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6 Things I Learned from the 60 Classes/60 Day Challenge

August 27, 2013

“What’s that?” you say.  “60?! I thought you were doing 30…”

True – I had set out to do 30 hot classes in 30 days, then it morphed into 45 in 45, and upon completion it evolved to 61 hot classes in 58 days.  In the end, of the number of days was less important than what I learned in 90 hours (that’s 5400 minutes, by the way) on the mat, so here goes:

All right – counting the number of times I fell over off my may it was more like 5237 minutes …

1) Pacing in a hot class will get your farther than youth, brute strength, flexibility or even a cute yoga outfit.  Okay, that last one may not be true, but what is true is this: learning to pace myself was a key skill in each and every class.  Not rushing into or out of postures, arriving early to class, not backing appointments up so I had to rush from the room at the end of class – all these were instrumental in completing the 60 days safely and happily.

During one class I watched a young woman slam into the postures so fast it made MY head spin.  She’ll need a bite splint – for some reason that much rushing seemed to be accompanied by vicious jaw clenching like a Christmas nutcracker.  For me, not rushing was both refreshing and calming.

2) Mental persistence was a key, as much or more than physical stamina.  Most classes I practiced in the studio with a live teacher and other people; some I had to do entirely on my own.  It was these “solo” classes that in some ways were toughest.  I was sometimes tempted to skip, shorten or short-cut postures or to create my own clever dialogue to pass the time.  I DO NOT ADVISE this latter strategy.  Suffice it to say my dialogue for every posture sounded a lot like shivasana or got so ridiculous that I laughed out loud. “Now place your nostril on the mirror while baking a cake with your right foot…”

There were days it was extremely difficult to walk through the door knowing I would be alone.  But somehow determination rose up from within and I found a strength to stay present.

3) Supportive fellow yogis and teachers were instrumental in keeping a pleasant demeanor about the whole thing.  Others, like Erik, has blazed this path before me and his encouragement and instrumental advice (drink tons of water – with electrolytes) were really helpful in keeping things moving forward.

4) Laughter helps a lot.  As one of my teachers says, “It’s just a posture for goodness sake!”  I laughed at myself a lot during the two months.

At one point one about half way through the 60 days, one of my teachers asked us during trikonasana (triangle pose) to look toward to mirror to see if we saw a “perfect triangle” formed by the thigh parallel to the floor, the arm and the torso.  When I looked, I blurted out, “There’s a booby in my triangle! Does anyone else have a booby in the triangle?”, and then I collapsed onto my mat in the kind of hysterics born only by dangerous endeavors like high altitude climbing, self-performed appendectomies and being half way through a 60 day yoga challenge.

In retrospect maybe it wasn’t THAT funny, but, at the time, I thought I was a real Henny Youngman, let me tell you.

Yes, yoga is meditative, serious business but if we cannot laugh on the mat sometimes how much does yoga really expand our heart?  If we take ourselves and even our practice too seriously we miss out on  a great deal.

Here is how the Sufi poet Hafiz puts it, in “Tripping Over Joy”:

What is the difference
Between your experience of Existence
And that of a saint?
The saint knows
That the spiritual path
Is a sublime chess game with God
And that the Beloved
Has just made such a Fantastic Move
That the saint is now continually
Tripping over Joy
And bursting out in Laughter
And saying, “I Surrender!”
Whereas, my dear,
I am afraid you still think
You have a thousand serious moves.
5) Releasing the search for “achievement” was very helpful.  I entered this challenge thinking that I would see steady, daily progress in the postures, and the truth was different.  It remains true that I have days when the postures and I seem to flow nicely and other days when I can’t believe I struggle to stand on one foot.
It is true that on the whole I am making progress in the postures – I can do some things I could not before I began the challenge, but my secret vision of emerging from these two months as SUPER YOGI did not manifest.   A bad night’s sleep, fibromyalgia pain or a rough work day still had an impact.  In the end I keep having to release the idea of “getting somewhere”.  Each day, each posture, each breath is to simply to met with awareness and then released.
This is not a bad life lesson either.  Whatever is, in the present moment, is what is, and our work is to meet it with greater patience, compassion and awareness.
6) Follow the Three Yogic Axioms of Joe
  1. Drink a liter of water before class
  2. Breath the whole time (this is a very high priority)
  3. [I cannot remember the 3rd Yogic Axiom of Joe, but it was a good one.]

So if you are tempted to try a 30 or 45 or 60 day challenge, I highly recommend it.  Tell your teachers and fellow yogis about so they can offer you a bit of encouragement and above all be patience and gentle with yourself.

Maybe that’s the big take away from all this: be part of a community and live with grace.  All the rest is commentary.

-Rabbi Chava Bahle

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 19, 2013 2:01 pm

    Excelent article and nice to read, thanks for sharing !

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