So here it is! My first attempt at writing a blog for PlacesToYoga.com, and what a challenge it has been. The main reason I decided to take on this blog was to explore yoga more deeply and to challenge myself in new, creative ways.
“Challenge is character-building,” as my step-father would say, and I am no stranger to challenge, much like every practitioner in the yoga community. Every time we step onto our mats, we challenge our minds and bodies in new ways. One of the things I like most about the physical practice of yoga is the notion that, each time we practice, it is different in some way from all the other times we’ve practiced. Whatever we are going through in our lives somehow manifests itself in our practice and gets worked out through the physical act of the yoga. It is truly an amazing thing!
In January, I decided to participate in a 40 – Day Challenge with a local yoga studio. Unlike most studios who were offering similar challenges which consist of many days of consecutive yoga, this challenge was based on Baron Baptiste’s book, “40 Days to Personal Revolution,” and promised to change my mind, body, and life. I was so excited to begin; especially with it being a new year, but had no idea just how much impact this commitment would have on my psyche.
The program involved 40 days of yoga (with one day off per week if you prefer), nutrition, weekly meetings with other participants, readings, and “excavation questions” which we explored through our own journal writing. During the first week, we explored what Baron Baptiste calls, The Laws of Transformation, which are quick little ideas that help to bring about personal growth and change. The laws are:
Law 1: Seek the Truth
Law 2: Be Willing to Come Apart
Law 3: Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
Law 4: Commit to Growth
Law 5: Shift Your Vision
Law 6: Drop What You Know
Law 7: Relax with What Is
Law 8: Remove the Rocks
Law 9: Don’t Rush the Process
Law 10: Be True to Yourself
Law 11: Be Still and Know
Law 12: Understand That the Whole is the Goal
As the group progressed from week to week, it was inspiring to see how the process was changing each person in different ways. Some people began to deal with deep-seated self-esteem issues, while others dealt with family issues that had been the source of on-going pain. Each of us was changing, but in very different ways. For me, the toughest part of the challenge came about half-way through when the group participated in a 3-day fruit cleanse. Being a vegetarian, I figured that this would be simple since I love fruit and have completed various other cleanses in the past. I was wrong! Those were the longest three days of my entire life! It was very interesting to me to listen to the conflict between the voices in my head, telling me that I was starving and wondering when my next avocado would be; and listening to my body telling me that a few pieces of fruit was actually enough to support my functioning, and I didn’t need huge plates of food to survive. During these three days, I also noticed how inundated with food we are in North America. Each day I was flooded with advertisements on television, radio, and the internet about food (and not even healthy, whole food, but junk food instead). I started to notice how food has become a social event, with friends choosing not to include me in social activities simply because I couldn’t eat. It was quite amazing really, and changed my perspective on how to socialize with friends by going out to exercise and talk instead of meeting for a plate of nachos at the local pub. After the cleanse was over, I was thrilled to be able to eat again, but the strength and knowledge about myself that I gained was worth much more than food!
The 40 – Day Challenge has now been over for about a month, and I have continued to follow many of the guidelines and routines I picked up during those six weeks. I have learned so much about the inner strength that I possess, the lies I tell myself, and the daily stresses I can deal with. This process, although quite tough, has been one of the most powerful things I’ve ever taken on.
It has been said that it takes 21 days to form a new habit or to break an old one. I guess that 40 days really makes an impact since I’ve been able to maintain most of what I learned during the challenge. Maybe 40 days is too long for some, but I invite you to take some time, perhaps even just three days, to really explore yourself and realize the strength within. What you find out may not be easy, but trust in the notion that you are strong enough to deal with whatever comes your way.
“I was always looking outside myself for strength and confidence, but it comes from within; it is there all the time.” -Anna Freud