editor's note: This is a guest blog post written by Arlene Valenzuela...enjoy!
I first heard about the Yoga 30 Class Challenge from our favorite Zen Girl, Mandy. She was actually talking about it with another friend of ours, but the topic piqued my interest. She spoke about the mental and time commitment it takes to complete the challenge and how it helps you meet and surpass your physical goals. I was sold and couldn’t wait to start!
That was in 2010. It’s now 2012 and I have officially completed my 30 Class Yoga Challenge! Here’s my story: I am in the Navy and have been either deployed or training for deployment for the past 4 years. Anytime I spent an extended amount of time at home, I made a point to make yoga a part of my life. I found the perfect studio, The Yoga Room nearby my house in Norfolk, Virginia where the community was really small. The teacher knew every student's name, fitness and flexibility level, and goals for their yoga practice. But - no matter how much I wanted to practice, my job never allowed the time. On a good week, I was only able to take 2-3 classes, therefore the progress of my practice felt really slow.
Two months ago I moved to Washington, DC. I suddenly found myself in a new city with a ton of free time. I wanted to find a new yoga studio that I could call home. Based on some great recommendations, I started my challenge at Flow Yoga Center in DC. What better way to decide if this would be my studio than if I took a class every day for the next 30 days?
Let me skip ahead and tell you the end result and what I learned along the way. I love my new studio and I have never felt like a better version of myself! I feel healthier and more in tune with my body. My physical practice has improved immensely – my standing poses feel stronger, my alignment is better, I’ve mastered a variation of an inversion that was inaccessible to me before, and most importantly – I can calm my mind during Savasana. It wasn’t an easy road to motivate myself on days when I wanted to sleep in, or when I got such a bad cold that I couldn’t breathe out of my nose, or when a substitute teacher thought she was teaching a higher level class and left me sore for days.
Here are a few lessons that I learned and my advice to you when you embark on your personal challenge:
1 – Make it a priority. Instead of finding a time to schedule your yoga class, make it a standing appointment and schedule everything else around it. Once it becomes part of your daily routine, it gets alot harder to bail on a class.
2 – Surround yourself with people who will help you reach your goals. Before I started the challenge, I told my husband what I was doing and why it was important to me. He helped encourage me on the days that I wanted to sleep in or go to happy hour instead. Sometimes you need someone who loves you to kick you in the butt!
3 – Realize that you’re only going to be “new” for a little while. One of the most difficult aspects of this challenge for me was going from a small, intimate studio to a huge studio that serves a major metropolitan city. It’s impossible for a studio that has over 100 classes a week to know each student on a personal level. But the only way to get to that level is to keep going to classes and eventually the teachers, staff, and other students will get to know you. I’m still not at that level, but at least the receptionist doesn’t have to ask for my name anymore when I check into classes. Baby steps, right?
4 – Find the teachers that inspire you and/or challenge you. I’ve already discovered 2 teachers that I connect with when I practice. Their teaching styles and flows inspire me to be a better yogi. I’ve also discovered a few teachers whose styles either challenge me physically or mentally, and not necessarily in a comfortable way. Every now and then it’s good to push yourself out of your comfort zone. If anything, it teaches you which classes to avoid and motivates you to make it to the classes that you do like.
5 – You don’t have to go every day. Let’s face it – some days, it's just impossible to get to class. I called mine a 30 class challenge, not a 30 day challenge for a reason. Life happens. Do what's right for you. I gave myself 30 days to complete 30 classes, even if that meant doubling up. I had to miss a few days for travel and I simply made that up by going twice a day on days where my schedule was more open. And this brings us back to Step 1 – if you make it a priority in your day, it can and it will happen.
Good luck yogis!