The pleasant surprises of yoga

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My yoga practice surprises me daily. It’s one of the reasons I love yoga so much.

Whether it’s suddenly finding myself in a pose/asana I was unable to do last week or finding my mind free of a long-held, unwanted belief, I’m repeatedly and joyfully surprised.

Does yoga surprise you, too?


Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate who has lived in numerous watersheds throughout the United States, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Mexico. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Paula is passionate about her family, friends and the motivational and brave people she meets daily through her online writing and social media exchanges. To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitter and check out her other blog.

Why I’m Doing Another 30-day Bikram Yoga Challenge and How I Prepare and Remain Motivated

I am embarking on my second Bikram Yoga challenge. The first challenge was almost two years ago in February 2012, just a few months after I started my yoga practice.

Me in Bikram Triangle

Me in Bikram Triangle

To be honest, I never imagined I would be motivated to do another challenge. The first challenge was very beneficial but also tough on my body, mind, spirit and family life. Although I felt accomplished in a mindful and self-aware sort of way upon completing the first challenge, my ego also said, “Well, you did it. You proved you could do it. No need to do that again.”

So I held fast to that egocentric attitude until recently when I started feeling defeated by life and overwhelmed by my responsibilities.

You see, in addition to having a regular 9 to 5 job, I have been writing non-stop on my other blog for 21 months. Over 320 blog posts in 90 weeks. That’s almost an average of 4 blog posts per week.

What I write on my other blog does not result in any sort of financial compensation. None. My compensation comes from the comments and messages I receive from readers who have been positively affected by the message I attempt to share and disseminate, a message related to an understanding of what domestic violence and intimate partner abuse looks like when perpetrated by emotional abusers. Sociopaths and narcissists.

Yeah, it may sound dramatic if you aren’t already familiar with my other blog. And you would be correct. Abuse and control is all about drama. My postings and writings are filled with reactions to that drama, and composing those reactions have been 100% draining. So when October began, I wasn’t surprised when I found myself in need of a break from my other blog and the emotions and feelings it stirred in me.

But a funny thing happened after I made the conscious decision to take a break from writing: I started to feel guilty!

I felt guilty for leaving people hanging. I felt guilty for not being as active as I once was. I have made some incredible friendships through my other blog and value all of the feedback I receive. Actively responding to comments and e-mails was never something I had to struggle with doing. But I found myself struggling, and that made me feel guilty.

Fortunately, I had enough humility (Thank you, yoga!) to reach out to my friends for support. Repeatedly, I received the same message: “Paula, take care of yourself. Put yourself first.”

It took a while for that message to sink in, but once it did, I immediately thought another Bikram Yoga challenge would be just the thing to get me out of my self-imposed slump. I was thinking about doing a challenge on my own but was thrilled to discover the studio where I practice is facilitating a challenge between now and Thanksgiving! (There are no coincidences, I’ve learned.)

I started my second challenge at Bikram Yoga Rockville on Wednesday, October 23 which ends the day before Thanksgiving. (The studio’s challenge actually started on Monday, October 21, so I have two doubles to look forward to completely. I’ll save those for the end.)

Like my first challenge, I had to prepare. Currently, my office is in my home with a more open and flexible schedule than I had during my first challenge. This simply means I have more options for which times I can attend class: mornings, afternoons or evenings. But a more flexible schedule doesn’t mean finding and maintaining my motivation is any less challenging.

Below are some ways I prepared and remain motivated.

In preparation:

  1. Setup a calendar reminder for each day, so I remember to eat. (I sometimes get really busy during the day and forget to eat lunch. If I wait too long, I can’t eat until after yoga. (Bikram instructors recommend that you eat a light meal 2-4 hours prior to your daily practice.)
  2. Get a pedicure. (Hey, it’s important to have clean and polished feet to present to your fellow yogis. Plus, it helps to keep your mat fresh.)
  3. Bathe my mat. (It’s kind of like a clean sheet thing–it just feels good and it’s healthy, for you and your mat.)
  4. Buy tea tree oil and a spray bottle. (A tea tree oil and water concoction will be sprayed on my mat after each use; it’s a green and friendly solution to keeping your mat fresh.)
  5. Pack a clean change of yoga clothes and towel in my car for spur-of-the-moment decisions to go to the yoga studio.

