I did a thirty day bikram yoga challenge in February of 2011. I thought – from there – that I would develop a consistent practice and do at least three yoga classes per week to be healthy, continue transforming my body, and build further strength. It didn’t happen because I wasn’t held accountable to classes. One of the main reasons that I do 1:1 pilates – instead of group classes – is that being held accountable to someone else’s time, energy, and effort forces me to go to classes. I also dislike group classes because I compare myself to everyone else and berate myself for not having the same capacity that other people have. I have considered taking on another thirty day challenge at a studio in Islington as a gateway to building a consistent practice, but I know myself and I know that I won’t go to a group class unless there is a consequence for not going.
The nature of the ‘challenge’ element of the yoga challenge also gave me motivation that I normally didn’t have when doing bikram. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I wanted to start and finish a challenge and to see and feel solid evidence of physical change in my ability with the poses and in the presence of my disability in my body. I wanted to become a better yogini, particularly a more flexible and more balanced one. I knew that I couldn’t expect miraculous results within the space of thirty days, but I wanted to see how it would affect my chronic pain, my stress, and my sleep.
At the time, I was struggling with my job. I was working very hard but I felt I wasn’t doing good enough work or the work that was expected of me. The continual yoga classes helped me manage the stress and exhaustion I experienced at work. It was also an immense relief to enter the hot room during the bitterly cold winter days. It helped me survive the wicked iciness of February and March.
My yoga studio – Stafford Street Hot Yoga – is a holistic studio that also offers macrobiotic food and other wonderful health treatments like massage therapy and reflexology. One evening after yoga, I had my first appointment with a reflexologist. The practice of reflexology is a strong complement to the yoga because it helps address stress and pain that we hold in our bodies. The reflexologist told me that the strongest emotions she felt in my body were worry and resentment. She was correct.
In writing this, I realize that I am more motivated to work on my body if it involves not only achieving something, but proving something (whether to myself or to someone else). I work very hard to better myself and to overcome my disability, but I am also always answering to someone and attempting to please someone. “I’m doing a yoga challenge” sounds better – and feels better – than saying “I’m doing yoga continually as a way of being a healthy person.”
I suppose I could become a dedicated yogini if I found private bikram classes and treated the practice like an ongoing challenge, but those contributing factors are unlikely. I have to either choose to dedicate myself to yoga as a means to be healthy or to dedicate myself to other forms of exercise. I danced for years and years and I dedicated myself to pilates after a few months of continuous practice because I saw – and felt – the benefits. If I do a form of exercise for long enough, I don’t think about doing it or intellectualize it. I just do it. It becomes like brushing my teeth. I just have to make that commitment.