Why Would I Do Such A Thing?

The other day Linda, someone who’s been practicing at my studio for as long as I’ve been in business, announced she’s going to do the April Yoga Challenge this year. For the first time. 

(This will be the 12th year I’ve offered it.)

“Why now?” I asked her.

She didn’t give me an answer. 

I asked her again a few days later, and she said something about being “tied here anyway” because of a class she’s teaching this semester.

I’m not sure this is is a a good enough why. I’m not sure it’s going to get her through a month of everyday yoga.

A while ago a good friend turned me on to Simon Sinek and his Start With Why TED talk and his book of the same name. I’ve been a real fan ever since.

Whenever I contemplate a new project, I always ask myself Why? And until I unearth an answer that will keep me going when I lose energy, or motivation, or heart for the thing, I don’t do it. I have to know my why first.

If I don’t have a strong enough why articulated at the get-go, I know I’m doomed. 

It’s okay if my why changes during the project, as long as I continue to have one. And it’s a good one.

I’m in the process of writing my April newsletter to my mailing list now. I’m describing the Challenge and laying out the  rules.  

The game of the Challenge is that if you agree to come to class every day for 30 days, you only pay $30 for the entire month. There’s a leader board on the back wall where you sign in every day, and others can see your attendance and scribble notes of encouragement to you if they want. 

It’s really fun, but it’s also hard. But not because of the yoga. It’s hard because of the everyday. That’s why you need a strong why going in.

So I started writing this sort of rah-rah newsletter to my people, encouraging anybody thinking of doing the Challenge this year to know their why first. 

Just for fun, I tried to think of a few good whys for myself. Why would I commit to such a thing? 

I came up with 4. There could be many more, but these four would work for me.

1. For My Health

2. To Align More Closely with my Aspirational Self

3. To Set a Good Example

4. For Accountability 

Health

I want to shed some winter weight. I want to get stronger, more toned and energized. A 30 Day Yoga Challenge would be a good way to support my healthier eating resolution, or even a detox. 

Aligning with My Aspirational Self

When I invision my best self I see a person who does yoga everyday and looks like they do yoga every day. I see someone healthy, glowing, and energetic. Someone getting life done. Someone who’s not enslaved. Someone calling the shots on their own life, or at least recognizing where choices can be made, and making good ones. 

A 30 Day Yoga Challenge would give me an opportunity to live, at least for a month, in alignment with what I’m always saying I want to do, but so often don’t.

Good Example

Here is my favorite chicken-crossing-the-road joke:

  • Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?
  • A: To prove to the possum that it could be done.

I want to be the chicken. I want to prove that something hard can be done. I want to do something hard and not get hit by a truck doing it. I am aware that people are inspired by other people and that we’re all watching each other. If I can be a good example, maybe you’ll be inspired. That’s how the world works, We’re all watching each other. If I can work the logistics of fitting a yoga class into my life for 30 days in a row, maybe you can, too. I am highly incentivized by being a good example. For nobody in particular. For everyone in general.

Also: Very few people in the world actually do what they say they’re going to do. So it’s inspiring to see someone actually persist and win at something hard.

Accountability

I’m an Obliger. Most people are. Obligers depend on an accountability partner to keep them connected to their goals. A 30 Day Challenge acts as that accountability partner, because if I don’t show up, I’m out. And everybody knows it. 

Also: Very few people do this, so it makes me feel part of a little tribe that I have to show up for and root on. And I like that. 

If you’ve ever committed to doing something hard, a marathon, losing weight— anything that demanded training and a long(ish) slog, you know what I’m talking about. You have to have your why tattooed on your brain or you’ll bonk.

I’ll be really curious to see how many people sign up for this and what their whys are. I’ll be writing a lot about the Challenge next month for sure. Stay tuned.

Also: if you’ve ever done anything like this, let me know how it went, and if your why played a big part in your success.

Hatchet: Buried.

During April I had a “secret Metta friend.” I picked one of my yoga challengers and every time I saw her (which was every day) I said to her in my mind: “May you be happy, May you be peaceful, May you be free.”

Free from what?  Free from anxiety and worry, free from  everything that causes pain and suffering. Free from all psychological shackles.

I wanted that for myself, too. I wanted to be free from fear and timidity. Free from resentment and bitterness. Free from everything that keeps me small, restricted, boxed in.

Did my secret Metta friend receive my good vibes? Maybe.

Did my Metta boomerang back to me?

Yes it did.

Today I forgave. Today I buried a hatchet. Today I freed myself from years of resentment, hurt, and pain.

It took 10 years for it to happen, but it happened. I was weirdly afraid to let go of it. (I needed G to be with me.)

But tonight? Tonight I am happy. I am peaceful. I am free.

Sending Metta (lovingkindness) is powerful mojo. Try it. I promise: You will be astonished.

Namaste.

The Real Challenge of a Yoga Challenge

“Commitment is doing the thing you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you.”

