Excuse me while I set my knitting down for just a second. Let’s talk yoga for a minute.
For about the past 20-some years, a bit more really, I’ve had an off-and-on yoga practice. Mostly off. And when on, it was still sporadic. Once or twice–maybe three times–a week at most. But I’ve always wanted to make it more of a regular thing. I just could never get over the motivational bump to really get it going.
Enter the Most Wicked Winter Ever.
OK, not really. But for me, yes. Usually, I’m a fan of winter. I like to play in the snow. I like to ski. And I like it when winter behaves like winter. Most years, I get irritated when people start complaining in January about the snow. As though it doesn’t always snow in January. And so on. But this year, the snow (80-plus inches for us!) plus the bitter cold even got to me eventually. You know why? Because it screwed up my regular exercise habit. That habit is walking, and for about 2 years, I’ve made a regular practice of it. At least five days every week, to be specific. But with ankle-twisting ice, knee-deep sidewalks and cold bitter enough to cut through every pair of long johns I own, this winter I had to come up with an alternative.
My first attempt involved silly dance aerobics. Which was fine, but… meh. Not really my thing. A bit poundy. A bit hurty. A bit too … energetic.
But then I was browsing the Yoga Journal site, looking for inspiration, and I came across the 21-Day Yoga Challenge. I got the DVDs and got to it. Yesterday was Day 21. Yes. Yay with me? I did yoga every day for 21 days.
So, here are some of my random, beginner-mind thoughts from my (first) 21 days of yoga:
1. Any Time Is Enough Time
In the past, part of the problem with getting a daily practice off the ground has been my assumptions about time involvement. Before I started this series, I thought yoga would mean a 45- to 60-minute commitment. And that’s why I didn’t do it every day. Or even every week. This group of practices ranges from 15 minutes on up to 45. And while I struggled with that part of my mind that wants to overachieve, I had to acknowledge that 15 minutes of yoga is still yoga.
2. About That Overachieving…
Yeah, as a former runner and continuing Doer of All the Things, setting the bar too high has been an ongoing problem for me. But this time around, taking into account the lingering back issues and so on, I knew that I needed to take a gentle approach. And that means not trying to go as far as possible in every asana. I even picked up — gasp! — a couple of blocks so I can modify poses when I need to. (I don’t believe in buying a strap, though. I just use my unused bathrobe belt.) If yoga is about working with your body in the moment you’re in, then that means accepting your limitations and working within them. This time around, I feel like I’m finally getting that right. My progress, so far, is incredibly incremental, but that doesn’t make it anything other than progress, does it?
3. Take What You Need
The 21-Day Challenge prescribes a practice for each day of the week. And in my first week, I followed the prescription to the letter. But then something happened. A couple days into the second week, I woke up with a pinched nerve right in the middle of my back. Uh-oh. At first, I thought maybe I should put the yoga on pause and rest. But then I realized, maybe yoga could help me work through this. So instead of putting the whole program on hold, I just replaced the prescribed practices for a couple of days. Instead of doing a more challenging sequence, I tried one day of restorative poses, and then the next day I concentrated on forward bending, then followed up with restorative poses again. And the pinchy-ness dissipated. I was fine again! I kept at the easier practices for a couple more days just to be sure, and then went back to the program. Voila!
Now that I’m three weeks in, I’m not stopping. I’m moving the goalposts forward. Why? Because if 21 days can teach me so much about not-pushing and meeting my own needs, what might I learn in, say, 50 days? 99 days? 365 days?
Friends, it’s got me hooked, and it’s the best kind of hooked ever.
Til tomorrow, then, happy wool-sniffing!