My 30-day Challenge at the Lower East Side studio was just as it sounds: a challenge, a call to battle…a battle against myself. It always amuses me to see the expressions on the faces of my friends when I tell them that I practice yoga in a room heated to 110 degrees. I get even more pleasure out of seeing their face melt into a state of shock when I tell them that I practiced for 57 consecutive days without interruption. I was so addicted by the time that I hit the 30-day mark that I had no choice but to continue for another 27. The 30-day Challenge is all about mustering the will to endure. On day number 10 of my challenge, not even The Blizzard of 2006 stopped me from lacing up the snow boots and flinging the yoga mat over my shoulder.

It’s certainly not all fun and games, but The Challenge is about progress, growth, and depth. A few weeks into my challenge, I woke up and was not ready for class at all. I was groggy and my quadriceps were achy. I was walking funny; it was similar to the time that I took a class in LA after a hiatus of almost a year. I couldn’t remember being in that much pain since I started practicing consistently. I guess I really just hit a point of real fatigue after my fourteenth consecutive class. Fourteen consecutive classes was no new accomplishment for me, but knowing that I had 22 more ahead of me was a whole different story. Just three days after I started the challenge it was apparent that changes were occurring in my body. During Dandayamana Bibhaktapada Paschimottanasana (Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose,) although I was not crying, some sort of bodily fluids were pouring from my eyes. Unexplainable…The 30-Day Challenge is unexplainable.

Pretty soon, postures that I previously dreaded, all of a sudden became my favorite. It only took a few classes for me to notice that Trikanasana (Triangle Pose) was getting easier. I felt like a rock star for much of my fourth class. I did have the urge to sit out and rest from time to time, but I decided that I would stick with it because I could not miss Ustrasana (Camel Pose) for the world. This posture used to be a killer for me, but was suddenly transformed into the light at the end of the tunnel. On the other hand, some things temporarily got more challenging. My hamstrings, for instance, seemed to shrink making the stretching postures unbearable. Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon,) which used to be pretty easy for me, suddenly seemed to be one of the most difficult postures for me during The Challenge. I later learned, that all of that was temporary. Since then, things have returned to normal for the most part. (Whatever normal may be.)

Not only were some of the postures getting easier, but I also found the ability to go much deeper into the postures. Dandayamana Bibhaktapada Paschimottanasana (Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose) was off the hook. For the first time, I felt my hair touching down onto the towel; I was so close to touching my forehead to the floor. In addition to going deeper and further, I was able to devote more attention to minor details of each pose. Because so many of the other body distractions had been alleviated during Trikanasana (Triangle Pose,) I was able to really concentrate on stretching my arm up toward the ceiling, my hip down toward the floor, and twisting my torso. And in other postures I didn’t need to work as much on depth, which allowed me to fine-tune and experiment.

One of the most rewarding parts of The Challenge was the individual attention that I received from teachers. Since I was coming to class everyday, my instructors were able to more effectively monitor the evolution of my practice and how I was improving from class to class. Some teachers remembered adjustments that they had given in the past and were then able to comment on my progress based on those modifications. It’s also funny to realize that there are things that I knew that I was supposed to be doing, but I never initiated them without an instructor telling me to do so.  During the 30 days, there were all sorts of new things that I heard in class that were previously somehow disguised by the blinders of misaligned focus and stubborn determination.

Completing The Challenge was probably one of the most monumental things that I’ve ever accomplished. It opened me to realize that I could fit yoga into my schedule and that It was OK to tell my boss that I needed to come into work late on Fridays in order to accomplish that (although, Lower East Side practitioners now have a brand new 6:45am class on Fridays!) It’s about sacrifice and reward. Beyond the physical improvements to my body and practice, after successful completion I received a full month of free yoga.

In hindsight, something that seemed virtually impossible was actually quite the opposite. And here I am, a year later, and I’m still practicing six to seven days a week.

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