Breaking a Guinness World Record for the longest yoga marathon
Two years ago this week, I broke the Guinness World Records™ record for the longest yoga marathon. I practiced for 32 hours straight with occasional pee breaks. Looking back, I am still moved to tears when I think about this incredible experience.
I’m Yasmin, by the way, a yoga teacher, writer and ayurvedic practitioner from Montreal.
I didn’t set out to challenge a Guinness Record.
I wanted to shake up my life and while many colleagues and friends took off for soul exploration in India and Nepal, I was running a yoga studio; so traveling to far away lands wasn’t possible. I figured that, regardless of where I was in the world, I could uncover greater truths about myself through tapas, or focused effort.
Inspired by stories of Tibetan yogis prostrating the entire circumambulation of Mount Kailash, my kora, or pilgrimage, became a journey of 11,664 prostrations, and eventually, a 32-hour yoga marathon.
Yoga Mala (108 sun salutations) practices have always felt sacred to me, and I wondered what would happen if I did 108 mala in a row?
I successfully did a trial of 27 days of 108 sun salutations, and officially began my crazy 108 x 108 adventure on April 18, 2010 (the 108th day of the year). I kept a daily blog and organized community practices by donation for charity. Since I continued a full teaching schedule, the time commitment as well as the repetitiveness of the practice was tough on my body, mental state, business and relationships.
Initially, I feared injuries, but around day 40, I noticed my body was healing itself almost overnight, a relief considering I hadn’t taken a day off from practice. I remember having terrible wrist pain, which normally requires several weeks of rest, disappearing in two days of slow and concentrated sun salutations. On another occasion, four deep cuts healed within 24 hours.
By day 70 or so, I became focused on raising money for the Stephen Lewis Foundation (SLF), an organization that works to eradicate gender violence and HIV/AIDS in Africa.
Several mentors encouraged me to merge day 107 and 108 into one practice and challenge the Guinness World Record™ for the longest yoga marathon that stood at 29 hours. Thinking it was an impossible feat (I can’t normally stay awake past one am) I resisted at first, but eventually conceded. My goal was to raise $10,000 for SLF, but I needed help from the media.
With only three weeks to prepare, my friends, family and students assembled a team of nearly 50 volunteers to fulfill the various requirements from Guinness World Records™.
The rules stipulated that I was allowed a five-minute break after every hour of practice. Breaks could be cumulative, so I charted eight practices of approximated four hours. I figured if I planned the sequences in advance, my brain would have less work to do later. I studied all my yoga books, and reread all the notes I took over the last ten years from trainings and workshops. It felt like I was cramming for the ultimate yoga exam.
The Guinness challenge was set to begin at 9 am on August 2 and end at 5pm on August 3.
I had diarrhea for two days beforehand. One of my teachers withdrew his support, claiming he “hated yoga hype,” whatever that meant. I also received discouraging emails from yoga teachers who said I was “insulting tradition.” My confidence wavered. Thankfully, my partner Craig was (and still is) a rock, and I had more supporters than naysayers around me.
What transpired during those 32 hours may take me a lifetime to fully articulate.
It was so deep, so intense, that I am now, two years on, finally finding my voice. I recently realized that this humbling journey of sun salutations and this yoga marathon helped me break apart my ego. There were times that were so difficult that my ego let go of its fight for power, allowing me to be transported by spirit.
I cried my heart out the last 20 minutes of the practice.
Not for breaking a record and not for finishing thousands of sun salutations, but for finding myself, and a renewed admiration for what yoga provides: a space to explore the light and dark parts of my being. I sold my studio in January, and pulled myself from the class schedule last month.
Now coming into my own, my life as nomadic yogini is fully mine to embrace.
Yasmin F. Gow, E-RYT 500, holds the Guinness World Record for the longest yoga marathon lasting 32 hours. She is an accredited ayurvedic practitioner and one of Canada’s leading yoga teachers. Also a writer, speaker, and activist, Yasmin has toured Canada with renowned environmentalist David Suzuki, produced an acclaimed yoga dvd series, and raised thousands of dollars for charity. She leads successful vinyasa yoga and ayurveda training programs and mentors others to reach great heights.
Find Yasmin: Website: www.yasminyoga.com
Editor: Thaddeus Haas
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