On October 7, I started the 30 Days of Yoga program, Karma edition, with Marianne Elliott (@zenpeacekeeper on twitter). When I first saw the promotion for it, I knew it was what I had been seeking for a long time. Not only is this an extraordinary program, Marianne donated every penny to Off the Mat, Into the World Global Seva Challenge for South Africa. She raised $15,000 for this project through this round 30 Days of Yoga and hopes to raise another $5000 (and you can donate directly to the program if you’d like!).
Marianne uses a questionnaire she created that helps participants select the best program for their needs. After the program is chosen, a video of Marianne doing the program is available for download. I chose Heart Earth Flow which is designed for writers and those who sit at computers all day. My poor hamstrings and quads ain’t what they used to be from sitting in the same position for years!
Along with the video, there is amazing support through these 30 days. Marianne regularly posts to the 30 Days of Yoga blog. Her posts are lengthy; full of support, information, compassion, and resources; and they helped me feel connected to the energy of the 300+ women participating in the program. She writes as if she’s talking directly with me. I had these blog posts emailed to me and every time I opened one, I would be blown away by how timely the topic was (particularly the one on body shame). I felt supported and encouraged every step of the way. Marianne is also available to answer questions, and the twitter group (#30dayyoga) was great. I can only imagine the countless hours Marianne spent on this particular round.
When I started back on October 7, my goals were simply to be consistent and finish the program. I wanted to feel I had followed through with something from start to end. Exercise had been lacking in my life this year following an illness in late winter, and I felt this would be a good way to get back to it. I’d taken several yoga classes over the years so it wasn’t something new to learn on top of my other goals. However, yoga had always been an “add on” activity to other forums of exercise. To me, yoga was “just” exercise because I’d never focused solely on it before. For these 30 days, it was to be my only focus, and I joyfully discovered that yoga is so much more than exercise! I’ve truly experienced yoga for the first time now! At this point in my 51 years, it’s what my body is craving; I don’t need to go nuts doing other types of exercise with it.
When I previewed the video, I admit I was intimidated. I was afraid I couldn’t do it, but Marianne was so encouraging and I realized that whatever I did do, was enough, whether it was simply 5 minutes of focused breathing or laying in savasana. As the days went by, I kept my commitment to myself, and my body has certainly changed. I have made significant strength gains in this short period of time. I can do Chatarunga Dandansana without flopping to the floor (I still do it from my knees rather than full plank position but I can lower myself and hold myself up now). My downward dog feels full of joy now, and my forehead rests comfortably on the floor in pigeon pose. My energy has picked up considerably and I feel calmer and more confident than I did 30 days ago. Yoga is grounding me and that is something I’ve badly needed for months.
I crave healthy foods now too, and I have lost some weight although the number of pounds isn’t important to me – it’s all in how I feel, and I feel so grateful for this experience. I met my goal – I was consistent and I finished the program. I made space in my daily routine for yoga, and my body knows when it gets to be that time of day to hit the mat. There were a few days when I only did a few twists to ease my IBS or I simply did savasana, but I made the space for yoga, and I’m learning how to listen to my body (which has always been so hard for me). Yoga provides the silence and stillness – the space, if you will – so that I can listen to what my body is telling me. Some days it whispered to push a little more, some days it told me to ease up. When my mind was resistant to hitting the mat, I’d do it anyway because I knew it was my mind putting forth the resistance and I’d let my body decide what it wanted once I hit the mat. More often than not, I’d go through the entire 39+ minutes and feel significantly energized and calm.
As we finished these 30 days, Marianne wrote: “The idea, and my experience, with yoga is that as you begin to make time every day to connect to your breath and your body and to use breath and movement to unblock contraction in your body, mind and spirit you will naturally find yourself being drawn to make other healthy choices. That’s the beauty of yoga, there is no need for ‘should’ (I should exercise, I should go to bed earlier, I should eat less meat) because the practice of yoga leads you naturally to a place where you want to make healthy choices.”
This has been my experience. I’m drawn to making healthier choice and there’s no pressure to do anything. I feel the flow in the doing, no matter how small that may be for that day. Yoga is helping me reconnect my body and mind and ultimately spirit. I’ve longed for this all year but couldn’t seem to find the motivation myself. Now I’ve reconnected, and I’m continuing on that path to health with a sense of adventure and curiosity as well as a grateful heart.
So on this 8th day of Gratitude Month, I’m grateful for Marianne and her 30 Days of Yoga program, as well as the #30dayyoga group on twitter. THANK YOU!!
Edited to add September 28, 2013: I have just started yoga teacher training! I finish next May, and I hope to teach yoga to the bereaved and those going through challenging experiences. So a huge thank you to Marianne for sparking that desire in me, that I could, even at my age (I’m 54), take this path.
Edited to add October 26, 2012: I am now working through Marianne’s 90 Days of Yoga and learning even more about myself, my body, and yoga. I’ll write a review when I finish but I am LOVING it! ♥