I've been trying to keep notes throughout this 30 day challenge to look back on and assess my feelings. After every class I've written down a few comments about the instructor, the feel of the classes, how I've felt and I've noticed a couple pretty cool things.
I do miss the gym, but I very much look forward to my Yoga classes at lunch.
Last week I was walking the two blocks down to Samadhi Yoga and Wellness center, where I've been taking all my classes and I had this thought pop into my head: "I'm really looking forward to this". There was no special instructor I was looking forward to, nothing overly exciting about the type of class I was taking -- it was just another day on this 30 day challenge.
As I was walking over I wrote this note in my phone, so as not to lose it in the busyness of the day. "I find myself looking forward to yoga in a way that I don't look forward to a hard workout at the gym. I love the gym but the nature of how I workout usually envokes a sense of anticipation and excitement that verges on fear, knowing what I'm about to put my body through. Yoga is a much more relaxing process and because I know I'm not going to be challenging my body in the same way, I enter the workout with a different mindset".
I do love the gym, my primary fitness goals depend on me continuing to get stronger in the gym, but through getting more familiar with yoga I can see how beneficial the mental part of the workout is. I don't anticipate myself converting to 100% yoga, but I plan to continue to incorporate it into my workout regime after this 30 day challenge is up because of how good it is for clearing the mind.
When I first started this challenge I was relatively unfamiliar with yoga. I had taken a couple of classes with a handful of instructors but never consistently and usually with significant gaps of time in between. What I have come to realize is how important a good instructor can be.
I've found something good about all the instructors I've taken classes with so far, though some of them have a better natural fit with my own personality.
I like instructors that push you past your comfort a little bit, get you to hold a pose a breath or two longer than you'd like and make you refocus on clearing your head when you hit an internal wall. Here are some comments on some of the instructors I've had up to this point:
"Jen was very good. Expected her to lead the class more directly but she spoke really well and explained with words well enough not to need her physically showing. She flowed through the room as she spoke. Loved it when she came by and helped me with my 'Warrior' 3 position -- made it feel very personal, as though she was paying attention to each student"
"The instructor today was a bit harder to follow but less spiritual. In some ways I found that more comfortable, but because the instruction wasn't as clear it was a bit harder to follow. She was an incredible practitioner though. 50+ and sat in the bottom of a squat, flat footed, like it was no problem -- I wish!"
"Jackie was awesome. Just felt honest, hard to describe it any other way. Was all about slow and steady, didn't rush through anything. Challenged our balance a bunch (on the toes, one foot) and did some good core work (planks with cool knee to elbows section) and really got us to sink into our hip stretches (pigeon). She made the comment that there are 99 days left in the year and to make the most out of them."
"Chelsea had the most incredible music playing, a couple bands that I recognized but didn't know the names of and some I'd never heard of. Most of the other music is really spiritual or middle eastern sounding but her music was just chill and awesome. The class was really empty so it felt like she really got to pay attention to each of us and help us improve by commenting directly to each of us. Good class"
"It's not yoga perfect, it's yoga practice"
I loved this quote from Talla when we were doing a crazy toe balanced squat with one leg extended -- There is no chance I'm spelling the pose name in the original language. I like the idea of practicing something and getting better at it because I truly believe that practice is the key to success in anything. If I want to get better at squatting heavy, I practice squatting heavy. If I want to be a better presenter at work, I practice presenting at work. If I want to get deeper into my down dog position -- I practice!
It's a simple idea but practicing something with intention is an absolute key to success. I was just reading a book on success the other day and the author was describing a change in his mindset. He was saying how when he first started his career he saw challenges as opportunities for failure or success. As a result he went to each challenge wanting success but fearing failure. He said his success changed immensely when he changed from focusing on challenges as success or failure and rather looked at every one as a learning opportunity. That way even if he 'failed', he still got better as a result. Cool thought.
I've got it written in my notes after almost every single yoga class.
"Noticed my breathing for like 20 minutes after the class"
In Yoga there is a large emphasis put on connecting the movement with your breath. You focus on your breath to clear your mind and you use it to set your internal tempo. If you find yourself losing your breath you pull back and refocus. It's a big part of the reason why I find myself so relaxed during a yoga workout and why I look forward to going to my classes so much.
Chelsea Lees and I ended up talking about this idea a bit when we were doing our interview last week -- the idea that clearing your head (through using your breath) is useful in almost any sport or activity. I know I unconsciously clear my mind like that before I do a heavy lift in the gym.
The conscious breath thing is a part of the reason why I think all of the yoga instructors that sing or 'Om' at the end of their classes have such incredible purity to their sound. The first time I took a class with Jenelle (who is awesome), we were settling into 'shavasana' at the end of class, probably about two minutes in so everyone was right into it, all of a sudden this noise starts to rise in the room. Softly growing louder and louder, crescendoing and then fading. It took me a second to realize that it was Jenelle 'Om'ing to the room. Her voice was so perfect you could hear it oscillate off every wall. It sounded like someone running their finger over the lip of a crystal wine glass.
It was incredible. The reason why I think she had such a pure sound was because her breath was coming right from her diaphragm and completely supporting her voice. It was a pretty transcendent moment (and that's coming from a guy who doesn't really get into the whole 'spirirtual' part of yoga).
The focus on breathing is super beneficial in all kinds of ways. I can see the focus on breathing being one big benefit I take away from this challenge
There are probably twenty more things I could write about from my notes on my challenge so far but those are probably some of the most impactful things I've taken note of so far. I've been enjoying this challenge, I can feel myself getting better at the actual practice, feel myself getting more flexible. Here is a video of a bit of a yoga flow that I've been doing at home to keep my practice up. Check out that down dog -- Probably would have had to be a 60 day yoga challenge to get my heels to the floor on down dog, I'll keep at it though!