Updated: Sep 14, 2022
My Experience with a Yoga Challenge
After returning from our summer vacation in June an opportunity and a need presented itself in my life. The YogaSix studio where I practice and teach had just started a two-month yoga challenge. I liked the idea of the opportunity to relax and slow down. As part of the challenge, we needed to take every type of class the studio offered, which included the hot set sequence, sculpt and flow and power yoga, classes I either teach and/or take often. In addition, I would also need to take slow flow and restore class. My body needed the nourishment and what a great way to support my team! I love a challenge, so I laid down the mat and committed to the next two months of classes.
I knew I would be tested physically and mentally, but I didn’t expect a transformation that would impact my life in so many ways and encourage me to write and share my journey with others. Over the course of the almost eight weeks, I was challenged and inspired, created new opportunities inside and outside the studio, all the while the commitment improved my practice, made me a better instructor and enhanced my work life balance.
How Yoga Changed Me Physically
One of the most significant physical changes I saw in my body, was how much more aware I became of my breath (enough/properly) during and outside of class. My body naturally slowed down because of the dedicated breath practice, and my daily stress level reduced 10 points in the first 30 days of the challenge.
Taking part in the yoga challenge also assisted in my recovery from a neck injury, increasing strength, flexibility and range of motion in my neck and spine. Yoga in a warm room, with slow and controlled movements, helped me work through key exercises in between chiropractor appointments. I felt immediately the comfort yoga offered as part of my recovery, motivating me to attend class more often. My legs, hips and chest similarly became more limber, and I found greater ease in other workouts like running, biking and weight training. Overall, I felt better physically, and my skin had a soft glow.
After a few yoga classes I also became more aware of my internal and external space, and I found myself using breath to extend further into poses, as well as enjoying the sensations in my body practicing yoga with a varied thickness in mats. Towards the end of the challenge, I was exhausted physically and mentally (from doing so much yoga) but in a rejuvenated sense - all the yoga had inspired a new and improved me.
How Yoga Changed Me Mentally
Practicing yoga classes daily as part of the challenge meant that I scheduled time for myself, and I looked forward to savasana at the end of each class. I found time during the week to take classes early evening which I noticed helped me relax before bedtime. The impact I felt mentally and emotionally was amazing, I could feel my breath and encouraged big exhales during stressful movements, daily activities or while sitting on the couch. It’s almost like my body adopted the breath work from class for everyday life, and most importantly it was easier for me to recognize when my stress level slightly increased (in all areas of my life).
Yoga Inspired Me
There was a sense of openness, motivation and inspiration in my life after taking classes day after day. Around the mid-point of the challenge, I began to care less about completing the challenge or winning and more focused on the improvements in my body, practice, mindset, relationships and overall lifestyle habits. Embracing classes I usually hadn’t taken empowered me creatively, like imagining moving through space and time in slow motion while moving from pose to pose in slow flow class, or reciting affirmations during the restful movements in restore class.
Taking classes from different instructors was inspiring as well, as each teacher offered a different background in yoga, which sparked my interest to learn more about the history of different types of yoga. The different lighting used as part of the YogaSix methodology stimulated my senses during practice, motivating and relaxing me throughout the entire class. Of all the colors, purple was my favorite because it stimulated my senses physically and was calming at the same time.
One of the most unique ways the yoga challenge inspired me was around the outfits I wore to class. Taking so many classes each week, I started running out of clothes in between laundry day, so I found myself wearing whatever clothes were available. After a week or so I found myself exploring how different outfits made me feel during which class, and I soon adopted certain clothes for each class. It may sound silly but it’s true. For restore class I began wearing baggy sweats for comfort, and I was more likely to wear form fitting leggings and tops for power, sculpt and flow, and the hot sequence.
Yoga Improved my Work-Life Balance
It was refreshing how practicing yoga, as a break away from work, allowed me to stay focused and relaxed during stressful situations the rest of the day. I also rested more and even found myself taking one or two, 10–15-minute cat naps different days throughout the week. Most of all I became much more aware of when I needed to practice yoga to feel centered and tranquil.
Yoga Created Opportunities in My Life
Practicing yoga improved my life and provided countless opportunities to be social and engage with others. Taking classes I met new people, reacquainted with familiar yogis, and embraced a greater sense of community. A few yogis I would see in class often started attending to my classes too.
Yoga was an activity my daughter and I could do together – and when she started her freshman year of college last month, she and a friend adopted their own yoga practice each week, which my heart happy. My husband supported my journey through the challenge and took a few classes with me, providing an activity for us to do together and reflect on and talk about at dinner.
Slowing down and adopting a more centered approach to my life, I noticed how much more emphatic I was in different situations and to others around me. There were so many good things that came into my life as a result of the challenge including improvement in my practice and instruction, too.
How the Yoga Challenge Improved My Practice and Made me a Better Instructor
The best way to improve at anything in life is practice, practice, practice and I saw a wonderful improvement in my yoga practice as a result of the challenge. Some of the changes were basic, like learning about new music. I also explored and conquered new poses and learned how much I loved the bolster and strap in restore class – helping me with poses (and exploring new poses). Blocks became a cherished friend as I explored deeper how they made poses easier and allowed my body to grow into poses. About halfway through the challenge I noticed the slower the yoga (class) the more I enjoyed it. Even more surprising to me was how much I loved savasana, when in the past it was difficult for me to rest in stillness for 2-3 minutes.
Progressing through the challenge I was more drawn to doing yoga outside of the studio, at home, or on the road during a work trip. It was also really nice taking class from the other instructors – seeing each other more often provided the opportunity to get to know each other better, and we shared stories and talked about yoga together before and after class.
Practicing poses and applying phrases, terms and imagery made me a better instructor too. The flow of poses and how and why they connected with each other became more and more second nature to me mentally and physically. One breath, one movement was a phrase I found myself saying while I was doing exercises like walking or running and throughout the day at work, at home or out shopping.
At times the two months of yoga seemed liked forever, but the time spent taking classes was well worth it. If you have been wondering what yoga is like and what benefits it can offer you, take a class, but be sure to take more than one class. You will probably feel awkward at first but living outside our comfort zone is the first step to lasting change. Embrace the new sensations and even the awkwardness, don’t compare yourself to others and feel you need to be perfect, it’s the journey in your experiencing yoga that will benefit you the most.
As it turns out I won the challenge among the team, taking 49 classes in just under eight weeks. While I felt exhilarated with my accomplishment, I can honestly say the overall benefits of the yoga challenge changed my life. I know with continued practice those changes can and will remain a large part of who I am and how I live my life. See you in class and share with me your yoga journey!