The Tale of Two Yoga Challenges

I’ve been planning to write this resolutions post since the beginning of the year. Today is February 15th. But the delay on this post kinda serves as the perfect set up to talk about resolutions and why they seem fated to fail.

Allow me to illustrate it with my original intention for this post: “The Tale of Two Yoga Challenges.”

My relationship with yoga is complicated at best. I hate doing things I’m not good at—and I’m not good at yoga. Yet yoga at its core touches on things I need to work on in my life. There are the physical issues like strength, flexibility, alignment and the mental aspects like shutting down negative noise in my head, learning patience, and celebrating small successes. And of course—the big ones like saying “no”, time management and being realistic about how long life things actually take.

But even with a rocky run at yoga, I’ve been consistently doing it inconsistently for a long time. Over ten years, at least. And for someone who isn’t particularly loyal to any exercise, that’s a long time.

Due to a confluence of weird health and personal issues, when The Studio announced a 30-day yoga challenge in October 2014, it felt like the perfect opportunity to align (see what I did there) all the random challenges into one organized “challenge.” 30 classes in 31 days. I was in.

Spoiler alert: I finished. It was a completely bonkers experience that at some points required me to do three classes a day—which was totally unsafe and definitely not recommended—and it didn’t accomplish what I had hoped. But I learned three key lessons that made it worthwhile.

  1. No one cares. You know what people don’t care about—your yoga challenge (insert all other workouts, diets, personal journeys.) Unless it impacts them directly, it’s not a thing anyone is thinking about but you. I’d say “I can’t—I have yoga” and supportive friend who loves me and wants me to do and be great says “Oh that’s right. I forgot you’re doing that.” Not because they aren’t supportive—your thing and whether you succeed or not—literally has no impact on their relationship with you. Your friends are your friends. With or without a completed punch card.
  2. Everyone needs help. One of the yoga things I learned doing the challenge was how important it is to use props. A bunch of instructors did the challenge, so I’d see them in class. They all used them. It was visual confirmation that even people I admire need assistance. Maybe knowing enough to use the tools available is the exact thing that helps make them successful.
  3. Everyone has issues. There’s nothing like a yoga class to make me feel super self-conscious. Certainly, everyone’s looking at me and judging. But it turns out no one cares (see number one) and everyone has their own issues. They legit have no time for you. The biggest takeaway from the challenge came in the locker room. It was after class and I followed a woman–who seemed to take every single class because I was coming at all kinds of random times and she was always there, too—into the locker room. I don’t have nudity issues. It’s not that I’m volunteering to walk around naked in public on the daily but changing in a locker room in front of people isn’t something I lose sleep over. Even with a healthy dose of body image issues like everyone else, I just change and go. But this woman—who could be on the cover of Yoga Journal—promptly went into a privacy stall. I had seen this woman do things in class that I could only dream of attempting and even with a lifestyle calibrated with the optimum balance of exercise and nutrition, I’m certain my body could never look like hers. And she went into the privacy stall. We were the only two people there. Everyone has issues. Whether we understand them or not—they’re there. No one is adding extra time to their day thinking about yours.

So overall, the challenge was a success. It made me feel like—yeah, I can do that. The next year I hiked in the Himalayas and reflected on how since I did the challenge, I could do this.  And so can you.

But should we? And what do we give up in succeeding? In that one month, I know I turned down time to hang with friends, something that’s important to me. I hear from my mom friends that taking an hour to do [insert “good for you” thing] is an hour not spent with family. And life already takes time away.

Yet even with the already precarious balancing act we find ourselves in, there’s something so alluring about adding more challenges and expectations. Setting resolutions.

In December 2018, I signed up for another yoga challenge. This time, it was a 21-day deal. I didn’t even read it before I registered. Had I read it—and looked at a calendar—I’d have known I had no shot.

Instead, I was determined to get it done. I had done it before, of course I could do it again. I posted about it—which is funny because again NO ONE CARES—and not one person ever brought it up.

Spoiler alert: I did not finish. On a pivotal day that I thought I needed to get to a class to have a chance, I was sick. And I was sick because I was rundown. How do I know? Because after one day of sleep and rest, I felt way better. That doesn’t happen if you have a proper cold or flu. But instead of just honoring my body—a very yoga concept—I created a storm of anxiety about how not going to class that day was going to force me to fail at this totally irrelevant thing I was doing. I laid on the couch and created a comprehensive list of all the things I’m failing at and how 2019 had to be the year I do better.

Because I failed at a yoga challenge.

I didn’t think about how doing the yoga challenge got me back on my mat more times that month than I would ever regularly do. Or how good I felt because of the classes I did make. Or that results, even small ones, came quickly. Or that I was finding a decent balance to get to class while still wrapping up end-of-the-year work responsibilities, time with friends and dealing with family things.

There’s something sadly gratifying about creating situations you are deemed to fail at. It’s a clever way to prove those negative voices in your head have been right all along. Because if no one cares, and everyone needs help and everyone has issues, the only one who is putting this pressure on you—is you.

The reason sticking to resolutions or making changes is hard is because life is hard. We don’t give ourselves credit for all the things we manage to successfully cram into our 24/7/365. Instead, we focus on all that is missing. All the ways we are failing. All the expectations we aren’t meeting. Set by no one.

So my resolution for 2019 is to celebrate the small successes. To be patient with myself. To turn the negative noise down, even if it’s just a little bit quieter. And to be happy I get to class whenever life allows me to be there.  Because life is hard enough. I don’t need to make it harder.

4 thoughts on “The Tale of Two Yoga Challenges

  1. All of this makes me laugh. I remember running into you at the Studio that day you had to take three classes (you were just walking into your second one)! Was that really back in 2014? And I am drinking up the irony of how yoga can make us anxious and not remotely come close to helping us get over our issues. It reminds me of the time I was not mindful enough to account for traffic on my way to a yoga class and end up speeding and flipping people off… on my way to a yoga class.

    That said, this post is also about changing habits and goal setting. I think what I’ve noticed is that some people really are motivated by setting goals and thrive from challenges like this. I’ve never been one of those people. That means that my daily habits don’t ever seem bad enough to put any work into. And I’d rather spend my time exactly the way I’ve prioritized things. What I find surprising is that when I have actually done challenges (like, Whole30) whether or not I’ve “succeeded” when they’re done, I emerge from them having learned something about myself. I like that part and the self-evaluation that comes after. Habits are neither good nor bad, they’re just habits. Good “mind cleaning” is to challenge your thinking of them. Put a new habit in or take one away. You can see what the change is and make a decision what to do about it. Maybe some new ones are worth incorporating in to your life priorities. Even though I never want to, I think we *should* challenge ourselves; I think it’s part of how we grow.

    • Hahaha! Yes–that was a crazy time when I was taking all those classes.

      I agree on all points. I don’t think doing challenges or things like it are inherently bad–but it isn’t productive when we put additional pressure on our lives when it’s not the right time. I learned so much on that first yoga challenge–but the lesson I learned on the second was just as important–don’t overextend yourself and then beat yourself up when you aren’t successful. A lesson I seem to continuously need to learn!

  2. You know I love you. I had no idea you were doing a yoga challenge. Or maybe I forgot. So, yeah. Just reinforcing your point, I guess.

  3. Exactly. And had I finished the last one–you would’ve said “Yay!”–and we would’ve started talking about something else. Hahaha! Which is totally, totally fine.

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