40 days of yoga – cycles within cycles.

As your faith is strengthened you will find that there is no longer the need to have a sense of control, that things will flow as they will, and that you will flow with them, to your great delight and benefit” ~ Emmanuel Teney

40 days ago, I embarked on a journey – to create a home yoga practice for myself by following Kara-Leah Grant’s 40 Days of Yoga – Breaking Down the Barriers to a Home Practice. The rules were simple: do some kind of yoga practice every day for 40 days. Going to a yoga class didn’t count, and if you missed a day you must start again. If you have been following my journey, you’ll know all about it…and if you haven’t, don’t start here! Go back to 40 days of yoga and see how it all started :).

So, on the home stretch now, folks. By some Universal sleight of hand, my last 10 days stretched over the Christmas/New Year period. No problems there – on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day I needed the comfort of yoga. My period came on the day before Christmas Eve, and I was happy to rest in the yoga sequence for menstruation I had found right at the beginning of my 40 days journey. I could feel there was a completion of a smaller monthly cycle within the larger 40 day cycle, and it was interesting how much different my body felt compared to when I was menstruating the month before. My back didn’t ache, and I was much more flexible. I can rest my forehead on my knee in some sitting forward bends now, whereas when I started, I had to use a bolster!

The next challenge would likely be more difficult – for the week between Christmas and New Years day, my family and I would be in Sydney visiting family and friends. I don’t travel very much, so this was the first time in my 40 days of yoga that I did yoga in a space that was not dedicated to that practice (except that time where I did yoga under a tree 🙂 ). In my own yoga space, all I have to do is turn up to the mat. Even if I don’t particularly feel like doing yoga, by the time I have lit my candles and incense, I do. For me, the rituals in a dedicated space are important to my daily practice.

On the first day away (day 33), I attempted to do asanas in my room. My body felt heavy and sore, and my mind was reluctant and argumentative. Sigh. I gave up and lay down in savasana instead :). Unfortunately (kind of), we don’t live our lives with the wisdom of hindsight, so I hadn’t figured out yet that I needed to pay attention to the area I wanted to practice yoga in. Next time I will know to bring incense and a candle to create a space.

Meanwhile, I decided that because I didn’t seem to want to do yoga in the same way that I do at home, that I would just do guided meditations. Looking back on it, I realise that I was retreating to the sacred space within myself, because I hadn’t yet created it externally. Good to know, right?

Of course, it wasn’t necessary to do yoga in the same way that I do at home – I was away in a busy city, doing new and exciting things every day; I guess you could say that a city holiday is a very yang experience. It was perfectly appropriate for my yoga practice to be yin  – internal, still, slow. That’s my reasoning anyway!

The other problem I encountered when I was away was time. My days often didn’t go according to plan – things take a lot longer with the variables of friends and family, some of whom I hadn’t seen for 15 years, city traffic and the distractions of being on holidays. After a particularly busy day (day 36) I remembered at 9 p.m. that I hadn’t done yoga for the day. I thought about not doing it and the consequences of that; a little while later, while sitting outside with our friends, I felt a stillness descend. Excusing myself, I went into the room that I was staying in, sat on the bed and felt the light and stillness fill me. Om 🙂

On day 38, New Year’s Eve, a visit to the Bear’s family took up nearly the whole day instead of the morning as we had planned, and then when we arrived home, there were people coming over and food to prepare. I just ran out out of time to do yoga, simple as that.

The next day, day 39, we were driving home. On the long, hot drive, I contemplated my failure to do yoga the day before and what it meant for my 40 days of yoga journey. I thought about how I could have fitted it in had I known  how my day was going to go – I could have done a meditation as soon as I woke up, I could have used the food preparation and cleaning up as a mindful karma yoga practice, I could have slipped away at some stage. But I didn’t do any of those things.

The closer we got to home, the more I started thinking about doing yoga. The Fairy Queen and I dropped the boys at home and went down to the river to cool off; when we came home, I went over to my yoga room, lit my candles and incense (a space activation :)), and proceeded to do a summer vinyasa series as happily as if I had never been away.

