So maybe you saw we are offering a 6 week challenge at Elemental Yoga. You are a little curious about it but you haven’t put in much thought otherwise. Why should you enroll in a 6 week challenge? You’ve got your life and it’s busy. And who says that doing something for 6 weeks is going to make much of a difference for the long haul…
I’m here to tell you that committing to doing something totally different for a specified period of time and then returning back to your previous routine can change your life forever for the better. I am a testament to this reality. Intense commitments for short periods of time have changed my life several times over.
Let me share with you a few of my short term intensive commitments which then became long term manageable changes.
In the summer of 2006, I went to my first 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training Program up in the mountains of California. It was an intense program if there ever was one. We were there for 4 weeks and we were learning from 5:30 am until 8:30 pm at night. If you know me, you know the long term result of my commitment to this program: I have been teaching Yoga for the past 17 years and running Elemental Yoga for the past 13 years. It completely changed the trajectory of my entire life.
I was so inspired by this experience that I attended that same teacher training program as an assistant for the four years that followed. I also attended an advanced intensive teacher training program a few years later and went back the next year as an assistant too. I fell in love with the transformation process that happens in short, focused and dedicated time blocks.
Back then I had freedom and flexibility to travel and learn. Then I founded Elemental Yoga in 2010 and I had to reorient the way in which I transformed and inspired myself. Back then, these intensive programs were my “6 week challenge” - or 4 week challenge to be precise. I put all my mind and heart into them and when they were completed, I returned to my life as before. I returned to my normal routine but it always changed in some small way.
My time on the mountain always helped me to be more committed to my Yoga and Meditation practice for the following year. I always learned new techniques to enhance my existing practice. And if I was practicing for 20 minutes a day before, I found myself practicing for 60 minutes a day when I left.
Most people are like me now in that it’s hard to leave town for 4-6 weeks to make a change. But truthfully, that’s why Elemental Yoga exists. The studio is a refuge from daily living. It’s a time to set aside our burdens and step into our bodies with strength, faith and vigor. When we leave, we get a little bit better at finding peace everywhere we go.
When I returned to teaching this August after maternity leave, I felt so much joy to be sharing space and my practice with the students at Elemental Yoga. I realized how sacred the space truly is after having been away for three months.
Maternity leave is another example of how changing my routine for six weeks changed my life forever.. When I got pregnant, I started researching pregnancy and postpartum. In fact, I spent the most time researching the postpartum experience.
Sadly in our culture the word postpartum is associated with depression. But it absolutely doesn’t have to be. I knew when my baby was born that I wanted to be in the best mental and physical health possible- for her sake, my husband’s and my own.
Every ancient culture I researched during pregnancy suggests a minimum of 30 days of total rest and recovery for mother and baby. Ayurveda, which is a sister science of Yoga and focuses on lifestyle/herbal/circadian medicine, has a saying “Forty days for forty years.” This means what a woman does with herself in the first forty days after the baby is born affects her health for the next forty years of her life.
So, I made lots of preparations before Gideon Grace was born. I had lots of conversations with my husband about taking care of the house and cooking and bringing me water and food whenever I needed it. I had lots of conversations with the instructors at Elemental Yoga about taking over weekly classes, Yoga Teacher Training and day to day business operations. I spoke with my mother about checking in on me daily and making grocery runs for me. I had a cooking party a few weeks before Gideon was born. We cooked food together and put it in the freezer so that I had easily accessible meals.
After she was born I rested a lot. I spent all my time with her. I consumed fresh meals prepared by my husband. I took lots of baths. I made sure Baby and I found a good rhythm with breastfeeding. It was a magical time. I felt the opposite of depression.
Thirty six hours after she was born, I was lying in bed with her and Michael. I had Kirtan music playing on my phone and a night light that projected stars onto the ceiling. Gideon and Michael were both asleep. I laid in bed crying tears of joy. I had never felt so much of God’s love streaming through me, toward me and toward my baby and family.
I took the time I needed to reset. And when it was time to go back into the studio, I came back with renewed vigor, inspiration and effort.
Sometimes we think that when we make a big change we have to keep the same routine forever and it doesn’t mean anything if the routine doesn’t last. I beg to differ. The form isn’t what’s important. It’s how we are changed. Or as my Yoga Sutras teacher Jen says, “function over form.”
Make the commitment now to change your routine. Make the commitment to do more Yoga, to meditate several times a week, to change your diet. And when the challenge is over- you don’t have to do it as intensively but you will surely be changed in both body and mind.
You may go back to doing Yoga less frequently- but it still might be more frequent than it was before. You may go back to eating gluten and drinking beer- but it still might be less frequent than before. And when you meditate, you will have learned something about meditation and you will have experienced it in your body. You will be more equipped to take yourself through meditations on your own.
One of my favorite texts from the Yoga tradition is the Bhagavad Gita. A famous verse from that story says, “On this path effort never goes to waste, and there is no failure. Even a little effort toward spiritual awareness will protect you from the greatest fear.” (2:40)
So what are you waiting for? Make a big commitment now for the next six weeks and see for yourself how it will pay in dividends for the rest of your life.