To remain motivated:

  1. Let as many people know your intention to complete the challenge.
    The more people who know, the more people will be asking you every day, “So, how many days are left?” You don’t want to answer, “Oh, I quit.” Do you?
  2. Get a challenge buddy (or 2 or 3).
    This can be done directly or indirectly. If you are new or simply don’t have friends at the studio, pick someone’s name off the board and follow/stalk his/her progress. It’s definitely psychological but effective.
  3. Don’t neglect your family.
    If you are married, in a partnership, or have children, they’re probably your biggest supporters. So, even when you are feeling tired or overwhelmed by the yoga, do things with and for your family. They’ll be more inclined to maintain their support throughout the 30 days. And remember to say, “Thank you, Baby, for respecting how much this means to me.”
  4. Keep talking about how the challenge is making you feel.
    Even if you feel like crap some days, share it. You would be surprised by how many people will tell you, “Well, just don’t stop. You’re so close.”
  5. Be lazy, eat right, drink lots of water, and sleep when you can.
    Do I need to explain this one? :)
  6. Encourage other yogis in the challenge.
    Through encouraging others, you encourage yourself and the entire room.
  7. Keep smiling.

Namaste!
~Paula

© 2013 Paula Carrasquillo and A Yogini Transformed.


Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate who has lived in numerous watersheds throughout the United States, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Mexico. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Paula is passionate about her family, friends and the motivational and brave people she meets daily through her online writing and social media exchanges. To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitter and check out her other blog.

How to stay motivated to complete a 30-day Bikram yoga challenge

2012 Bikram Yoga Challenge BoardI finished! (That’s me pointing to my name and 30 stickers on the challenge board.) How did I stay motivated even when I wanted to quit some days? There are no secrets. The following worked for me.

  1. Let as many people know your intention to complete the challenge.
    The more people who know, the more people will be asking you every day, “So, how many days are left?” You don’t want to answer, “Oh, I quit.” Do you?
  2. Get a challenge buddy (or 2 or 3).
    This can be done directly or indirectly. If you are new or simply don’t have friends at the studio, pick someone’s name off the board and follow/stalk his/her progress. It’s definitely psychological but effective.
  3. Don’t neglect your family.
    If you are married, in a partnership, or have children, they’re probably your biggest supporters. So, even when you are feeling tired or overwhelmed by the yoga, do things with and for your family. They’ll be more inclined to maintain their support throughout the 30 days. And remember to say, “Thank you, Baby, for respecting how much this means to me.”
  4. Keep talking about how the challenge is making you feel.
    Even if you feel like crap some days, share it. You would be surprised by how many people will tell you, “Well, just don’t stop. You’re so close.”
  5. Be lazy, eat right, drink lots of water, and sleep when you can.
    Do I need to explain this one? 🙂
  6. Encourage other yogis in the challenge.
    Through encouraging others, you encourage yourself and the entire room.
  7. Keep smiling.

Namaste!

Forget Resolutions, Do a Challenge

I find challenges much easier and more do-able than resolutions. There is no expectation of winning or losing against yourself in a challenge like there is with a resolution. Plus, resolutions, in my opinion, focus on ENDING hard-to-break habits: “I resolve to quit smoking” or “I resolve to lose weight.” On the other hand, we can create self challenges that focus on STARTING new-and-healthy habits: “I will eat fruit every day for the next 10 days” or “I will walk 3 miles every day for the next 30 days.”

I’m no psychiatrist or psychologist, but I think STARTING something new has got to be much easier than ENDING something we’ve been doing over and over for years. So, instead of focusing on cutting out the sweets, not spending money we don’t have, quitting the booze, smoking less or quitting, I say let’s challenge ourselves to start doing something positive right along side the bad stuff we do.

I can’t just stop drinking coffee everyday. (I would go through some type of mental and physical withdrawal and who wants that?) Instead of resolving to quit coffee, I am going to challenge myself to practice yoga EVERY day for the next 60 days. I predict that if I meet this challenge, I’ll probably keep doing it for another 60 days. Also, I’ll probably end up drinking less coffee just because I’ll be too busy sweating and looking for water. But even if I don’t succeed, I haven’t failed. I’ll probably just restart the clock and try again, unlike resolutions that just get broken and generally stay broken until next New Year’s.

Challenges can be anything. Simple or hard. Physical or mental. Just something new we have never accomplished but would like to be able to say, “Hey, I did this, and it felt great!”

Some ideas (or not):

1. I’m going to take lessons to learn how to play the piano (or whatever).
2. I’m going to send a postcard a day to someone I love for the next 60 days.
3. I’m going to save a dollar a day for the next 30 days.
4. I’m going to read a book a week for the next 8 weeks.
5. I’m going to write in my diary/journal every day for the next 30 days.
6. I’m going to prepare my family a home-cooked meal every day for the next 30 days.
7. I’m going to pick up my dirty clothes off the floor (without my wife/girlfriend nagging me to do it ) every day for the next week…(hehehe!)

How will you challenge yourself? I’d love to hear about your plans.

Resolutions Comic

Resolutions Comic

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