40 Day Salute
When I practice yoga regularly, life is better.
I first discovered this relationship while travelling in Kenya at age 20. After finding a basic (though oddly illustrated) book on yoga in Mombasa, I began to complete a simple series of postures on a daily basis. For the first time, I felt strong and capable in my body. The practice, along with the mind-opening experience of living in a different culture, gave me a sense of peace and power previously unknown. I found myself making better decisions and glowing in increased self-faith. It was a wonderful process that I wish for every 20-year old girl. Unfortunately, I quickly fell out of the practice after returning to the US.
The next time I practiced regularly was three years later after leaving my second Peace Corps assignment. Though not as consistent as my practice in Kenya, I once again found carving out time and space for yoga to be motivating and empowering. Yet, as before, as soon as my circumstances changed and I had a more demanding job, I dropped the yoga.
Thankfully, seven years later I met my fantastic teacher, Natasha, in Chengdu, China. Natasha introduced me to Ashtanga yoga, and I finally developed a consistent yoga practice. My body and mind responded accordingly. I felt more grounded, confident and creative. The practice was so motivating that I was able to wake up consistently before 5 in the morning to get it done – even with a couple of wakings each night to feed my young baby.
I was able to maintain my Ashtanga practice more or less regularly for about two years. However, I became pregnant with our second child immediately after moving to Switzerland and the first-trimester blahs took any motivation out of me. Although our second daughter is now nine months old and I am well settled into this new country, I cannot get my practice back on track. I know the multitude of benefits that consistent yoga provides, but when I have the space, I can’t find the time. When I have the time, I can’t find the motivation. When I have the motivation, I can’t find a space in our little apartment. It is a vicious drain on my well-being and I need to make a change.
With that in mind (and a little nudge in the back by Natasha’s request to write for her blog about parenting and yoga), I have decided to stop complaining and making excuses and reactivate my practice. My first step is to tackle my perception that I don’t have time. In order to make the leap, I am committing to 40 days of Sun Salutations. I am dedicated to completing five simple (Sun Salutation A) salutations a day with an open mind about where each salute will lead me. On the days I have more time and energy, I will do more. On days when those precious resources are scarce, I will be happy with the basic five (and remember that five is plenty with a 9-month old squawking in the corner and a 3-year old climbing under every downward dog).
Day 10- Lows and Highs
I managed to complete my minimum commitment of five sun salutations nine out of the past ten days. I could make up some pretty good excuses for why I missed that one day but when it comes down to it, I just didn’t get them done. I felt awful about it – like giving up the whole idea. I tend to be dogmatic that way. Thankfully I realized at the time, and the next day, how ridiculous the thought of giving up was.
That low point was balanced out by a substantially more extreme high today on the tenth day of my commitment. In the morning, I experienced a familiar disinclination to complete the salutations. However, this afternoon, amid a minefield of toys with both girls at my feet, I pulled out the mat. Immediately, D said she wanted to join me. She made it through two and a half salutations (without my guidance!) before calling it quits. Those were the best sun salutations I’ve ever experienced – brought on in part by my commitment to daily practice regardless of when and where.
In addition to occasionally blogging about my 40 day salute, I will be using a social networking website called SuperBetter for extra motivation. I have been fascinated by SuperBetter since hearing about it five months ago. The network was created to help those with traumatic injuries improve their healing processes by playing an imaginary game against barriers with the support of friends and family (“allies” in the SuperBetter world). It has taken some time for me to create my account because I felt like a fake without a traumatic or life-changing injury. However, five months after initially becoming interested in the site, I have made no changes to my routine even though I know how critical yoga is to my physical and mental well-being. Not traumatic, but definitely life-changing for me. If you’d like more information about SuperBetter, visit www.superbetter.com and contact me if you’d like to become an ally in my mission to reactivate my yoga practice.
I intended to sit down every 10 days and reflect on my 40 day commitment.
Where did the time go?
I think my missing updates are indicative of the results of my commitment to 40 days of 5 sun salutations – I have experienced a range of changes physically, but far fewer emotionally and spiritually. My body feels stronger and is noticeably more flexible. I notice poor posture readily and my back occasionally feels tense and misaligned- a sign that it is leaning toward alignment and away from the couch. Because I have practiced a small range of postures, my hips and torso are itching for opening – telling me that the sun salutations are not much more than a teaser. My endurance has increased and I can complete far more than my minimum five without getting winded.
On the internal side, I continue to feel rushed and harried (especially during my kids’ “witching hour” – late-afternoon and early-evening), though perhaps not as intensely as before. I don’t look forward to the mental component of my practice and my mind doesn’t “itch” for it the way my body does. My breathing, while on target, is not deeper or more meditative. I have noticed few changes to my level of patience or compassion.
My results so far lead me to the conclusion that while five salutations is something, it is not enough to bring about deeper changes (at least not for me). I need to continue searching for time and space to complete more thorough practices.