Commitment & Compassion: Lessons From 180 Days Of Yoga

Yesterday marked six months of daily yoga practice. In some ways it doesn’t feel that long, in others it feels longer. Like many things in life, I suppose.

The commitment to a daily practice started with my 30-day challenge, after which I just decided to keep going. I learned so much about myself during those 30 days. It was a really powerful gesture of self-love, which has been the biggest thing that keeps me showing up every day.

I’ve been pretty flexible with my practice in terms of what I do and for how long. I find that being gentle with myself in this way makes it easier to stick with it. I mostly practice at home. Some days I do a long session with warm-up, sun salutations, twists, inversions and a peak pose. Other days I lie with my legs up the wall for fifteen minutes. It all counts.

Here are some things I’m learning:

I don’t have to be perfect. Doing yoga every day has helped me practice greater self-acceptance. I am letting go of the pressure I put on myself to do everything right, to be good, to be worthy. In the process of moving and living abroad, so much has come up about how it’s all supposed to look. I’ve realized how high I set my expectations for myself, creating the fantasy that by a certain time everything would work out fabulously. No haps. It’s all a process. And on days when I lose balance in my lunge, when my foot just doesn’t want to go any higher, when crow pose feels harder than the day before – these are the times when I feel the need to be perfect bubble up. And I let that shit go.

My ass looks better when it’s lifted. Y’all, my booty hasn’t been this tight since my twenties. I’m seeing some wonderful changes in my body. Every time I look at myself in the mirror I am reminded of the work I am putting into taking care of myself. And while it’s really motivating to see all those changes on the outside, it’s even more awesome to get into how my body feels. I’m stronger and more flexible, and every day it gets better. Yoga has connected me with my body in a profound way, and has shifted the relationship I have with my physical self. My practice gives me a greater appreciation for my body as I am getting older.

Community makes my practice stronger. For the past couple of months, I’ve been taking classes at the yoga studio in town. Sera is a fantastic teacher, and guides the classes with a great mix of meditative and physically challenging. I am learning so much from her and from my fellow yogis, and expanding my knowledge of yoga. I also love connecting with people through our practice. Being in a class with other folks, as we all stretch and sweat and work through our shit, I think, “Yes, we are all in this together. We are all trying our best.” It’s a reminder that I am not isolated, in my practice and in my life. It grows my compassion for all of us.

Every moment is an opportunity. My yoga practice is one of mindfulness. Often, when I get onto my mat, my mind starts going off – thinking about what I need to do today, what I didn’t do yesterday, how I need to stop playing and get my life. I notice how quickly my thoughts descend into self-criticism, criticism of others, replaying conversations and moments that have long passed. And every time I become aware of what my mind is doing, there is an opening, an opportunity to pause, let go, and begin again. My yoga practice is helping me to do this more, on and off the mat.

And last but not least…

I just have to show up. There are times when even though I’ve planned to do yoga at a certain point in the day, things happen and I don’t end up on my mat until right before bed. Some days are easier than others to control when my practice happens and for how long. Things come up, things change, and at the end of it all the most important thing is that I show up. Whether it’s five minutes or forty, whether I feel like it or not. Showing up for myself every day is what keeps my practice going.

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