Throughout the hectic festive season, mixed with travelling and deadlines, it was easy to let go of a regular yoga practice. With weakened muscles and perhaps slightly less present minds, we decided that in order to kick-start our regular yoga practice for the New Year, we would set ourselves the goal of a 30 day challenge. Although we both had quite regular yoga practices (we do work in a yoga studio!) we were still working on integrating yoga into our daily routine.
In all honesty, before starting the challenge our expectations were rather shallow. We anticipated a stronger practice but only briefly reflected on the wider effects that a daily practice would bring. Like many students our focus in class had centred around how our postures looked, thus measuring our practice by how well we had ‘performed’ in class. However, as we slowly progressed through our 30 day challenge the other aspects of yoga became integral to our practice. After all, asana (posture) is only one of the eight limbs of yoga; the others being yama (ethical discipline), niyama (self observation), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (sense withdrawal), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (a state of joy and peace).After the 30 days, yes our postures did improve, but the real transformation was in our connection with the others aspects of yoga. We felt calmer and more present. That burning sensation we often feel in our thighs in a vigorous practice was no longer a pain to get away from through a sneaky straightening of the leg, but through using the breath to focus the mind such sensations became easier to work through. The breathe became an integral part of our practice, it warned us when we needed to take a step back and was essential for reaching anything near what we’d like to call a meditative state.
So yes, we found it satisfying to tick that headstand off the list after 30 days, but far more importantly, through practicing openly and without judgement, we found ourselves feeling calmer and more aware of our minds and bodies, both on and off the mat. Making time for a daily yoga practice may have seemed a daunting prospect at first, however through reevaluating what we were spending our time on (did we really need to check Facebook again?!) we actually had more than enough time to practice at least some of the eight limbs of yoga, daily.
By completing the 30 day challenge together we were able to motivate one another and even pinned an attendance chart on the wall that both we and our regulars kept tabs on. Of course, this in itself isn’t enough to actually get you on the mat each day, that’s the hard part! But the feeling of peace and belonging that you experience each time you do make it onto the mat is what keeps you coming back again the next day. After 30 days we felt stronger both in body and in mind, and well, if our self-discovery can come so far in 30 days, just think about the potential a lifetime of practice holds.