100 for 100

100 for 100

 

Growth requires a certain singleness of mind. As Jesus once said, “you cannot serve two masters.” Either you commit to a change of heart and mind and live it out, or you are just playing around. This singleness of mind I’m talking about means making a total commitment to the path of growth: no wavering, no detours, absolute commitment to staying present, unconditional commitment to discovering and living by the truth within. I’m talking about staying the course, even when it hurts.” An excerpt from Baron Baptiste’s 40 Days to Personal Revolution – Law 6: Commit to Growth

 

Just as finally being able to do a yoga pose like handstand, headstand, forearm balance or whatever doesn’t mean that any sort of bells, whistles or fireworks go off; hitting this 100 days in a row mark of yoga pretty much means nothing either. A unicorn didn’t accompany me to class today, the practice was the same (which means I got out of it exactly what I put into it) and other than a nice recognition from my beloved community of Anjali yogis, nothing was different on this day 100 than it was on day 47. Except that I am different. My asana practice is relatively the same, save for a better sense of focus, gratitude and peace that comes with it; but the yoga I practice off the mat is what keeps growing, opening up, and letting go. A favorite teacher of mine said in a class the other week that we are all searching for balance in our lives and we think that an extra yoga class, meditation session or kale smoothie is going to bring that to us. Yet, without giving up something (or some things) that don’t serve us, we don’t allow ourselves the space to create something new or to find the balance we seek. These 100 days for me didn’t necessarily cause me to give things up but instead they gave me up (trust the process of Baptiste yoga!!!). Without even trying, yoga became part of my daily routine, in the same sense of brushing my teeth is. And it’s opened my heart more to practicing equanimity, non-reactivity, peace, love, and gratitude for my life and those in it. The actual number of days doesn’t matter, but the commitment I made to myself does. And what it means is that I’ll be back on my mat tomorrow and the day after that. And the day after that. Being on my mat will continue to allow me to practice the part of yoga that is most important to me: the stuff that happens off my mat.

 

Since I did keep a log though, here’s a rundown of the numbers:

  • Number of hours practiced: 118
  • Studios visited: 9
  • Cities I practiced in: 5
  • Workshops/Master Classes attended: 7
  • Intentions set: 100s
  • New yogi friends made: handfuls
  • Chaturangas performed: countless

 

NAMASTE.

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Being New Every Day

As I entered my 11th straight week of yoga this past Monday, I decided this week to switch my practice up. I began this 100 day journey 72 days ago to experience yoga not as part of my routine, but as the gift that it has been to me. I thought that maybe not getting up at 5 a.m. every weekday to practice might be a nice change of pace (and yes, not having to get out of bed at 5 every day was part of it too). Anyway, I have been going to practices at different times during the day this week to notice any changes in my mind and body. My hips and hams are more open at noon, but my mind is also a bit more cluttered, so it’s been nice to shift the energy around a bit.
And with this schedule switch, a funny thing happened to me today. I decided to try a new studio and went to a Dhyana yoga studio in Philly. I walked in and realized that I had actually been there before and totally forgotten about it. About 10 years ago when I was training diligently for a marathon (or few), some friends and I decided to try yoga to supplement our running. We signed up for a new student deal for 5 classes for 20 bucks or something like that. We never returned after 2 classes. I remember giggling every time the instructor said downward facing dog and laughing out loud every time he said to reach for your toes (see above re: marathon training). Yoga never landed with me. I was too intense, enjoyed working out too much, and chanting or whatever was never my thing. And then I completely forgot I ever set foot in a yoga studio for over 10 years ago. Then something happened a little over a year ago. I tried another yoga class, this time Baptiste style power yoga, and I was hooked. I have been practicing regularly for over a year now and not only is yoga part of my daily routine (literally, 72 days and going), but it’s a gift I give to myself every day. Some days I go for the physical benefits, some days for the spiritual and some days because at this point I can’t imagine myself not practicing every day. But what I realized today when I was in that studio I first practiced in over 10 years ago and vowed to never return, is that I’m new to yoga every day. Every day that I return to my mat and keep this commitment is a new day. Every day that I choose to return rather than run in the opposite direction is a new yoga practice for me. This may be the hundredth plus time I’ve practiced, but every single time I get on my mat, I learn something new, open up a little more, let something go I didn’t even know was there, or open my mind to a new possibility. So here’s to being new on my mat every day, regardless of what the count is.

Finding the true purpose of my yoga

So it’s day 40 and I can’t believe we’re almost halfway there.

The physical changes Im already seeing in my body blow me away. My always stubborn hamstrings are stretching more rapidly then they have even after several years of yoga; and I can do things I never expected (especially not in such a short amount of time). Last night I flipped from wild thing into Wheel Pose. Wha???