Day 40 was another scorching hot day, but I felt driven to clean and unpack, working myself into quite a state by the afternoon :). I’ll blame it on the virgo moon, shall I? I decide to do Rodney Yee’s A Playful Practice (in his wonderful book with Nina Zolotow) to chill myself out and to stop being so damn serious. It is one of my very favourite things about yoga; it is like a toolbox for the spirit/mind/body. There is a yoga sequence for every ailment, whether it is physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. What a wonderful resource to have at our fingertips  in this funny old life.

So, here I am at the end of it. Did I do 40 days of yoga or did I fail? Another pertinent question might be did I achieve what I set out to do? The answer has to be yes. Over the 40 days, I created a home yoga practice for myself. I created a space for yoga in my life, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. My family and friends accept my desire to have a daily practice and they give me the space to do it. For the first time in our long acquaintance, yoga and I see each other everyday – and we still like each other.

Kara-Leah Grant writes in her book that after 40 days of yoga,  the idea is to commit to another 40 days of yoga, and another after that. So what I am creating here is a daily yoga practice for life – 40 days at a time. So here I am then, on day 1 :).

Thank you fellow travellers for following my journey, supporting me with your kind comments, and sharing with me your own experiences with yoga. Truly, the whole process has been eye-opening, expansive and challenging – my very favourite combination :).

If you would like to go on your own 40 days of Yoga journey, go here. Bon voyage!

Namaste.

16 comments

  1. Bravo! You did it Sara!! Congratulations! It has been an amazing journey, and really fun to “watch.”

    By the way, I love that you guys go down to the river to swim. It sounds so exotic and beautiful… the imagery captivates. I’d love to see pictures some time, in one of you posts.

    Here’s to continued growth in your yoga and life. Namaste.

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  2. Congratulations on completing the 40 days! I’m thinking I might just take up this challenge if/when I move again and don’t have access to taking yoga classes. They push me far harder than I would push myself but because it’s not an everyday thing, I still feel like yoga and I are merely acquaintances yet. 🙂

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    • Thank you Lillian. It’s an interesting thing, classes vs a home practice. Without a doubt, classes push me harder than I do at home, and i am looking forward to going back to classes this year. There is definitely a new relationship that has developed with myself and my relationship to yoga now that I have a daily practice – and the ability to self-medicate with yoga is something I particularly enjoy :). So, room for both I think! Thanks for reading Lillian, and happy new year to you.

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  3. Yes, Sara, you absolutely did it!!! Life-changing, that is what this is. It’s about the ritual, the self-discipline, the conscious and unconscious awareness coming together in every day. I will start the 40-day cycle over and over again too. Thank you Sara for the kick-start, and for leading the rest of us, and thanks to Kara-Leah for her inspiration. I will watch for Kara-Leah’s e-book, and I will tell all my friends about it too. Happy 2013!!

    http://300dayjourney.wordpress.com/2012/12/16/finding-my-yoga/

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    • Happy 2013 to you too Rufina! Yes, I feel like I have been successful – I most definitely have a yoga routine now, whereas before I didn’t. And I still feel like a total beginner – I am so far from being at the end of this story :). Thanks for being a part of my journey – and best of luck on yours as well!

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  4. How wonderful! Last year, I started doing some yoga DVD’s at home a few days per week, but haven’t made it to your level of practice. And well over Christmas – it pretty much went away. Your post is a nudge for me to get back to yoga. Thanks for the inspiration!

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    • It was definitely a challenge over the Christmas period; if I hadn’t made a commitment i would have left it completely.It doesn’t have to be much; just the process of turning up to the mat every day is important, and it’s amazing what can happen 🙂

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  5. Congratulations Sara! I’ve loved reading about your journey, and all the different experiences you’ve had along the way. I love too that you were able to see that you’ve done what you set out to do, there is no failure per se. Enjoy the next Forty Days!!!!

    Blessings & love,
    KL

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  6. What beautiful reflections on “home” practice (only in quotes because you took it on the road, which is fab!) Sharing your learning about what you needed and how you adapted so clearly and compassionately is a great gift to all of us other DIYogis – thank you!

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