—Darren Hardy, The Compound Effect

I think it is fairly easy to go to yoga every day. It might not be easy on the body, or the ego, but it is easy to surrender. Once you catch your breath and drop into the present, all you have to do, is what you’re told.

When people think about doing something like a 30 Day Challenge, I think the first worry is how their body is going to respond. Will it be able to do what the teacher  suggests?

Next they worry if they can persist. Can they stay motivated?

This year, the stated motivations of the participants range from trying to revive a dead practice, to curiosity to see if  practicing daily will make any difference, to wanting to shake off winter’s lethargy and revive their sense of self-command.

They quickly discover that it’s not the physical practice that’s the problem. The true challenge is fitting in the time to do it. Making time by making some hard decisions about what is more important, this? or that?

It takes a village to support a person in a yoga challenge. Everybody has to cooperate: bosses, babysitters, spouses, friends, and family all have to adjust their schedules, and their lives around you, so you can do this thing.

This thing you committed to.

This thing you were so looking forward to.

This thing that they encouraged you to do at the beginning, they are now sick of. They are looking forward to high-fiving you across the the finish line, and then going back to normal.

But here’s the thing: the person who is nearing the finish line?  They’re not done. They’re different now. They don’t want this to end. Maybe in this draconian format, but they’re not ready to break this streak they’ve built. No. The streak needs to continue. Everyone agrees about that.

They worked hard to make this happen, and they did the thing they said they were going to do even when, as Hardy says, the initial excitement wore off.

The challenge part starts now, after these 30 days are over.

The question now becomes: What is going to happen on on May 1st?

Will the mat get unfurled? Will the head bow? Will there be a conscious decision to surrender?

From my perspective as the teacher, what I want to know is if I’ve been successful in teaching them how to unglue themselves from linear time for at least an hour, and drop into real time, which is no more, or less, than this moment, this breath, this situation.

And then, can they make a life out of that.

A Little Day

I woke up with my right eye totally puffed out and burning, and the left one trending in that same direction.

I am going crazy with this. I cannot figure it out. Why worse in the morning?

Then I went and trained with Vince. Sunjana was there training today, too. Sunjana works at the health food store in Wellsboro. I have been trying to hunt down dried calendula flowers without any luck. She said her health food store had them.

Vince decided to drive over with me after our workout.

It was a beautiful day. We listened to Twiddle, a band I had never heard of. We talked about the inevitability of change. We laughed a lot. I got my calendula flowers, and lunch, and a whole lot more at the Health Food Store.

I walked Boomer up to G’s field. Today was a game day and the field was festooned with flags and it was 60 degrees and sunny. I almost don’t know how to act when it is warmer. Is it safe to soften my face into the sun? Is is safe not to brace against weather? Where are my sunglasses?

G’s team split. I got to see the win. Yay

It is Day 2 of the April Yoga Challenge. I sat in the lounge and tried to write this post to no avail while Sandy taught the 5:30 class. Her students were all sweaty when they came out of the room.

I ate homemade chicken soup when I got home, and then watched a DVR’ed Survivor episode from this week.

I am now in day 8 of my detox from  sugar, alcohol, coffee, or eggs. I feel pretty good. I wish this stellar diet of mine would clear up my eye, though.

Now the day is over. I am heading to bed. It was a good day. A little ridiculous in spots, but isn’t everyday, in a way?

 

15 Reasons To Do A 30 Day Yoga Challenge

contortion business manager drinking coffee

Every April I do a 30 Yoga Challenge at my studio. I incentivize my students by offering them a month of yoga for $30.

But I really don’t think it’s the reduced price that gets them. I think it’s more their own curiosity about whether they can actually DO it. Do they have the stamina and fortitude to stick it out?

Here’s what I tell them:

Doing something everyday makes you stable; it gives you a place to stand. Every day you keep that promise to yourself to show up, you become a more trust-worthy person.

A consistent yoga practice will amplify your energy; it will set your vibrational frequency really high. Dogs will be able to hear your thoughts. (Just kidding.) But you will feel more vital, more alive.

A yoga practice will give you more energy.  When you have more energy, you can move your projects forward. You can basically do whatever the hell you want, because you have all the energy in the world.

When you practice paying attention to your body and your mind for an hour every day, this changes you.

Even if you only do it for a week, you will feel different.

But when you do it for a whole month without a miss? Not only will you feel different, you will be different.

How will you be different?

1. You will be kinder. Yoga asks that you treat yourself with tenderness and respect. When you can treat yourself this way, you tend to treat others this way, too.

2. You will be calmer.  Yoga trains the nervous system to  switch back and forth between high alert and relaxation as the situation requires, and not get stuck in either one.

3. You will be softer.  When you feel you don’t have enough time or aren’t using your time well, you become a miserable beast. Yoga diminishes time stress, and this is how it softens you.

4. You will be stronger.  In your body, yes, but also in your sense of who you are and what you stand for.

5. You will know your own mind better.  Yoga asks that you pay attention to what you’re doing while you’re doing it. When you are more aware of what you’re doing, this acquaints you with your mind. “Oh, hello there.”

