The Easy Pleasures of a Yoga Challenge

Join the YogaWorks Heart Opening Challenge in support of the American Heart Association's Rock the Red Campaign for Women's Heart Health! Get healthy and strong while cultivating joy, compassion and unconditional love for yourself and those around you with a class a day from February 1-14 either in a YogaWorks studio, or online with myyogaworks.com. Join the challenge.

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Have you ever compared the yoga bliss levels of one weekly class versus two? What about two and three? How about a daily home practice?

Wait—yoga every day, all alone? Yes and no: In my case, I hoped to hone a steady discipline to match my yoga devotion. But, alone in my living room, it’s much harder to elicit the same spirit, camaraderie, and stimulus that are so palpable in a studio setting.

I was ready to discard this lofty idea of commitment until the day I accidently stumbled into perfect balance: Somewhere between the inspiration of weekly class and the rigor of daily home practice was the opportunity for a challenge.

I’m talking about a yoga challenge. Maybe you’ve seen one offered by a local studio or scanned online promotions for fitness or diet–themed regimens. Replace something like let’s go carb- sugar- caffeine-free for 365 days with  thoughtful, daily yoga sequences, a reasonable time-cap, and a committed community. Results? Happy, habit-forming yoga that captures the three most essential “C’s” of practice: change, community, and character.

Change

If you want something you’ve never had, you’ve got to do something you’ve never done.

I desired a deeper practice. I craved “savasana brain” on a daily basis, but I couldn’t catch the winds of change. Fortunately, the New Year, with its symbolic cycle of transformation, is the perfect time to take on a transformative challenge. Remember that while motivation will inspire you, it’s daily repetition that roots habits to take hold.

I lack scientific evidence, but I’ll swear on a stack of yoga blankets that the universe always seems to pay close attention when I stake my commitments. I like to imagine some angels watching over my daily practice and commenting, “Wow. She really means business this time. I think she might be ready for that special road trip we’ve been planning.”

Community

“We rise by lifting others.” – Robert Ingersoll

Every morning—and I mean every morning—my Facebook feed greets me with stunning photos of beach sunrises from my friend Mary, a devout Kundalini practitioner who regularly performs a 40-day, 6:00 a.m. sadhana (practice). While I don’t think I’ll ever muster Mary’s early-morning motivation, her devotion and daily posts always inspire my more moderate practice.

In turn, I can spread Mary’s seeds with my virtual yoga challenge. I can share observable shifts in my practice (“So noticing I’m going deeper when holding pigeon”) as well as rough spots (“Is anyone else feeling a little vulnerable after hip openers?”) as a way of connecting with others. Often, community chat that stems from yoga challenges can extend far beyond the (sometimes) surface interactions in a weekly studio class.

Character

“Your job is to control yourself. Your job is to discipline yourself. Your job is to deal with everything in life with affection, love, and kindness.” – Yogi Bhajan

When we commit consistently to one small change, it doesn’t matter what that change is, only that we are steadfast. A yoga challenge is the perfect playground for self-honor. Try it, and you’ll see that it’s not about how your body feels after five rounds of sun salutations, but how your spirit soars when you show up every day to do it. Somehow my humble act of slapping my hand over my alarm clock, setting a cup of coffee by my mat, and scrolling my mobile greeting from Mary and my challenge team can slowly shift the way I can engage with the world, one asana and one day at a time. Isn’t that the best yoga bliss of all?

Join the YogaWorks Heart Opening Challenge in support of the American Heart Association's Rock the Red Campaign for Women's Heart Health! Get healthy and strong while cultivating joy, compassion and unconditional love for yourself and those around you with a class a day from February 1-14 either in a YogaWorks studio, or online with myyogaworks.com. Throughout the challenge, you’ll receive access to special heart oriented programming, and daily emails with class suggestions, healthy tips, and exclusive content to help keep you motivated. Plus you'll be entered to win tons of great prizes from incredible sponsors all while raising funds and awareness for women's hearth health! Join the challenge.

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Photo via iStock 

Written by Julie Balter


Tagged under: yoga, community