60-Day Challenge: Pow!

I finished my 60-day challenge yesterday! So grateful to have done it, also secretly glad it’s over. Just when I thought I was sailing towards the end, I caught a cold and struggled through teaching and practicing for the past four days. I am, however, overwhelmingly relieved that I have not lost my voice and that I was able to complete it!

like a champ

like a champ

The transformation from this time last year (when I accomplished my first 60-day challenge) to now astonishes me. It was still hard this time–I imagine that, like class itself, the challenges never get easy–but much less daunting. Last year, I was proving to myself that I was capable of doing it. This year, I was maintaining that dedication, so my approach was methodical and patient. Lots of my fellow challengers fell behind and had [consecutive] days of doubles or even triples in order to stay on track. I think I only did maybe four doubles; otherwise, it was a day-in, day-out time- and energy-management goal. I didn’t try to kill myself, ever. To make this practice sustainable for me, consistency and compassion are crucial.

In other, more inspiring news, this weekend was also the USA Yoga Asana National Championships, and I had the joy of coming home from teaching this morning to get to watch the Champion’s demonstrations–including Cynthia Wehr, who owns my home studio. Every time I see her perform, it’s absolutely breathtaking. She’s such an incredible human being–everyday, she’s so humble and sweet I think we all forget a little how privileged we are to have her. To have her teach me, to have her take my class, to practice with her. But boy, did watching this remind me! Especially her smile and quick exit…. never the glory-seeker, Cynthia. Just a beautiful mensch, inside and out.

Anyways, if you have time and would like to see the pinnacle of yoga asana grace, watch the champions or even the finalists. Even when they fall out of postures (they ARE like the rest of us, if only a little!), they do it with such charm they will astound you yet more.

Happy March, everyone!

determination, effort, and 30 days down

A mini-celebration… gratitude for reaching the halfway point of my challenge today. 30 days down, 30 days to go!

I have met with my fair share of challenges so far: a few utterly ego-busting classes, new pain sensations from one of my vertebrae, struggles to hydrate while teaching full-time. But so far, this challenge has also reacquainted me with the need for patience (one posture at a time, one day at a time) and renewed my compassion for those new (and old) students in the throes of a particularly overwhelming class.

As I continue, I find myself increasingly looking for guiding wisdom to inspire me each class. I hope this one, taken from the Dalai Lama in The Art of Happiness, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Handbook for Living, resonates for others as well.

It takes a long time to develop the behavior and habits of mind that contribute to our problems. It takes an equally long time to establish the new habits that bring happiness. There is no getting around these essential ingredients: determination, effort, and time.

the price and privilege of visibility

“When I began competing I was very nervous. Here you are, all alone on stage, demonstrating something extremely personal. But there is a shift the more you practice. I realized it just wasn’t about me. Win or lose, I was a role player, a participant along with everyone else … For me getting on stage to compete is an act of generosity, realization and love.”

-Courtney Mace (2009 International Yoga Asana Champion)

This is how it feels to practice as a teacher. My practice is no longer just about me. It happened when I started to work the front desk at my studio, and I resisted and resented the intrusion–my practice was no longer about just how I felt. I couldn’t be weak, or have a lazy class, because now others were looking to me as an example. Ugh!

After training, I have less resistance and resentment of this fact. After teacher training, thanks to camaraderie and humility, my practice is stronger and more disciplined. Even when my postures aren’t as deep, or I’m really struggling with resistance in my mind or a part of my body, I am more capable of carrying others. I can feel my presence ground the students around me.

The parallels to Courtney’s statement run deep. My personal practice, something I will always cherish and depend upon as necessary to my physical and mental health, was at first difficult to share (and sometimes, still is). It was mine, and I needed it. I didn’t feel like enough. I didn’t want to share; I wanted the anonymity of struggling along with everyone else.

Becoming a teacher, you lose that privilege–but it turns out that privilege is also a handicap. In being even more visible (as if all those mirrors weren’t enough, right?), and in having my practice be not just about me but about being strong for other people, I found more strength in myself. It’s easy to underestimate ourselves; harder to fail others. It seems that the limits of what we are capable of change according to our perception of our limits. And every day I practice I test (and therefore expand) both my perception and my limits.

So, yes, now my practice–in both its strengths and its vulnerabilities–is an act of generosity, realization and love.

With this in mind, I have signed up for the 60 day challenge. Not for me–I don’t need to prove to myself I can do it, I did it last year (with pneumonia) and then upped the ante with teacher training a few months later. I’m doing it because I think it’s important for my students to see me do it and to encourage them to try it. It begins, quite appropriately, tomorrow.