Today is Day 44 of my 90-day yoga challenge, primarily with exhale. I was sitting here, trying to think of all the things that have come from this challenge, all the gifts that have sort of fallen into my lap and heart when I unroll that mat every day. But, to be honest, somedays (like when I got Holiday Flu during Christmas, an annual tradition like Seven-Layer Cookies in my house) I just went straight for the long rug in my living room and proceeded to roll from Child’s Pose to various bolster-driven restorative moves. But at any rate, I’m one day shy of showing up for myself every single day. And it feels amazing.
I didn’t do this as a weight loss gimmick. I can’t say that really even crossed my mind, even though we’re inundated daily with those ideal body photos in tabloids that talk about the yoga body. But since starting the original 30-day challenge with exhale in September and starting again in November, I can honestly say that the “yoga body” looks like a better version of your own body. With regular practice, it becomes longer, stronger, and more defined. It can do some pretty interesting things. But it you hit the mat with dedication, you will definitely see changes. Slowly but surely, muscles start to spring forth like a butterfly from a chrysalis. One day, you’ll run your hands along your abdomen and feel the sheet rock of strength you’ve been building underneath your skin. Your skin will glow from all the sweat. But the greatest change to the body, at least my body, has been the way I see myself.
When I look at my form on the mat, I’m suddenly madly in love. I’m constantly amazed at the strength of my arms, the vitality of my movements, the grace and fluidity with the breath I never knew existed within me. I’m crazy strong now: I can balance on the backs of my arms, and I’m working on headstands. My muscles fire at my command, and as I continue to show up on the mat, I evolve. One day, I watched other people fly into an arm balance, and I thought, someday, that will be me.
And then one day it was. This is Eka Pada Koundinyasana II. It’s just a fancy, challenging arm pose. Don’t let it intimidate you. But it is kind of fun, right?
Something else has changed for me. I crave classes now. Before I started, I knew I loved yoga, but I thought it was more of a passion toward a balanced exercise regimen. It’s so much more than that now. I get there early, and the moment I sit down on that mat, the Do Not Disturb sign in my brain is engaged. I don’t think about other things in yoga. I don’t look at how the person next to me is doing. All thoughts about work fade away by the first Downward-Facing Dog. I sweat, I move, I stay present. This is the good stuff. I want to keep going, see where this journey takes me. Also, I can’t balance and think about anything else. If I’m stressed about an article, I will fall flat on my ass. So, I don’t think about other things.
All the yoga I’ve been doing has also completely changed the way I eat. I don’t really eat mindlessly at night anymore. I’m aware of when the craving strikes, and I just make a different choice. God, it’s the best gift I’ve ever gotten: I’m now mindful of my mindless eating habits. It’s been crazy good so far, and now I have an apple and a large mug of tea at night before I go to bed. You’re saying, “Kristin, there is no way an apple and tea are a substitute for chocolate.” I agree. I just eat it at lunch so I can burn it off. I also don’t have dietary restrictions anymore, and I don’t count calories. I eat all the vegetables and fruit and whole foods I can take in, and then if I have a craving other than the night craving, I eat it. If the apple and tea don’t seem to cut it (which has only been the case twice so far,) I make myself a deal that I can have whatever it is I crave the next day, and then I do. No more diets, no more crazy calorie restrictions. According to the scale, I’ve lost 8 lbs. That was a happy accident.
I imagine the best part of showing up for myself every single day is that it’s changed the relationship I have with myself. After years and years of blowing myself off and putting my needs behind everyone else’s, this challenge proves I can show up for my own needs, that I can give my body, mind, and soul the healing it requires every day to regenerate. It’s one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever known, and I’m only halfway through.
Next week, I’ll tell you a little more about how to build a home-based yoga practice (I have other tools than just lying on the rug, I promise) and maybe get into some do’s and don’ts around starting yoga. I’m going to pack up my bag and head to a restorative class tonight, something I’ve come to truly love.
Also, I haven’t mastered Crow Pose yet. It’s been a long-time coming, and this is the year I hope it lands in my practice. It’s another step in a journey that’s taught me what it truly means to fly.