Around this time each year my inbox fills up with invitations to join a 30-day challenge starting Jan. 1st. Every cause out there seems to have a 30-day challenge poised to begin in 10 days and they all want me. I’m so flattered. So far I’ve agreed to one: the Uber Frugal Month Challenge. So they should be flattered (the frugal folk). They beat out dozens of other 30-day offers to which I had to say a polite and grateful No, because I can’t do them all. But I do want to advance the cause of another challenge I think is worthwhile for nearly everyone out there.
Among all these annual end-of-year offers are usually a handful of yoga sites or studios hoping to entice me (and you) back into daily practice with a 30-day yoga challenge. When I was teaching public classes I used to offer one of these challenges at my own studio every November. Back then I used Facebook to promote it and Facebook did its job. But among small business owners Facebook is also a means to spy on the competition. I remember another local teacher turning her nose up at my 30-day promotion, sneering with snooty disdain that she didn’t offer people yoga for a month, she offered them yoga for life.
I laughed off her pretentious posturing at the time. All yoga teachers want their students to remain practitioners for life. Practicing for life has to start somewhere. There’s a Day One and there’s a Day Thirty, whether you call it a challenge or not. However, asking a student to step onto the mat for a lifetime commitment is a tough sell. Asking a student to step onto the mat for a 30-day commitment is a little more manageable. In the best case scenario a 30-day yogi turns into a yogi for life. There really is no worst case. All yoga practiced is wellness supported.
In my experience, most 30-day yogis don’t meet the challenge for 30 consecutive days. That’s not necessarily a failure though because it doesn’t necessarily take 30 days for a student to reach what I call the magic threshold. This threshold is the point at which a student has been practicing every day for a few weeks and begins to notice what feels like a magic shift in the body (or mind, or spirit). Something seems to magically release, or maybe lifelong pain diminishes or disappears, or something else is boosted to the point that the yogi perceives transformation. The yogi also recognizes that this transformation was facilitated by all the days of consecutive practice he or she has accumulated.
It could be at Day 14, Day 15, or Day 22; the threshold can be anywhere between the day the yogi starts and the day the yogi bails on the challenge. Sometimes there is more than one magic shift and the yogi learns that at a different threshold further into the practice, deeper change occurs.
Let’s say the yogi doesn’t meet the full 30 days of a challenge. If the yogi reaches his or her magic threshold, the point is still made. The seed still gets planted. The yogi gains a reference point. After he or she falls away from the practice and the body tightens back up, maybe the pain comes back, and the previous gains are lost, the yogi will remember how the body/mind/spirit felt back at the threshold. The yogi will want that ease again. More importantly, the yogi will remember what it took to get to the point that transformation happened. Hopefully the yogi will return to the mat. The prodigal yogi’s expectations will be more realistic than a beginner’s because although the benefits of practice are obvious after one day, the yogi knows what is possible at Day 9, Day 12, Day 20, and so on. The yogi has been there, maybe because of a challenge.
It’s completely possible to keep a yogi coming back to the mat for life even if we don’t frame it that way at the start of a 30-day challenge. It’s a practice, not a performance. Yogis stand a better chance of coming back to yoga after making a start, even if that start was 17 days of a 30-day challenge. Starting again is part of the practice.
I’m not offering a 30-day challenge so this was not a sales pitch, but obviously I’m a believer. I happen to be on Day 11 of an unintentional yoga streak so if I’m still streaking by January 1st I will be joining in by default. I noticed this morning that DoYogaWithMe is offering one if you’d like to join in too. Here’s the link. It’s free and you don’t have to use social media to participate. (Whoo hoo!)
I’ve been practicing yoga for over 20 years, sometimes daily but mostly semi-daily. At different times I’ve fallen away from the practice altogether. I always came back because of one reason—because I like to feel good and yoga makes me feel the most good that is sustainable and healthy and well. I might run and hike and eat well and maintain an active healthy lifestyle year-round but none of it feels as good as it does when I’m practicing yoga too. Even if that wasn’t its own reward, I know that around Day 15 of daily practice I have a magic threshold. There’s another one around Day 28 and another at Day 45.
The challenge for some might start off as most challenges do—to prove we can do it. Beyond the satisfaction of achievement comes the curiosity. We get curious when we hit the magic threshold. Transformation empowers us. Suddenly we want to explore deeper benefits by going a little further and a little further until it’s not about achievement at all. It’s about practicing a level of wellness we didn’t previously know was available to us. If that process can be sparked by a 30-day challenge I say sign up and bring a friend.
— Ochry Galengale