This year I once again attended a spiritual music festival called Bhakti Fest in Joshua Tree, California.
After four straight days of practicing yoga during the event, my body felt great! Upon arriving home, I decided that I wanted to see how my body and mind would feel after 30 continuous days of practicing yoga.
I told my partner what I had in mind. Her response: “Well it takes 40 days to make something a habit.” And off I went to practice 40 continuous days of yoga.
Now that I have completed those 40 days, I reflect back on what it has taught me. Here are six things that I have either learned or been reminded of as a result of my 40 days on the mat:
The Importance of Setting Goals
During the 40 days I thought that I could easily keep this going forever. However once the 40 days were over, day 41 was a lot harder! What had changed? It was just another day.
What had changed was the goal had been met. I realized that setting the goal was an important motivator! Saying you would like to do 40 days of yoga and saying you have set a goal of practicing 40 continuous days are two different things.
What we can all take away from this is that if there is an end result that is important to us, set a goal to achieve it! Setting a goal will help motivate you to achieve your end result. Oh and by the way, don’t forget to enjoy the journey! It’s not just about the end result!!
I have always been an athlete and I am no stranger to practice and hard work. However, 40 straight days was not as easy as I though it would be. During those 40 days there were numerous situations, which added to the challenge.
Injury: I severely sprained my right ankle while at work. Travel: I occasionally travel for my work and during this challenge I had a five-day conference I was co-producing. Weather: Just as I decided to do this, Southern California experienced one of its hottest heat waves I can remember (and we don’t have air conditioning here on the coast). Sickness: Working long days and sleeping only a few hours led to getting a cold. Life: I am blessed with a full and busy life! So full that sometimes every waking moment is scheduled with something that needs to be done.
With all of these challenges, some days truly were hard. When my ankle was swollen and I was experiencing cold symptoms, it took some perseverance to get on the mat. What a great lesson to apply to all of life. While life does not always have to be difficult, sometimes it is. Sometimes in order to accomplish our goals we just have to keep going no matter what!!
Mastery Requires a Little Work Every Day
Both learning a musical instrument and achieving a Black Belt in martial arts have taught me that to truly master something, you must practice everyday! While both of those activities have already taught me that lesson, 40 days of yoga really drove it home. I have been practicing yoga for over a decade.
During that time I have seen many changes in my body. I can still remember the first painful downward dog! I remember thinking “This is supposed to be the resting pose?” Over time my body opened up, poses became easier, balance increased, and alignment improved. Then after a few years I settled into a steady place in my practice. I kept trying to go deeper, but there just seemed to be some limit.
As I continued the 40 days, I began to notice that I was going deeper into poses than I had been able to get in 10 years! Then one day in Janu Sirsanana A (head-to-knee forward fold) I was able to touch my nose to my knee! What? I’ve never even gotten close! What I realized was that it was not my body that was holding me back all these years. I needed to practice everyday to move past those plateaus. My music teacher has told me for years it’s better to practice 10 minutes everyday than an hour once a week! Our human bodies need lots of repetition and practice to master things!
You Can Do Anything You Set Your Mind To
While I understand that setting a goal to do yoga for 40 days is not at all the hardest goal you could set for yourself, it is a great, albeit small, example of the fact that if you have achieved something in your mind, you will achieve it in your physical reality as well! I have learned in this life that the only thing that really holds us back is our own limiting beliefs. If we can overcome those, then there is nothing that can stop us from achieving our goals! As motivational speaker and author Denis Waitley says, “If you can go there in the mind, you can go there in the body.”
The Human Body Needs to Move Everyday
The human body evolved in a world that required movement every day to survive! We were not meant to sit in chairs or on couches in front of computers and televisions! I spent about 10 years sitting in front of a computer as part of my corporate job. Those years took their toll on my body.
My hamstrings, hip flexors and lower back tightened significantly. My right IT band started complaining loudly and I became near sighted. These things all occurred as a result of not moving enough and holding muscles, such as my hamstrings (and the muscles that focus my eyes) in the same contracted position for many hours, days and years!
While I always continued to be active during this time, being a weekend warrior just wasn’t enough. The reason I was able to finally touch my nose to me knee in Janu Sirsasana A is because I was practicing poses to open up my hamstrings, gluts and lower back every day! The bottom line is you need to move everyday especially if you have a job where you are sitting down the majority of the time!
You Will Have Good Days and Bad Days
I would love to be able to say that my newfound flexibility from practicing everyday was accessible in every practice. Unfortunately it was not. Some days it was there and some days it was not. The important thing is to realize that this is normal and just do the best you can in the moment. To quote “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz:
“Always Do Your Best. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.”
So there you have it! Those are the top seven things that I either learned or was reminded of during my 40 days of yoga. Now it’s time to get back on the mat!
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Kevin Dalfonzo
Editor: Travis May