Two-Dozen Things I Learned Doing a 30-Day Yoga Challenge

10 Feb

1. I do better the more aware that I am.

2. The more aware I am, the more I discover; I notice things I’d not noticed before, I notice more subtle sensations, I become aware of the next layer, I notice interconnections.

3. The more I practice with awareness the better I get at practicing with awareness.

4. Strength is found in drawing to center, not in brute force flying out, wasting energy. It seems to be the movement principle that makes it possible to do movements that otherwise would require much more strength. I realize some people seem to naturally discover this efficiency in their movements and others have to be taught it. I did not know this naturally; I needed it pointed out to me, I needed to be coached how to apply it, and I needed to be reminded of it regularly.

5. I learned the importance of core strength in total strength.

6. I learned how strength (and development in other areas) builds in increments, often such small increments that I did not notice particular progress on any given day yet noticed it toward the end of the 30 days. A book happens one thin page at a time.

7. Ego throws me off. It seemingly can motivate and drive, and it also invariably leads me to try to go too far. If I let go of ego and settle in where I’m at, then I am stronger, more grounded, more settled, more aware, have better practice. I’m more happy.

8. Acceptance isn’t giving up. It’s simply being with reality, then moving from there at the right time.

9. Acceptance makes it possible to strive without ego. Intention naturally leads to moving on to the next place.

10. As often as not, less is more.

11. I only can get a complete picture, a better understanding, through the input of many others, different teachers, some whom I initially drew away from.  I came to learn movements better only from the diversity of styles and personalities, sometimes surprisingly so. Coincidentally, one such revelatory class came on a day when I had earlier read a quote from Miyamoto Mushashi, the great undefeated Japanese swordsman: “Unless you really understand others, you can hardly attain your own self-understanding.”

12. It is important to acknowledge and accept the physical who and what I am that I bring to the practice. This allows me to make the poses work for me rather than force me to the poses. There is no perfect pose, just moving toward the perfect pose for me. It’s the yoga version of “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

13. It’s not what it looks like, it’s what it feels like. (Thank you, Bryan Kest.)

14. Self-check: stay aware and never lose my breath.

15. I learned how acceptance can support perseverance: missing something, accepting it, being willing to come back to it again and again despite seemingly no progress.

16. I learned to be grateful for what I am able to do and for the gift of body and ability that I have.

17. I learned humility of being so limited in some things, particularly things that unlikely others can do.

18. I realized that humility and self-acceptance allows me to accept and respect others.

19. No matter how hard it is, how focused I am, how seriously I am approaching the practice, I need to keep a spirit of PLAY. Explore. Discover. Smile.  Approach what’s coming up with a mindset of, “I wonder if. . .” or what I’m in the middle of with, “Oooo, look at this . . .”

20. I learned to laugh when I fall over.

21. I learned to respect my limits.

22. I learned that I often can do more than I though I could do.

23. I learned that I often can do more than I though I could do, with the help of someone else.

24. I learned that, “It’s not what you do, it how you do what you do.” (Thanks again, Bryan.)

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