I just finished day 31 of the 30 day throwdown. Going into it, it was logistically impossible for me to finish successfully. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, the throwdown is a challenge at Down Dog – we sign up to do yoga at the studio every day for 30 days. There were a few days I would have to miss because of work, and so I had some doubts about signing up in the first place. I wondered if I was setting myself up for failure, by committing to something I knew I wouldn’t be able to complete without compromising my job. But then I decided logistics are boring and I really wanted to do it, so I signed myself up and convinced my friend Bridget to sign up too.
For me, that’s one of the best parts of doing the throwdown – you do it with a group of people who have all pledged to the same thing: 30 days of yoga. That is the #1 reason I didn’t want to miss out on this throwdown. Even though everyone’s experiences are way different, just knowing that we’re there together every day no matter what, and hearing about my fellow throwdowners’ triumphs, trials, lessons given and received inspires me.
Going into it, I decided to let it be easy. I didn’t want to muscle through it this time, so I told myself that if I could not make it to all 30 days for whatever reason, so be it. Rather than plan like crazy and try to control the outcome, I chose to just show up and see what happened. And guess what? It worked. I can honestly say there wasn’t a single practice in the past 31 days where I didn’t want to be on my mat. I’m not saying it was a complete fairytale. In the middle of some poses, I definitely wanted out. I think I would actually be concerned if I went through an entire practice without wanting it to be over at some point. That’s probably a sign that I’m not 100% there, not really working.
Over the course of a personal challenge like the 30 day, I usually find that there is some kind of breakthrough. This time I had a bunch of sort of “mini” breakthroughs along the way. I remember one moment during an early morning power hour somewhere in the middle of the month, when I suddenly wondered why it hadn’t felt difficult for me yet. Why hadn’t I reached a point where I wanted to give up but had to keep going (for the throwdown’s sake, obviously), and then, boom – suddenly not only did I reach my edge but I sailed right past it and realized all of the things that had been holding me back in yoga and life?
And then it hit me. As I was moving through Sun Salutations B, somewhere in between chaturanga and up dog, I realized. This is it.
Life isn’t about the breakthroughs. It’s about staying in the practice, even when it feels like nothing happens. I practice yoga every day. If I have to miss yoga in the studio for more than say 2 days in a row because of vacation or whatever, I start to feel off. If I did this practice just for the breakthroughs, I would have quit ages ago.
Yet when you do reach a breakthrough, be it in your first class or your 500th class, it feels pretty darn awesome. It feels like I could just float on clouds the rest of the way home. I’m not even kidding: after one of the first classes I taught where I really felt a breakthrough moment with some of my students, I popped a tire on my way home. At the time it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Another night after a really awesome class with my teacher Patty, I ran out of gas not even a mile from my house. I had to stand outside in tights (yeah, I also forgot extra pants that night, too) and an oversized sweatshirt, hair dripping wet, on one of the most polar vortex nights ever and figure out how to get my car running. Not a drip of sarcasm when I say that it was awesome.
I don’t know how to describe the breakthrough feeling other than what I like to call my “yoga high”. It feels like nothing can bring me down. No kind of car trouble, financial burden, work stress. Life feels amazing.
So now I imagine you’re probably making a mental note to keep me away from your cars after yoga. Secondly, it sounds like these breakthroughs are pretty incredible right? How do they even happen to begin with? To answer the first question: yes they are. To answer the second: I have no idea. The only answer I know to be true for me is just to keep on getting on my mat.
More importantly, though, I’ve realized I need to actually notice the little moments for these breakthroughs to happen. Each and every moment is just as much a part of my life as a breakthrough moment. It’s easy to fall in the trap of placing greater emphasis on the latter. But living from breakthrough to breakthrough is enough to drive me crazy. Sometimes I need a little wake-up call to remind me how much I might be missing while I am stuck waiting for the next breakthrough to occur. And there is nothing wrong with that. Life isn’t about the first time I did headstand without toppling over, or stood up from wheel. It’s about the time I forgot my yoga shirt and Joyce let me borrow one of hers, or all of the nights I stayed late at the studio to talk with Bridget, Claudia, and Molly. It’s about noticing each and every inhale and exhale. Each one has just as much potential, if we pay close enough attention.