October 4, 2016

The 30-Day Yoga Challenge that has Nothing to do with Asana.

yoga Rumi 2

My 10-year-old daughter was pawing through my dresser and came across a stack of my old journals.

She asked, “Daddy, why do you still have all these? You can’t write in them anymore.” Spoken with the clarity and wisdom of a child.

I told her that these are my “yoga journals,” little books where I write down thoughts about all my yoga practices and classes. She asked if she could read them and I consented. Fortunately, she grew bored of them after about two pages (way before any of the juicy stuff).

But it got me thinking about my journaling practice—when I started and why. After about a year of dedicated yoga practice, my first yoga teacher challenged me to a 30-day daily practice challenge.

What?! Challenge me? I’m in, and I’m gonna win!

I did, and, I’ve had a daily practice ever since.

In retrospect, I doubt she ever intended to practice daily for 30 days, but she knew me well and that challenges motivate me. For that I am grateful.

She said, “The difference between two minutes of yoga a day and two hours of yoga a day is very little. The difference between zero minutes and two minutes is huge.” 

She taught me this—a lesson from one of her teachers, and surely a lesson many have passed down for ages. And today, I pass the same lesson down to my students.

Establishing a daily yoga practice is a challenge. The thought of having one more thing to do in our already busy lives intimidates us. Or we think that “daily practice” means a long, hot, sweaty, vinyasa yoga class.

If you think a daily practice means going to yoga class or doing a long vinyasa practice every day, you’re wrong. A daily practice means setting aside a small amount of time every day to turn inward, to be mindfully present, to reflect. That can be an hour-long vinyasa class at your local studio. It can also be a five-minute meditation sitting in your car before you pull out of the driveway.

When I started my 30-day yoga challenge I began by defining a “practice.” My definition is this: Minimum of five minutes, on my mat, with a journal entry.

When you define your “practice” as 5 minutes on a mat and a little scribble in a book, it becomes substantially less intimidating.

Some days my practice was a 75-minute class. Other days it was five minutes sitting on my mat doing nothing but breathing or resting in child’s pose.

Who doesn’t have five minutes in their day to set aside? Honestly? We spend more time standing in line at Starbucks. We spend more time scrolling through social media on our phones. We may certainly watch TV longer. Sit out a commercial break—there’s your five minutes. Better yet, ditch your TV. I have not watched it in over 15 years, it can be done and you will be happier.

Let’s start with the minimum five minutes. There will be days when we believe we don’t have five minutes to practice yoga. These are the days when we truly need these five minutes the most.

And a curious thing happens when we commit to five minutes a day. Five minutes turns into 7, then 10, then 15, and so on. Our minds and bodies feel the benefits and desire more. Our practice grows organically.

Why on our mat? It helps to have a special, dedicated, place to practice. It sets the intention that we came to this place—our mat—to practice. Our intention makes our practice meaningful.

Our mat reminds us to practice. If we leave our mat in a visible place where we see it daily it will call to us. It will remind us we deserve our five minute practice.

Why the journal entry? The journal documents our daily practice and the effect it has on our mind, our perspective and our life. We can write whatever we want or only the date, and that’s our journal entry.

One of the things we realize when we make our thoughts words on paper is we are often negative and self-critical. Through this practice, we can grow to be positive and self-affirming in a way that encourages our spiritual growth.

Inevitably we will miss a day or two, and that’s okay. When we return to our practice we feel better and realize how distracted, not present and stressed we became. This reinforces the benefits of our daily practice.

I challenge you to the 30-day yoga challenge. Five minutes, on your mat, with a journal entry. I promise you two things. One, your practice will grow naturally with time. Two, you, and the people in your life, will notice the difference in you.

Keep your old journals, someday your kids may want to read them and you can inspire a daily practice in them and others.

“Yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory.” ~ Pattabhi Jois


Author: Brian Cooke

Image: courtesy of Yoga Bliss Photo

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

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