But, for me, this challenge has been a lifesaver for other reasons.  I have always been proud of the fact that I was raised by my father. My mother was toxic and uninterested, and after they divorced when I was only 4, she didn’t want the job.  Luckily for me (and my younger brother) my father volunteered. Many of you know that very unexpectedly, last September, just months past his 60th birthday my father passed away.  Its been 6 months, and most days I still cannot comprehend what this means.

Up until this, yoga to me was a fun thing I enjoyed doing.  I liked teaching it, I liked doing it, I liked having friends that would nerd out about it with me.  But since my dad died, its changed profoundly for me.  It’s become my sanctuary.  It’s not that hard to practice every day for me because I need it now. And not just the asanas. The meditation, the delving deeper; the savasana. It’s where I can find some quiet to remember my dad; to find some peace, to dedicate my practice to the man who started it all.

Why share this? Because I am so grateful to have had this 100 day challenge come along at a time in my life where I didn’t just want to do it; but I needed to do it.  So to all of you dedicating yourself to this; I say; Thank you.

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Yoga, Gratitude and the Lottery

lotto

One of my heroes (and former colleague last summer) Seth Godin once told a story about the importance of being grateful. The story reminded me a lot of the Yama, Aparigraha, which is being grateful for what we have. The story went something like this.

There are more than 5 Billion people in the world. Now, imagine each one of them participates in a mandatory lottery. Imagine that printed on each ticket were the circumstances that would dictate the rest of each person’s life. And imagine these were the numbers on the ticket:

• Race
• Sex
• Birthplace
• Government
• Parent names, income and jobs
• IQ (normal distribution)
• Weight, height, hair color, etc.
• Personality traits
• Health risks

First, if you are reading this blog post online right now, it’s likely that you had a pretty good ticket.

Further, if you practice yoga at a studio here in the US, the same thing is probably true.

But if you think about the entire world, the probability of you drawing a “good” ticket would seem improbable. The chance of you being born in a city US, with an average IQ, normal income, good health, good parents is 1 in a billion. Let alone having internet, attending college and belonging to a yoga studio.

When you look at it this way, practicing gratitude becomes way more obvious. And while it isn’t something I’m always good at, it has proven me to be one of the most extraordinary ways of living a better life. Helping me to not just be content but also to be more generous to everyone around me.

So I am going to dedicate the next part of the 100 days to being grateful. And I hope a few others will join me. Let us spread gratitude for the generous ticket we’ve been offered. Let us be grateful for the time and space to practice yoga. And let our light shine so others can do the same.

Namaste!

Dedication and commitment

Tapas means “to burn.” It is one of the 5 niyamas in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra.
There are many words that describe the concept of tapas; fire, discipline, commitment and austerity to name a few. Through passion and commitment we create the fire that transforms us. The work of tapas is not about how advanced our asanas look, but how committed we are to our practice.

Why do I return to my mat day after day? To unwind, to get uncomfortable , to challenge my limits, and to learn to accept myself fully. Why do you?

In love and light,
नमस्ते

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PS/ Addendum to the article: After writing this blog, I napped some more, and rested some more, and then my best friend and favorite yogi partner ever came over to show me her sequence for the week, and I end up practicing a little bit anyways. It’s yoga– I can’t stay away ❤

This morning, I woke up feeling sick. I had plans to practice at Moksha in the morning with my partner before he went to work. Headache, stomach ache. Dizziness. Gratitude that today is my day off. Postponed plans to practice until 5:45 tonight under the masterful tutelage of the beautiful Anna C.

My journey with yoga, way back when we first met, was how yoga inspired me to listen to the needs of my own body. To hear what my body was saying, and instead of brushing it aside, engaging in a conversation with it. Asking it questions. Giving it time to formulate answers.

So how did I practice yoga today? In the sense of physical asana, I didn’t really. I didn’t go to a class. I didn’t leave the house. But it was nice to take my home practice in a way that really responded to the needs of my body. So important to the success of the rigorous asana practice is the rehabilitative yin, surrender of yoga. The mindset that I take on when I enter the studio or step on to my mat is one of conscious mindfulness. The mindset, I think more than the actual movements, defines my yoga experience for me.

Today was about mindset. What did my body want? To sit. To sleep. To count mala beads and the length of my inhales and exhales. To rest. To sit. To sleep. The recount the mala beads, for my fingers to make their way back to the guru bead again and again. My mind wanted to practice. The stubborn, goal-ridden part of my brain ridicules today as a failure. The intelligent part of my brain that is able to separate itself from my ego is all like, giiiiirl, please. Stay in bed. Today, this will be the yoga. Breath work, meditation and stillness are absolutely yoga.

