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How I Returned to Myself Through A 30 Day Yoga Challenge

Each time I rolled out my yoga mat, I gave myself permission to be. It was exactly what I needed.

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Photo: Iri Greco / Jim Fryer / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com
Photo: Iri Greco / Jim Fryer / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com

My relationship with yoga was out of balance. I was teaching more than I was practicing. I became the teacher who couldn’t make time for their own practice. Previously, I frowned on that person, yet here I was two years in and saying those words. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy practicing yoga. Quite the opposite; I loved yoga maybe more than before. 

Yoga became a luxury even I, a yoga teacher, couldn’t afford the time. I convinced myself that getting to my mat three times a week was good enough. My life felt fragmented with all the commuting to classes, starting a business on the side, being a committed partner and a new dog mom. If I didn’t schedule a yoga class the night before, I rarely fit in once the next day got rolling.

One Summer night, I went to park concert with two yoga teachers and their partners. One of the partners shared he was doing a thirty day yoga challenge that simply required thirty minutes of yoga a day. He was loving it – sometimes practicing with recorded classes his partner led and other times just getting on his mat. There were no requirements like posting photos of each pose to Instagram or tagging sponsors. It only required getting to your mat daily, which was the challenge I needed. It sounded perfect for me, so I decided to join.

Experiencing Nourishment

After the first three days of the challenge, I was so happy. I felt a renewed love for my body and connection to self. It was as though my body was thanking me for remembering it. I was experiencing the nourishment I talked about in my classes but sadly hadn’t embodied recently. I heard my body asking me to be still, encouraging me to move at my own pace, to stretch and breathe into places I’d ignored and to listen to something deeper inside of me that I had put on hold. The fragments of me were coming back together.

Learning through consistency

Committing to thirty days of yoga, gave me an excuse to roll out my mat even on days where it felt hard to rationalize this kind of time for myself. On days when work was chaotic, I rolled out my mat. When I was on vacation, I rolled out my mat. When I was tired or achy, I rolled out my mat, even if just to stretch on my back. The more time I spent on my mat, I saw how my relationship with yoga as work (being a teacher) was entangled and with my yoga as self care (my own practice). I realized my teaching was also suffering because I couldn’t teach what I don’t know myself. By not having a consistent personal practice, I became distanced from yoga.

Finding Creativity

Twenty days into the challenge, my practice started to get more creative. I was taking classes at studios I hadn’t visited before and incorporating those teachers’ techniques into my own. I found a sense of fluidity that was based on intuition rather than rigid sequencing rules. I was listening to my body and moving without judgement. I felt an energetic vibrancy on my mat that carried over to my teaching. I needed to fully be a student again, so I could authentically be a teacher.

Returning to me

Over the course of thirty days, I returned to me. At the beginning and end of my practice, I’d place one hand on my heart and the other on my belly. With my eyes closed, I’d send love, compassion and care to myself. It was and continues to be one of the most powerful parts of my practice. It reminds me of the life inside of me and that I have the capacity to show up for me each day. 

Maintaining the practice

With the thirty day challenge behind me, I’m determined to maintain a daily wellness practice. It might not always be yoga but I am making time to move, breathe and sit with care for self. I’m already starting to see how this personal time extends into my relationships and interactions with strangers. When we show up for ourselves, we show up for each other and contribute to a healthier world.

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    People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

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