The unlikely hero? Me. The impossible task? The thirty day challenge at Radiance Yoga in Old Town Alexandria, twenty-six yoga classes in thirty days. August 2-31. Why? The big reward! Bragging rights. Oh sure there were other things, like a tank-top that said 30 day challenge (that’s just a way to brag where I don’t have to talk at all, I let my clothes talk for me) and a free class and extra off the retail stuff and a chance to win some pretty cool prizes from Society Fair (newly addicted to this place – what is it, a bakery? A café? A bar? I don’t know but I just spent $50 there last week. Just a tip, the green stuff that comes with the Falafel is NOT pesto. Its jalapeños. Ouch). The rest of the prizes were just as fun – a 60 minute facial from Circe of Alexandria, a 90 minute Lomilomi massage from Human Touch Massage, and a Kulae Yoga mat!
You might imagine that for someone without a job this challenge would be pretty easy, well, ok that’s fair, I did have a much easier time than my fellow Yogi’s working full time BUT I reserve the right to call this a challenge. The challenge wasn’t finding a class to go to, there were plenty I wanted to try and, after all, I have the time, the challenge for me for this little adventure was sticking with it. I have an embarrassing confession to make. I’ve got a little condition I like to call BALD. No, I don’t have a problem keeping hair on my head, most of the time, but I do have Big Ambition, Low Discipline syndrome. BALDs. I love to start new ‘habits’ that will improve me in some way, depending on what I am into that particular month. For example, Japanese lessons so I can speak Japanese to my father in law! So exciting. (Two months) Working out on the Elliptical at home every other morning and doing weights, can‘t wait to be fit! (Two weeks) Writing in a journal every day, Anais Nin stand aside. (One week, three days) Meditating for ten minutes every day. (Three days) Sticking to a cleaning schedule where I completely clean the house once a week. (Sorry guests…two weeks for that one too. Prepare yourself for a dust bunny acropolis. They‘ve built their own Parthenon in the guest bathroom. Fuzzy, but beautiful.)
I find myself half-way through this thirty day challenge and I have to admit I was expecting to fizzle out by now, to be struck by BALDs once again. Except, I have found myself looking forward to each and every class even after the first two weeks. Each class I go to seems to tap into a different part of me that needed stretching and strengthening. I love the early morning flow classes for the way they take me out of my head and remind me I am a physical being. The joy of challenging my body to go a little farther, a little deeper into the stretch, to focus all my energy on balancing in a pose I’ve never been able to hold before is transcendent. It pulls my thoughts out of the circle of worries (when will I be able to work again – what kind of a job will I get – why is frozen yogurt so expensive?) and down into the exhale of my lungs, the warm energy in my legs as I hold warrior one.
I am also thoroughly enjoying the Kundalini classes, taught by kind, joyful teachers. They challenge my concept of myself, of the world and what it is truly like to be a human being in a community of like minded human beings, who love and are loved, support and are supported merely by being together in one sacred space. The best word to describe how I feel after a Kundalini class? Blissful. Centered. Loved. Ok, that was three words. The best word then to describe it is; whole. I feel whole, connected in a way I haven’t felt since I was a child and I could still climb onto dad‘s lap for a cuddle when I had a bad dream.
Then there are the Yin classes where I am reminded not to push my body too hard, that often it is the one who relaxes, who lets go that finds the most release in a difficult pose.
Involving myself in an (almost) daily practice of yoga, all the different kinds of yoga, has strengthened not just my muscles (my arms are supposed to have curves? Cool!) but also, surprisingly, my crusty ol’ heart. The unintended side effect of this challenge has been that it has shed light on an entirely new aspect of my personality I hadn’t suspected existed before. I don’t want to over sell it, I’m still myself, cranky sometimes and easily irritated and just as likely to give you a wave hello as the middle finger if you cut me off on the GW Parkway but, I also feel calmer, more expansive, more open and stronger. I feel braver, there is no other way to describe it. Braver and more forgiving both of myself (its ok to be BALD just keep trying…) and of others. I’ve found when I spend less time berating myself for my perceived failures, I have more forgiveness and encouragement for others as well. All that and a tank-top too, that’s not bad for thirty days effort!