#30daysonthemat sounds like a great idea, and while yes I do think taking those 30 days to commit to my practice was muchos powerful; and yes I am closer to handstand than ever before (held it for 10 seconds the other day without touching a wall once!!), I still have to say following the word yoga with the word challenge kind of inevitably throws the ego in the mix and then suddenly you’re missing the point.
My first week of yoga I was thrilled to be so committed to my practice. Every time I threw down my mat I got a little high. I felt more committed to yoga than I had in a year. By week two, I was back from my Miami vacation and fitting yoga into my everyday life was becoming a bit more of a hassle. Suddenly I was leaving early for work to hit yoga, showing up really sweaty and smelling for 8-hours at my tolerant co-workers. Still, I was committed.
When I missed one day in week three, and yes, I missed one day (honestly I missed two), I felt lousy. I was a failure and I wouldn’t let it happen again. First of all, I did let it happen again (hence the second time) and second of all I had to. My hamstrings were feeling tight, my hips were hurting and my back was screaming for a break from back-bending. That’s when I started to get the real point of my #30daysonthemat.
My committment to getting on my mat was not about could I do 30 days of asana. I had answered that years before when I did a teacher training for 3-months and practiced every day for 90 days and listened to philosophy talk for 10 hours a weekend. It wasn’t about the physical practice at all, it was about the desire and intention to get back on my mat. It was about committing to my yoga practice mentally, not physically.
There are days when practicing asana just doesn’t feel good. There are days when meditation just isn’t happening and there are days when your hips don’t want to do pigeon and your shoulders don’t want to do *gasp* handstand. The one thing I didn’t love about my yoga challenge (and don’t get me wrong, on the whole I loved what it did for my practice) was the competition it introduced to my practice. It’s good to push yourself, but there’s no reason for yoga to be causing you physical pain or mental anguish. The very moment I felt a pull in my hamstrings I should have stopped, but I didn’t, because I didn’t want to back down from “the challenge.”
The lesson, I think, is this: you cannot make your yoga practice about the ego. After committing to #missionhandstand I became obsessed with instavideos of the best and strongest yogis pressing into handstand. I bemoaned my inability to do certain transitions and I started to hate on my lack of handstand. Instavideos are great and pushing yourself in your practice because you know you can is one thing. But doing anything because your ego told you to be like another yogi is straight up bull shit. Because your practice is your own; physically, mentally, emotionally it will literally never look or feel like anyone else’s because it is unique to only you.
So will I be doing another yoga challenge in the future? Nay – life is hard enough without making my yoga practice “a challenge”. But I will set goals of getting on my mat 3x a week… and then maybe surprise myself with a fourth and fifth if that’s what feels right for my hips and brain. And am I giving up on #missionhandstand? Hell to the no. But I’m going to focus on the practice, give my body time, do the work and then one day I know handstand will just happen in a far more beautiful way than I can ever have imagined.
xo for now, yogis!