I have successfully accomplished many a headstand (something which made me nervous to try before) both spotted and unattended, have increased my muscular control, and have pushed myself to new levels.

To tell you the truth, this whole post was initially inspired by the class I took this morning.  With a room of yogis using ugia breath in Warrior One after about 45 minutes of rigorous vinyasa flow movement, the instructor commented that he understood why we might use modified arms in the pose because we had tight shoulders TODAY but that we should not make that our permanent practice.  He suggested instead trying to reach the full extension of the pose because if you do not push yourself at all, you will never let yourself grow.  That statement reflects directly on my attitude toward his class as a whole.  I had been previously avoiding Carlos' class because I heard that it was extremely tough and by no means at novice level.  I originally intended on David's 8:30am class (my favorite) with a short break in between to head over to Dan's 12pm class at Lotus... but the fates gave me a gentle nudge back into dreamland this morning and I overslept.  Carlos' class it was!  And I must say... it was TOUGH.  So tough in fact, that I actually felt proud of myself while I was walking out at the end because I was so relieved that it was over and so happy that I had been able to keep up.  A few hours later, I even found myself wanting to go back because I was craving that challenge.  Finally, I was leaving my box.

And that, boys and girls, is where you find me tonight.  Reflecting in respectful meditation through writing to balance my world before finishing up my assignments for tomorrow.

I am glad that I could share with you... and thank you for listening.

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