I decided on a whim to participate in a 30-day yoga challenge for the month of January.
I had dabbled in yoga here and there, always super selective to not choose any practices longer than 20 minutes. You see, I wanted to become stronger and more in tune with my body and mind—but not if it meant actually working for it.
Even before Day 1, I knew this challenge would be tough. I hadn’t committed to really anything for 30 whole days, aside from nightly overindulgent wine drinking and binge-watching Netflix. I was nevertheless determined to complete this challenge.
What surprised me along the way was that it wasn’t the balancing poses or planks that proved most difficult, it was the resting poses and meditation that would begin or end the day’s practice. I lead an active life and have always found it difficult to just sit and do nothing, making meditation a difficult task—self-care a difficult task.
I struggled through difficult postures—my balance always off or my body just not bending and twisting into the perfect position. I felt frustrations arise, and rather than run from it, I breathed into it. I meditated, even when my mind was more focused on what I would make for dinner that night or on mental grocery lists. I continued to work on crow pose time and time again, despite how often I fell. By the end of this journey, I actually became stronger and more in tune with my body, and I worked for it.
By showing up on the mat each and every day, I learned that I am stronger than I ever thought—physically and mentally. I wanted to quit so many times. I was physically exhausted and my body was constantly sore from the previous day’s practice.
I had to talk myself into practice more often than not, and make a real effort to fit it in around my hectic schedule. It would have been so easy to throw in the towel, but because I committed myself to this practice and didn’t quit, I discovered something that I had never believed about myself—I can do hard things. I am strong. I am capable.
By taking this small amount of time out of my day for yoga, I learned that I can and should take time for myself every day. Yoga was a great start to delving into self-care, but the more I practiced yoga, the more I wanted to really take care of myself. I decided to lower caffeine and eliminate alcohol. I started taking midday breaks to read just for fun, and even decided to add more exercise to my day because it felt good to be so active.
Self-care used to be about checking a box—a necessarily evil—but it transformed into deeply caring about my own mental and physical health, and checking in with myself each day to see what exactly I needed.
Most days, it is still yoga. Some days, I also need a quiet minute away in a relaxing bath, or time to read in bed, or a long phone call with my sister. Thirty days of yoga taught me to prioritize self-care above the dishes and the laundry and taking care of others because when I don’t, I have nothing left to give.
I find the timing so interesting, that immediately after I completed my 30 days of yoga, I suddenly was confronted with needing to have multiple difficult conversations about past traumatic experiences. As someone who talks a lot about authenticity and pursuing growth, I’m not so great about actually speaking up when authenticity and growth are knocking at my door. I tend to avoid confrontation and difficult conversations like the plague, but for what felt like one of the first times in my life, I was able to share my experience and my pain in a confrontational situation.
I finally believed in myself and my lived experience enough to speak up and own my pain. Because I had made my mental and physical health a priority, I was able to make the difficult choice to have these difficult conversations and actively pursue authenticity and personal growth.
Thirty days of yoga taught me that if I actually want to become stronger physically and mentally and get to know my body and mind, I have to put in the real work. Half-assing self-care is robbing ourselves of the ability to lead wholehearted lives.
The dishes can wait. The laundry can wait. The endless cleaning up after others can wait.
It was only after getting on the mat and sitting in silence with myself day after day that I was able to recognize what actually mattered—showing up for myself.