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July 6, 2015

What I Learned by Keeping a Yoga & Alcohol Journal.

om_yoga_wellness

My New Years 2015 goal was simple: Keep a log of what I do.

In January, what I did was a lot of yoga and a lot of drinking.

So many years have gone by with “new years eve resolutions” that wither before changing the patterns of my life. This time, I decided to just acknowledge these pattern by observing them. I kept a journal of each hour of wellbeing practice and each indulgence.

This simple daily task shifted my life to a more mindful living.

Soon, I was confronted with data on the patterns in my life, as actions repeated through the week send their effects rippling through the year. I live in Austin, TX, a 20’s and 30-something’s playground with a relentless pace of fun things to do. Each day there is a new reason to indulge, and each indulgence has an opportunity cost. Each week runs into the risk of seeing external events that impose themselves on our lives: for me this year, the allergy season and work drama were major interferences that taxed my energies.

I began accepting the data about the way I lived my life. I accepted that my intentions were not being lived up to by my actions. I wasn’t doing nearly as much yoga as I thought I was, and I was drinking more than I would like. Happy hours, brunch, art shows, work events all add up. I would have to make some choices: either acceptance or change.

If I wanted to live a different lifestyle, I would need to put in the work to change the data.

Now that I’m celebrating Mid-Year 2015, I can look back on six months of lifestyle data.

Since January, I spent just under 50 hours on the mat, practicing yoga. That is an average of about 2 hours per week over 25 weeks. That’s a pretty good amount of yoga, considering that the timespan includes a number of lulls as weeks of vacations, family visits and intense work weeks derailed my regular practice. In June, I reached a peak of around five hours a week in yoga, getting exhaustingly close to my ideal held in my mind of an hour a day.

Since January, I only averaged two days a week without drinking alcohol. Now, a drink a day is considered healthy by modern news media standards, so I don’t feel too guilty. I certainly make no apology for all the mojitos I drank while vacationing in Colombia.

I’m not exactly “battling alcoholism,” but at the same time there are simple truths, such as knowing that I will not manage to practice yoga or meditate after a happy hour. I have this lingering suspicion that drinking less would give me a better life, but will it be as fun?

This forced me to ask a fundamental question: What is my “lifestyle,” and what can I do about it?

How do I cultivate my wellbeing without sacrificing too much fun?

I began looking at each day. Each week. Each year.

What can be expected of an ideal day that extends through a year, knowing that opportunities for adventure and misadventure are always present?

Over the past six months, I’ve experimented with changes in my daily and weekly practices. I have given yoga a priority. This has meant I have had less time for happy hours, dating and late nights downtown. With the data of my life, I can see clearly how one trashy night can lead to a week or two of missed opportunities for building something great.

Slowly, the people who make up a week in my life changed. I began appreciating Sunday mornings more than Saturday nights.

I’m not actually sure I have entirely made peace with all of these changes. Getting up early and without hangover meant that my weekend nights ended early and often without much satisfaction. Less time and less energy, meant my previous focus of photography had to be put on pause, and with it existing friends have faded with fewer shared activities together. An hour a day may seem like a small amount of time, but committing yourself to a daily practice requires a huge effort and will change who you are.

For the rest of 2015, I’m looking forward to continuing this experiment with changing my lifestyle. It will take patience and determination in the face of setbacks. I’ve settled on the idea of an ideal week that has four simple rules:

  • Aim for an hour of wellbeing practice each day. For me, this is usually yoga and meditation.
  • Avoid intoxicants/over-indulgences. This definitely includes alcohol and cannabis, but perhaps even strong caffeine drinks and heavy foods.
  • Occasionally: break all the rules. When you break the rules, make it worth it.
  • I can track these simple things each day, along with the answer to a simple question: Am I happy with this week?

With this information, I can start looking at my life in the light of a kind of data-based spirituality. If something is not working right, I have the data to understand it. When a pattern appears in my life, I must acknowledge it, then: either accept it or work to change it. Over the next six months, I’ll get to see how many of these “ideal” days I get to experience.

As the weeks add to become a year, I can begin to see my life for what it is: the sum of the things I do.

 

 

 

 

Author: Z. Garner

Editor: Renée Picard

Image: Flickr/Take Back Your Health Conference 

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