I got out of bed long enough to step outside and feel the cold air snapping some sense back into my sleepy, foggy brain. Took this picture of a pose that helps me to feel grounded, stable, and expansive. Today, this pose speaks to me as a place where I can keep my head above my heart, where I can breathe freely and hugely into an open chest, where I can find playfulness through the motions of my upper body as it responds to its environment, and steadiness and stability through the lower body which roots itself firmly. Sweatpants-asana.

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Enhancing your challenge

Hi there fellow yogis!! As our 100 days continue, I’ve been trying to add other elements into the challenge. For example, setting particular goals with my practice (holding a particular inversion, getting into your head/hand stand for more than just a fleeting moment), making sure I sleep at least 6 hours a night, or making sure I do core everyday. It can be whatever you might need to work on, something as basic as remembering to floss your teeth twice a day.

I’ve personally tried to tie these extra goals into my practice, but they can be anything… I’ve found this challenge to give me an overall perspective aimed at change, positive growth, and healthy happy living. Why not harness this energy and try to make other positive, habit forming changes in your life? I’ve made sure to eat a balanced breakfast every day since we’ve begun, something that I never prioritized… work always beat out eating a solid first meal of the day. 

I also have a horrible habit of watching TV before bed, which further stimulates me rather than letting my brain settle. Over the past week or so I’ve been replacing TV with music and reading and/or journaling. Even in the past couple of days, I’ve felt a difference in my rest. I fall asleep sooner, sleep deeper, and wake up feeling more refreshed. While this definitely has to do with my yoga practice itself, the change of pre-bedtime routine has done wonders. 

Undoubtedly, yoga makes life more fulfilled, balanced, and purpose driven. Try to take ten minutes sometime in the next day or two to find something else in your life that you can change with the hope of being more successful towards the end of fulfillment, balance, purpose, and contentment. 

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Flashback Friday to my mom and I during our session with our lovely island yogi, Ariel. Outside and in the sun, enjoying 75 degree weather… Hawaii does yoga right. Chicago weather is really making me miss home and my outdoor practice! 

Three weeks in …

Namaste Yogi Warriors.

Yes, warriors. For three weeks you have battled and endured Chicago’s coldest weather in 20 years and come out victorious. And you’ve have probably enjoyed Warrior poses in 100 degree studios more than ever.  Actually see below for proof of some of those poses over last ten or so days. Keep up the epic work!

Namaskar!

 

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Linnea defying gravity!

!Linnea

Nolan doing Ninja Yoga

Nolan doing flips

Yasemin posted about her love for yoga!

Photo from Yasemin

Lilly posting a photo of Dancer’s pose

Lilly

Ashley J with friends

Ashley J with friends

Danielle and Bobby on a vacation in the sun

Danielle and Bobby

Hector on Day 8 or 9.

Hector

Dominika doing art!

Dominika

Lauren doing what she does best (having fun with Yogis!)

lauren singer making magic

Andrea in another pose

Andrea

An empty yoga studio at 6AM.  Hmmmmm

Studio

Someone creeping on Jeremy (and his cool dragon yoga pants) while doing a armstand

JCW

 

Reflections of day 19

Until last night, the 100 days of yoga hadn’t meant much to me. In fact, until last night, I haven’t had to change my routine at all. I usually practice every day. This year I have had so much fun exploring different studios and practicing under the tutelage of unfamiliar teachers and styles. During the first twenty days I enjoyed instruction in vinyasa, c-yoga and Acro yoga at Urban Lotus, Nature Yoga, Moksha, Corepower and Yoga Lab. I’ve been lucky to have friends to practice alongside most days and to find the stillness and motivation within myself on the days when I am alone. I knew there would be days that I wouldnt feel like practicing, but I hadn’t had one of them yet.

Until last night. My roommate and I are lounging in the living room binge watching the last episode of Season Two of House of Cards. I had a 14 hour day, including working a 9-5 and teaching a class immediately before and after my day job. I taught both of the classes I would have usually taken. It’s 8:00pm. I just missed HPF. My last chance is the 9:15pm C2 at Lincoln Park (thank god for late classes). I am watching the time tick-tock by. I contemplate practicing at home, but know that I will half -ass everything until House of Cards is over. I teach again at 6am. I really just want to have a beer and fall asleep on the couch.

