With summer drawing to a close and distractions abounding, my partner and I decided to challenge ourselves with a 30 day Yoga and Meditation challenge. An opportunity to hit the reset button, to specifically cultivate a deeper understanding and appreciation for meditation. This had been gnawing at me for a while now, and I made the decision to draw a line in the sand, and just go for it, 30 days of physical asana and meditation from beginning to end.
I would love to say the entire experience was pure bliss, the heavens opened up and enlightenment rained forth. On the contrary, at times it was physically brutal, bewildering, with resentment rearing its ugly head. There were also good moments too, feeling centered, blessed out, and physically well rounded.
Below are the key lessons learned from the challenge:
In the beginning of the challenge, classes were lapped up with gusto. The harder the better, we got our sweat on and pushed ourselves to the limit. It didn’t take long for surfing, working, physical asana & meditation all in one day to take its toll. Muscles began to feel tired and strained, a shoulder impingement that had taken months to heal began to niggle its way back. I started to feel grumpy; resentful that I had to go “do yoga” when I was mentally and physically exhausted. I needed balance! When I was pushing too hard, I had to reel it back in and take stock of where I was mentally and physically and make adjustments to return to my happy, balanced state.
By making the decision to meditate every day, by taking action on that decision and cultivating a routine, discipline was born. A great thing quality about discipline is its portability. When you start to become disciplined in one particular subject, it becomes easier to be disciplined in pursuing other goals and activities. For example, I use the same mindset from getting up in the morning and meditating, to getting up in the morning and start working on my to do list for the day.
Having someone equally motivated partaking in the challenge with you brings with it a certain sense of accountability. Doing this challenge with my partner Carol, I felt responsible for not only for my own actions, but hers as well. If I let myself down, I in turn let Carol down. When I was feeling unmotivated, Carol held me accountable to the challenge and motivated me to complete the task at hand. This also rang true when it was time for me to motivate her when she was feeling low and I had the energy to forge ahead. Having someone by your side during this and any challenge, increases your chances of success.
One of the main reasons I have never enjoyed meditation is because it is painful for me to sit upright for longer than a few minutes. My back starts to spasm and without advanced training, it is almost impossible to meditate through the burning pain as a beginner. In this particular challenge, I sat with my back to the sofa for support, my spine still relatively straight and a whole new world opened up. No longer did the pain begin to gnaw at me after a few minutes, I was able to concentrate at the task at hand and work on developing a meditative technique and subsequent practice. In conjunction with this, I quickly learnt no day is the same when it comes to meditation. Some days I was constrained by time, and shorter sessions were in order. Some days I had the time slot to meditate for say 30 minutes, but the mind would not settle, and I called it quits after 10 minutes. The point here is that it did not work for me to push the issue. If I found it too hard to settle the mind, I acknowledged this, reminded myself that some meditation is better than no meditation, and tried again later or the next day. Lose attachment to the outcome.
To summarize, I learnt when undertaking this sort of challenge, I needed to stay conscious of my mental and physical balance. It was okay to explore my limits, but I needed to reel it back in when I began to feel unbalanced. When I was tired, it was time to rest! There is a reason my body was crying out for rest, it needed time to heal and regenerate itself. Balance physically challenging asana classes with restorative classes. Yoga is more than just physical asana The one explanation for Yoga that has always rung true with me, is the one the late Georg Feuerstein gave when he said “Yoga is the binding of consciousness to one particular dosha or object”. Does Yoga not exist everywhere around us if we are able to focus on one thing? When reading and concentrating on absorbing a new concept, we focus intently. There are many ways to enter into a meditative and/or contemplative state, not just in a yoga studio. Having Carol do the challenge with me held me accountable, and also gave me someone to share my joy and pain, and increased my chances of success. I learnt to be aware of the discipline I have created. No one did this but me! I became empowered by this process and implemented it into all spheres of my everyday life, and reveled in the success that it brought. Finding a physical comfort zone when meditating, set me for success by minimizing potential distractions. Don’t let perceived norms hold you back in exploring your own way of doing things. Find a way to make it work for you in your body and in your mind!