Last Christmas, my best friend gave me a one month membership to Alive Yoga, a yoga studio here in Kuwait. I started early in the new year and immediately fell in love with the place. It was exactly what I was looking for. In no time, it became my sanctuary.
I practiced as often as I could. Summer travels did interrupt my practice, but I got back into it soon after I returned from my holidays. Although I went relatively regularly, when I saw the notice go up about a 90 day yoga challenge, I knew it was something I would want to partake in to help me really establish yoga as a consistent part of my routine.
The general guidelines – complete 90 hours of yoga within 90 days, allowing only 12 double sessions within that time period.
My initial excitement was definitely accompanied by some apprehension. Making a 90 day commitment was no joke. I had already set up my schedule for the fall/winter. This would disrupt it. I would have to change things around, and I really don’t like having to change things around. However, isn’t the whole point about yoga to be flexible (both in body and in mind)?
I spoke to D about it and he encouraged me to go for it. I told myself to just do my best and not get hung up on the numbers. Even accomplishing 70 classes would be something, though if I’m being totally honest, I wanted to hit 90. Detaching from numbers is something I still need to work on (number of steps; number of calories; number on the scale; number of likes … you get the picture). Anyway. Regardless of the outcome, I knew I wanted to do it, so I signed up.
October 1st came and I was excited! The yoga studio put up a great big board in the hallway with all the participants’ names. At the end of each hour of practice we were to put a green sticker on the chart to mark and track our progress.
By the end of October, I had completed 36 hours of yoga. I never thought I would be able to do that much yoga in one month. It wasn’t just about doing yoga, but it was about committing to making the effort to actually come to class. By the beginning of November, it was definitely a routine – so much so that there were several occasions when I would leave the house to run an errand or go somewhere else but automatically end up heading towards the yoga studio. That definitely suggested that I needed more mindfulness practice!
On December 21st I finished my 90th hour of yoga. I was so happy to have set my sights on a goal and work steadily to accomplish it.
The two most common questions I was asked after finishing the challenge: (1) How do you feel? and (2) What will you do now?
(1) I feel great! I feel proud of my accomplishment and excited to continue to progress in my practice.
(2) I’m going to keep on going! Although the prizes of the challenge were very generous and appealing, the real reward was managing to focus on a task and see it to completion. The challenge also really solidified my practice into my daily routine.
There is no doubt that 90 hours of practice within three months helped improve my yoga. I could barely touch the ground with my finger tips in a forward fold before whereas now I can. My flexibility, core strength, muscle tone, and balance have all improved.
However, as I have found with many other challenges, the benefits and lessons learned often go beyond the focus of the challenge itself. Here are a few invaluable things I learned from this 90 Day Challenge at Alive Yoga:
- Determination: If I want to accomplish something, I can.
- Flexibility: (a) Just because I like having a routine doesn’t mean I can’t change it — and my world will not fall apart if I do! (b) Just because I like having my mat in a particular spot in the yoga room doesn’t mean my yoga practice will fall apart if someone else takes ‘my’ space!
- Acceptance: (a) My body is my body. It does not matter what others look like; this is what I have to work with so I am going to make it work. (b) My yoga is my yoga. It does not matter what others can do; I can only do my best, so my best is what I am going to give. (c) 100% effort looks different on different days. If I am tired or not feeling well or whatever, I can modify my moves as needed. I need not be critical of judgmental of myself; I should accept what has happened and let it go.
There were so many positive outcomes from this challenge, but I think my most favorite one was connecting with the yoga community. Instead of just sitting in the lounge area, people would ask – are you doing the challenge? After class, instead of walking out of the studio, we’d meet at the challenge board and praise each other on our progress or encourage each other to keep pushing. People were coming to class more regularly, which meant that you got to know faces. Getting to know faces led to getting to know names which led to getting to know people and their stories. Not only did the yoga studio start to feel like home, but the people started to feel like family.
So was it all rosy and cheerful? Well, not all. Here were the challenges of the challenge:
- It took a lot of time commitment. The classes may have just been one hour long, but traffic sometimes added 2 extra hours to my day. This meant that I had to reorganize my schedule quite a bit. It also meant that I was on the road for almost 2 extra hours a day, and driving here in Kuwait is stressful. The worst would be leaving a calm, relaxing meditation practice and then having to get on the roads and watch all your tranquility vanish as you hit the main street. It was tough.
- It started to take a physical toll. When you continually go to class, you start to see improvement, so you start to push and challenge yourself. That’s not a bad thing, but the aches and pains I felt about 6 weeks into the challenge were real. However, even this physical toll was a learning opportunity. I learned how to scale back and slow down. I learned how to listen to my body. I chose my classes wisely. During Week 7, when I felt like I needed to focus on recovering, I did restorative yoga, meditation, yin, and roll & release classes. I modified my poses as needed. So even within the struggles, there were lessons to be learned.
All good lessons come from challenges, and I definitely learned a lot, both about yoga and about myself. My practice continues and my goals keep evolving. The one thing is for sure, I achieved what I set out to do through this challenge: solidify yoga into my regular practice.