30 Things I Learned After 30 Days On a Yoga Mat

October 4, 2013 § 2 Comments

yoga matI presented a challenge to myself. I would practice yoga each day during the month of September. That’s 30 straight days in a studio with an instructor. None of this rolling out my mat for 20 minutes while my cats nudge my forehead in down dog. For me now, a home practice isn’t protected time and it certainly isn’t protect space if my cats have any say in the matter. No, this would be legit and official practice.

I didn’t do it for a free T-shirt. I didn’t do it to get in some serious workouts. The “exercise” aspect of yoga isn’t why I practice, and free clothing certainly isn’t an incentive for me. After nearly two years of practicing I challenged myself, in a sense, to fully realize yoga. And that, to me, is to see inside myself. To have things bubble to the surface and let them roll around there for me to see. To observe how I react to myself, my body, my mind’s buried and rushed-over thoughts that arise with the buoyancy of breath. Living life on the surface doesn’t serve me anymore. It’s time to move in and learn what’s there.

Thirty days doesn’t make me an enlightened yogini, but it did gave me the space to learn a few things—definitely about myself but also about those who occupied the space around me. Here is what I bring home with me:

  1. Breathe in—fully.
  2. I have everything I need with me now. No matter where or when that is, I have all I need. Work with them.
  3. I bail. Oh, I don’t mean I bail out on a yoga pose that we’ve been holding for ages. I breathe through it, I hold it and let myself drop in and savor all those dirty things you learn about yourself when you’re confronted with, well, yourself. But because I don’t bail out of the pose, I recognize that I bail out of other things when I’m off my mat. For example, and I’m not kidding, I bailed out of the end of that last sentence and left it for two days. I get to a point—could be a sentence, could be a project, could be a relationship, whatever—where I’m doing well, or on the cusp of doing well, or on the cusp of doing something and I just don’t touch it. Sometimes never to return, sometimes just for a few days. Sitting through and working through the hard part—getting over that point, that’s where the joy is. I deny myself that.
  4. I am no big deal. I can do a crow, who cares? Doesn’t make me any more or less than the person on the mat next to me. I’m doing what I’m doing for me today. I’m good with that. That’s an important thing to take off my mat with me.
  5. Everything is easy. The stuff that’s valuable is hard. Want less. Value more.
  6. Doesn’t matter how many signs you put up—some people still aren’t gonna take off their shoes.
  7. My body holds everything that has ever happened to it, even if my mind has lost hold of it. The fall down the barn stairs could account for my persistent shoulder tweekiness. The kamikaze banana-seat bicycle spills might be why my knee squeaks walking up the stairs. And it’s emotional, too. What explains why I bolt from my office chair just as I’m about to write something great? Hmmm…
  8. If I have to ask where I am on my mat, I need to come back to my breath. The trigger of asking myself gets me there. Funny how that works.
  9. Tell me you did not just check your phone while the instructor was explaining something. Nobody’s got time for that. Put the phone in your bag, with the ringer and vibrate both switched off, and chuck it in the back of the room. I’m not gonna thank you because I shouldn’t have to ask.

10. All of life can be categorized into two piles: suffering and the end of suffering. You get to do the sorting of it all.

11. I don’t know why the other people in class are here. But they showed up and I respect them for taking the time for themselves. So many of us don’t.

12. That space where you just let go of it all and you just are … man, it’s totally worth everything to be there.

13. Hot yoga isn’t so bad if you’re not packed in mat to mat and you’re given time to set yourself into a pose. In fact, I’m getting to really like it, sweaty mat and all.

14. Respect the instructor. You got to choose whether or not you came to class but they didn’t get the choice. You don’t know what’s going on in his or her life at that moment. But they’ve shown up for you. Respect.

15. Yoga is like love. There’s the passion, the fire, the messiness of it. But the dishes still need to be done and the bills need to be paid. One is fleeting, and one is forever.

16. You don’t have to follow each cue. Do what you need for that day. All within your ability, of course, and still following #15. The mat is yours.

17. Speaking of the mat being your own—please don’t step on mine.

18. I’m a different person from before. And not different from who I was in August. Everything changes and everyone changes and no one has control over it. I didn’t used to be okay with that. Letting go of the not liking change has freed me to focus on other things that I know are in my control.

19. I have a serious lack of confidence. Not as badly as I used to, thank goodness. I need to just cut that shit out.

20. To make up for #19, I sometimes blather on about stuff I know nothing about or make non-factually based statements. Again, cut that shit out.

21. We are all beautiful and all very odd looking all at the same time. And we’re all very different. I’m getting to like that aspect of the human animal more and more.

22. Yin yoga is like a chocolate and whipped cream parfait.

23. Sometimes a rolled-up mat stuck in your gut can be a very comforting feeling. No, really.

24. Thirty days is a long time only after you start counting down to the end.

25. There will be a parade for me the day I can swing my leg behind my head. Not really. But I have promised myself ice cream.

26. I’m a lot stronger than I thought I could be.

27. Meditation is a necessity. Imagine if we all took a few minutes each day to just sit with ourselves to clear the mind. We’d have so much more understanding of each other.

28. We have our own deal going on. And it’s comforting to know that everyone has their own stuff they are dealing with, too. We’re not alone. Again, another reason to have more understanding for each other.

29. I can do this.

30. Breathe out.

In a week I begin a long-awaited 200-hour yoga teacher training program. That’s another reason I challenged myself to 30 straight days of yoga, to sort through some feelings and anxieties before the real training began. Call it a much-needed emotional survey of my state of being. And you know what I learned? I can do this. I’m ready.

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