Instead, my roommate and I decide to go to yoga. Although I didn’t mention my motivation to her, and she didn’t question it since I practice daily, the only reason I think I got myself off the couch last night was because I didn’t want to bail on a commitment that I made to myself-not so early on in the game, not without a better reason. I told myself that inhad full permission to lounge. That I could take it easy with the physical asana and focus on my breath and creating a meditative mindset with which to end my night.

So, I end up practicing. As soon as I gave myself permission to take it easy, to acknowledge that I was tired, that I didn’t have to have the most physically impressive practice of my life, it became delicious. As soon as I walked into the studio and started listening to the lovely Emily A guide me through practice, I started wanting to practice. I ended up having a very good practice. My breath was long and deep and my physical asana attentive and strong. I felt so good. I cannot believe that I might have missed such a beautiful practice.

 

Thanks, hundred days of yoga.

-halle

 

 

 

Practice everyday. Shun the non-believers

Isn’t CrossFit a better workout? Why do you like that Teacher X? Why would you do yoga for 100 days straight?

skeptics

Since starting the 100 Day Challenge, I’ve run into people who asked me those questions, including just yesterday which prompted this post.  People skeptical about the idea of 100 days … as though I only do yoga for the physical workout.  And little did they know that Teacher X happens to be one of my favorites (and a Yogi 1oo participant).

At first thought, I almost became a little defensive forgetting that patience has been one important lesson I’ve continued to learn my practice.  But since starting, it’s become more obvious than ever that a regular practice is critical.

Every time I get on my mat, the results of how I treated my body the previous day are right there for me to witness.  I get immediate feedback on how hard I practiced last week, how much food I ate the night before, and how present I am at the onset of class. The more I practice these things, the easier the asanas are, the stronger I get, the more I start to see change right in front of me, and the less surprised I am when I flow into poses that once seemed impossible.  (Just yesterday I floated into two new awesome handstand poses! … and forearm stands have never been easier)

In short, the repetition and commitment to the practice makes you feel better, become stronger and shine brighter.

Shun the non-believers.

Day 11-17

Daily practice continues without interruptions. I went to Deepak Chopra’s speech a while ago, and he said something that stuck with me “when you don’t have time to meditate, meditate twice.” When I think I can only squeeze in 15 min of practice, I do it twice and the second time around it ends up being AMAZING.

I am happy to report my home practice is flourishing, and I am feverish with excitement about the trip to Europe. Already explored some yoga studios online. Stay tuned, as I will be sending updates shortly.

In love and light,
नमस्ते

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The two ways I go to yoga classes

Studio

A few days ago, I took a 6:30 A.M. class and arrived about 30 minutes early.  Not only did I get to warm up and meditate before class but I also had one of my best classes in a while.  The whole process got me thinking that this probably wasn’t a coincidence.

There are two ways I tend to go to a yoga class.

The first (probably the most common) is to leave my place right on time, do my best to take the shortest route possible, repeatedly look at the clock, and then start moving faster and faster to be sure I make. By the time I get to the front door, I realize that I am breathing hard and barely going to make it.

The second way is to leave for the studio 20 minutes earlier. Create buffer time for the walk over and get 20 minutes of time to relax, warm up and meditate in class.

When I travel the first way, I’m sure to get stressed out. Sure, I maximize my time but I also maximize chances of missing class, sweating by the time I get to my mat and not having enough space or focused energy to start practice well.

On the other hand, when I travel the second way, there’s no chance of missing class. I also have time to meditate, stretch and relax before class.  When I travel this way, the class goes better every single time.

In most cases, option #1 is more tempting but option #2 is always far better. And that change only costs 20 minutes.

Perhaps an idea worth considering outside of yoga as well.

Namaste!

Day 9 & 10

The simplest poses can be the most challenging. One of my students and a good friend told me that you know you are practicing yoga when Adho Mukha Svanasana becomes the most difficult pose.

I took a class last night that was beautiful in its simplicity yet very physically challenging . This morning’s practice was a spin on a beginner’s vinyasa flow. The “easy” poses became a struggle not only because of the long and strenuous holds, but also because of the mental exertion.

In love and light,
नमस्ते

*practicing with friends in South Loop
*yoga in Oak Park

Today and yesterday Adho Mukha Svanasana was difficult, and I consider this a successful practice.

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Acro yoga!

Acro yoga!

My acro practice is in it’s infancy… I’ve only just started a couple months ago, and given the small size of the community here in Chicago (at least to my knowledge), I only get to play about once a week or so. I have basically zero knowledge of my own, except for your basic poses, like bird and folded leaf, etc.

Would love to know if any other 100yogis are into acro… I thought I saw a couple pictures in Jeremy’s post!

I hope the first 8 days of your 100 are unfolding peacefully and with an open mind and heart!

Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha