On August 17, 2015, to facilitate my quest to return to a regular yoga practice, I made a commitment to myself to practise yoga asana every day for 30 days.
This was not easy. It had been several years since I’d last enjoyed a regular yoga practice. I’d gained a lot of weight in the intervening years. I’d lost core & upper body strength and flexibility all over. And I was still carrying around heaps of mental baggage related to my previous yoga practice. Plus I had a lot going on in my life. Who had time for yoga? But I’d enjoyed a regular yoga practice once before. I knew the benefits. And I wanted them back. So I stuck it out.
There were days when I only did restorative poses. There were days when my practice was only 5 minutes long. There were days when I scoured YouTube searching for routines that were light on upper body work, or just made up my own routine of standing poses only. (My shoulders and wrists were so weak, even downward facing dog was hard.) There were days when I didn’t roll out my mat until 2 o’clock in the morning and by that time was so exhausted all I did was meditate in legs up the wall pose. But I did it. Thirty consecutive days of yoga asana practice.
Then I thought, if I could practice yoga every day for 30 days, why not go for longer? Could I practice every day for 100 days? Could I practice every day for a year? So this became my new goal: one full year, 366 days (with this being a leap year), of daily yoga asana practice.
My practice still was not easy. My progress was slow. I continued to struggle with both mental and physical yoga demons. And I often despaired that my body was just too old now, too out of shape. I feared I was “over the hill” and would never get back what I had lost. But I kept showing up. I kept rolling out my mat every day, getting on it, and doing the practice.
And things started to change.
My body grew stronger and more flexible. I found myself able to execute the poses with increasingly greater ease. I discovered new (to me) instructors online teaching classes that challenge me in styles I enjoy. And, slowly but surely, my attitude shifted as well. Eleven months into my return-to-yoga journey my passion for the practice returned, and rolling out my mat every day became no longer a chore but a joy.
August 16, 2016 marked the achievement of my goal: one full year of daily yoga asana practice.
To celebrate, I took the entire day as a personal yoga retreat.
During my retreat I completed over 6 hours of yoga asana practice, including 4 energetic vinyasa-style classes each an hour or more in length. One of these classes I had done before, 2 months previously.
The first time I’d tried this particular class had resulted in a lot of laughter. Smooth transitions between poses? Not so much. I’d flopped all over the place and experienced many, “What-the-what!? How is my leg supposed to get there?!” moments. When I repeated the class on day 366 of my return-to-yoga journey, however, I was amazed at how far I had come. It was still a challenging class for me, but I was able to flow through it with much greater ease. I am so much stronger now than even two months ago. I’ve earned back almost all of the flexibility I lost during my years away from yoga, and I think I’m even stronger in the upper body now than I was a decade ago when I was last practising regularly.
Now, as I begin my second year of daily yoga asana practice, I roll out my mat every day excited for the opportunity to practice and grateful for the ability to move my strong body in these wonderful ways. I feel the beauty in yoga again. I feel the dance. I feel invigorated by my yoga practice and excited for what the journey ahead holds. And I am finding that the mental benefits I gain on my mat I am once again able to carry off the mat into the rest of my life.
Over the hill? Not a chance! I’m climbing an even higher mountain!
Laura Rainbow Dragon writes, dances, cooks, runs, and makes wine–amongst other pursuits–in a way-too-small town in Southwestern Ontario. She practices yoga every day and is grateful to once again be enjoying the journey.