* elephant journal received this item for free, in return for a guarantee to review it. Having said that, the author says what she wants—good and bad, happy and sad.
“The only thing ever standing between you and your practice is your mind.”
A reader looks back over their life and notes the books that have changed them, seeing them as part of life’s milestones. When I look back over my life I have noted some books as heralding a change in understanding, direction or expansion; these books have changed me forever. Books like The Artist’s Way, The Power of Now, Outrageous Openness or A Room of Her Own.
Kara-Leah Grant’s Forty Days of Yoga: Breaking Down the Barriers to a Home Practice has been given a place in this hallowed group of books that have changed my life forever. (I first read Forty days of Yoga in November 2012.)
From the first chapter, I was hooked.
“What does it mean to practice at home every day?
It means you move, mindfully.
It means you breathe, mindfully.
It means you simply be, mindfully.
You move, breathe and be in your life.
The what of practice ceases to be important, as the how supersedes everything else. Because the how is the yoga.”
You want a home yoga practice, but you don’t have one. Why is that? Perhaps you think you don’t have enough time or space, the people in your life don’t support you, you don’t know what to do or you feel guilty about spending time doing something just for yourself. Join the club. Most of us use these things as reasons for not having a daily yoga practice.
Forty Days of Yoga teaches us that they are not reasons, they are excuses, and those excuses are stopping us from having the kind of yoga practice that we so desperately need.
Using worksheets, Kara-Leah takes us through our jungle psyche, turning over rocks, brush- cutting and mowing the tangled garden of our minds, until finally, there is space to see. As you can imagine, this process unearthed some curious and surprising realizations for me, as it will for you.
I learned these things about myself:
Yoga and I have a 30 year history. I first started doing yoga with my mother when I was six.
The only times I had managed to maintain a regular home practice was when I was pregnant, because someone else other than me would be benefiting so I could justify it.
I believed that I lacked discipline and commitment. One of the worksheets had me writing a list of successes I had achieved in my life and the personal attributes I used to achieve them. Guess what? Discipline and commitment featured strongly in just about all of them. I just hadn’t applied them to this area of my life. Yet.
I felt that I needed a block of uninterrupted time in which to practice yoga, rare with a preschooler at home with me. In practice, my four year old daughter came and did it with me. And if she didn’t feel like it, she would go off and do her own thing.
I felt that my family would not be supportive of my yoga practice, that they didn’t want me to do anything for myself. In practice, they loved that I was doing yoga every day, and would check to see if I had done my practice that day. They turned out to be my biggest support group.
And here was the killer: I felt that time spent doing yoga was unproductive, meaning that nothing tangible was achieved, nobody benefited from it except for me, and doing yoga didn’t earn me any money (or bring me closer to a place where I would earn money, like studying for example). Another name for this is guilt. Beware folks, it’s insidious.
I wasn’t even halfway through the book when I decided that I would do 40 days of yoga.
I made a Forty Days of Yoga Facebook group and invited supportive yoga friends to join. And because the book said that it would help to make a public declaration of my intention, I decided to blog through the process. I wasn’t nervous or worried—I knew I could do it, because I have commitment and discipline in spades people, in spades!
This was November 2012.
After 30 years of yoga, I now have a daily practice.
In the process of turning up to the mat every day, whether I thought I wanted to or not, not only did I improve my yoga practice, my strength, flexibility and fitness, I understood myself better. I listened to all the self talk that would go on in my mind, the talk about how selfish I was, how self-indulgent to be doing things that I like to do, like yoga and writing, while other people are forced to live lives of misery and drudgery.
On the days that my thoughts would wander down these paths, I would go back to the tools that Forty Days of Yoga gave me. One of these tools is preparing a list of Very Important Reasons Why I Want to Have a Regular Yoga Practice. Here’s what I wrote, word for word:
Discipline: because when I am disciplined, I will achieve much more with my time and energy. I will feel worthy.
Peace: when I am peaceful, I feel more able to cope with life.
Flow: when I am flowing, I feel love and trust in abundance.
Presence: when I am present, I feel alive, alert, calm and wise.
And I would say to myself:
I love to do yoga. I love everything about it.
I am a better, more disciplined, peaceful, flowing, present person when I do yoga and write.
Let me tell you one more story, just to finish this off.
A few months ago I went to my first writers’ group. I had written a fictional piece to take along with me, and I had so much fun doing it, I remembered how I had always wanted to write books when I was young. Maybe I could still be a novelist, maybe I do have what it takes, I thought to myself.
Oh yeah? said my mind. You don’t have the discipline to write a whole book. That is a very big undertaking. Your family won’t support you, you won’t earn any money from it; and don’t you think writing a novel that might not even get published is a bit self-indulgent? Other people out there are living real lives of suffering, and here you are…blah, blah, blah.
Hang on a minute, I said to myself: that is complete and utter rubbish. The reason I know it’s rubbish is because I have just done 40 days of yoga, and you said exactly the same thing to me when I wanted to have a daily yoga practice. I have a daily yoga practice now, and you were wrong about that, and I bet you are wrong about this as well.
To prove it, I am going to do 40 Days of Writing.
I did that as well. I did it, because the process of reading 40 days of yoga, and then doing 40 days of yoga not only gave me a daily yoga practice, but it has given me the tools to live an honest and authentic life.
It has given me the skills to navigate my own psyche and to trump my ego, and for those reasons, Forty Days of Yoga, Breaking down the barriers to a home practice has made it on to my Books That Have Changed Me Forever shelf.
Sara Foley is a 37 year old woman with a partner and two children, living in a rural area on the east coast of Australia. She is a writer, aspiring yogi, cook, music lover and tree hugging community builder. Sara is tireless in her quest to be the very best person that she can be, to live a full, creative, authentic life overflowing with joy and integrity. She loves to write about her experiences and what she learns along the way—a meal is best shared and life is too. Check our her blog or find her on Twitter.
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Asst. Editor Edith Lazenby/Ed: Bryonie WIse