6. You will be less reactive. Yoga opens up head space and body space. In this new space you have time to take a breath or two and decide what to say or do, rather than just blurt out dumb, stupid stuff that gets you in trouble and makes other people feel bad.

7. You will be more responsive.  Reactions are knee-jerk. Responses come from a place of intelligence. Yoga teaches you how to make space for that intelligence to kick in.

8. You will sleep better. Yoga breaks up tension patterns in the body and in the mind. When your mind is clear and calm and your body is free of tension, sleep is deep and nourishing.

9. You will eat better. Yoga forces you to encounter  and assess your level of energy every day. The practice asks a lot. If you are not fueling your body properly, you won’t be able to progress in the practice. This will totally frustrate you and give you a strong incentive to eat better.

10. You will be able to focus better. Yoga and meditation cultivate your ability to focus and concentrate.  A yoga practice is basically a meditation practice disguised as stretching.

11. You won’t lose things as much because you will be mindful of all your actions. Because yoga is the practice of mindfulness, you will remember where you left your keys because you were totally present when you put them down. The same thing for your phone. And your kid. Yoga makes you less spacey and ditzy.

12. You will become a better driver. As you learn to practice being more present on your mat, you will find yourself becoming more present while doing ordinary things like driving. You will have cultivated the art of paying attention and this will alert you to the stupid antics of other drivers before they kill you.

13. You will be more patient with exasperating people. Yoga asks that you practice compassion and awareness for yourself on your mat. Over time, you may find that you have a little left over for other people. This will allow you to  forgive general ass-holery more often.

14. You will feel grateful for more things. Yoga unglues you. It creates some space between you and your obsessive, narcissistic concerns. When you become unglued from your problems, you can see and appreciate your real life and all its blessings.

15. You will be part of a long lineage. People have been practicing yoga for thousands of years. It has a lot of street cred as a legitimate way to amplify energy, gain self-knowledge, and sustain good health. The same techniques that worked 3,000 years ago still work today. Maybe someday Zumba will be 3,000 years old, but you’ll be dead by then. Yoga is time-tested. Why mess?

The Yoga Challenge and the New Year’s Eve Letter

Today I pulled the trigger on the 5th Annual Yoga Challenge (30 days for $30). Sent the email to my mailing list and now I await the flurry of envelopes. I am guessing by this time tomorrow it will be filled.

Tonight as we sleep, Spring will arrive. Somebody at yoga tonight said that the official arrival time is 1 AM.  Can I just tell you how much I love Spring? (I love Spring.) And we are actually having it, instead of the horribleness that is usually March around here.

The weather has been nothing short of stupendous. Everyone is walking around in shorts and wearing shit-eating grins on their faces. It feels like we are getting something we don’t deserve, but we’ll take it anyway.

I woke up this morning, ate an egg, then took a trip to the Post Office and dropped off the New Year’s Eve letters. In my New Year’s Eve yoga class, I invite any one who wants to, to write a letter to themselves. When they are finished writing they seal it in an envelope, address it, and I mail it to them to arrive on the first day of spring, which is tomorrow.

I like to think that each person who gets a letter tomorrow will save it for a quiet moment, then open it carefully, like a present, and read with a mixture of curiosity and eagerness, tinged with a little wonder and joy.  Will they recognize that old winter solstice voice?

I read mine today in the quiet of the studio.  The voice in that letter sounded familiar, but the tone was quieter, and contrasted sharply with this sunny, bold, robin-filled day in March.  The New Year was just about to start when I wrote those words, and now here it is, ready to start again.

I think I will write a Spring letter tomorrow and save it until the Summer Solstice.  I want to hear what my spring voice will sound like when read from the vantage point of high summer.

Day 3: Warm and Sunny

Seven people showed up for morning yoga on this warm Saturday morning, and 12 showed up at 5:30. It was a stellar day: sunny, highs in the 70s.  I would have had a hard time showing up on such a splendid day, but they didn’t.

It is hard to wake up, I must say, mainly because I can’t get to bed early enough. Energy management is THE issue.  Ran 6 miles after yoga, walked Boomer, went up to the softball game for awhile, then taught the 5:30 class.  Pigeon was featured.  (Love Pigeon.)

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday and Brenna is teaching both classes.  I am excited.  I have never experienced her class, but I like her.  She makes a point to talk to people before class.  She knows lots of my yogarians already and we are clear on what’s really important about teaching yoga.  I told her about what Swami Kripalu said when he came to the ashram in Sumneytown.  He said: “I have not come here to teach you, I have come here to love you.  And the love will teach you.”

I’m not so concerned with perfect poses. I am absolutely concerned with the health, vitality and the well-being of he people who come to practice.  I think Brenna and I are on the same page in that regard.

I am going to sleep in tomorrow and then make the 5:30 class.  I will get to TAKE CLASS!

What a gift.