It’s been six months since I started my challenge. I chose six months because I thought a larger chunk of time would be a better representation of what can happen in your life compared to a 30 day challenge for example. And wow! Did a lot happen.
On September 1, 2015 I started a six-month Mind, Body & No Spirits challenge of practicing yoga every day, consciously creating more intimacy with my husband, and cutting out all alcohol. It’s now March 1st and my six month challenge is over. I’ve gone through a lot and I’ve learned a ton since I started this journey half a year ago. Here are just a few events I experienced since September of last year:
· The sale of our house
· Putting all of our belongings into storage
· Leaving and saying goodbye to our house
· Buying more property in Costa Rica
· The death of a dear friend
· A 40th Birthday celebration in Vegas
· A Fall wedding in Muskoka
· My Father being diagnosed mentally incompetent
· Living out of our suitcases in four different homes
· Applying for our Green Cards
· Hosting our daughters 6th Birthday Party
· Catching a stomach virus over New Years
· Travelling to Japan three times, Chicago twice, NY, Vegas & Costa Rica
During those events my plan was to continue to do yoga every day, try to create more intimacy between my husband and I, and not drink any alcohol. Here’s how that went:
I started this challenge with the intention of practicing yoga every day for 182 days. I ended the six months realizing that a self-inflicted challenge can be a powerful tool to help jump start transformational changes in your life, but I also realized that culturally we put too much pressure on ourselves. This isn’t anything new of course, so in this post I’m not going to question why we have this insatiable need to be super human and achieve so much in small amounts of time faster than a speeding bullet. Instead I’m going to share what I learned about the benefits of adding additional pressures to your life, as well as the damages.
I went 51 days practicing yoga every single day. I practiced in hotel rooms, in a bedroom at my friends house, next to a guinea pig cage, in rental homes, in Costa Rica, in yoga studios, and anywhere else I could lay my mat or at least a towel.
I realized that yoga makes me a happier person. I feel more grounded when I practice, I sleep better, I feel better about myself and about life, I cope more easily with daily stressors, and my sex drive improves. I learned that when I incorporate yoga into my day it ends up enhancing my life in a multitude of ways. Intellectually I already knew that as regular practitioner, and as the owner of a Yoga Retreat Centre I’m constantly talking about the benefits of yoga, but it was nice to tangibly see and feel that confirmation from doing it daily.
However, with everything that was going on, trying to fit in a yoga practice (yes, even 5 minutes) every single day also ended up adding more stress into my life at times. Stress was already causing me to break out into hives, and my hope was that the yoga would help with that – and it did, but only to a certain point. Once I started pressuring myself to incorporate my practice into an especially hectic day, it only increased my stress levels. Not only did I neglect my practice, I had awful voices in my head scolding me for messing up the entire challenge.
There were times that I scheduled yoga into my day but I just didn’t get to it because I was troubleshooting a business emergency, or dealing with a sick child, or rushing across the city from the lawyers to our bank to wire large amounts of money increased to massive amounts of money because of the debilitating U.S. exchange rate, with limited time before hosting my In-laws, but not before my husband wants to have celebratory sex for the sale of our house and the purchase of new property in Costa Rica. Yep, there were those days.
I don’t know if that sounds like I’m making up excuses, and it’s a sad fact that society is obsessed with witnessing failure, but the reality is I am my own worst enemy. I can beat myself up better than any bully I’ve ever encountered. The tapes that start playing in my head start saying I can’t even handle 5 minutes a day…I started this so I better follow through…I’m such a failure…I’m not strong enough…and much worse. Of course we all get accustomed to what plays on in our heads, but I did gain some perspective at one point and recognized that what was happening was the complete opposite of self-care. This challenge was to help me reignite and strengthen that mind, body and spirt connection I had lost, not to treat myself worse than my own worst enemy. That shift happened for me while we spent a month in Costa Rica over the Holidays. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Costa Rica has a way of clarifying, balancing, and healing.
I learned to not beat myself up if I missed a day…or four. I learned that life can take over and throw you curve balls like the sudden death of a friend. I learned that there will be days where other priorities end up at the top of your list – and that it’s OK.
When I did miss a couple days I could feel it in my body. I felt stiff, I wasn’t as balanced or grounded, and I didn’t feel as healthy. Experiencing that was awesome! It revealed that the work was crucial to my overall wellbeing and it motivated me to get back to practicing when I had missed a few days. Do I enjoy doing yoga daily? Yes! Is it absolutely imperative to practice every single day? No, but I’m practicing more now than I would have without doing this challenge and more importantly I’m no longer scolding myself when I’m unable to fit it in. It’s definielty a healthier and more beneficial way of practicing, and more in line with the true ancient science of what Yoga is all about.
Are there days when I have the time but I don’t want to do it? Sure. Like anything there are days when it’s hard to get your butt in gear and hit the mat, or the gym, or the studio, or even the park for a nice walk (especially in February). However, when I choose to get past those feelings, lay out my mat and practice in those moments, I find those are the days I feel the most euphoric afterwards.
This challenge was really about self-care because just like many women I know, I have a ton on my plate and feel like I’m constantly taking care of everyone elses needs. I still strongly believe in the power of challenges, but I also understand that giving yourself a break has more to do with self-care then I initially gave it credit. Some of the gifts that this challenge provided were not what I was expecting, and I’m so grateful for that.
To read about the Intimacy portion of my challenge see Rehabilitating My Libido.
The post on the Alcohol portion of my challenge to be posted soon.