The Challenge: Yoga every day for 30 days.  You can miss two non-consecutive days but you must double up on classes the following day.

The Venue: Expand Yoga at 1015 Pacific in Tacoma is awesome.  Matt & Liz are totally kick-ass.  I have no higher compliment to give them.  Check them out if you are interested in classes!

The Classes: 6o minute hot vinyasa class or a 90 minute original hot bikram class.

Hot Vinyasa “focuses on moving through postures mindfully, in connection with your breath.  Results include improved strength, flexibility and balance.”

Original Hot Bikram “is a class comprised of 26 held poses and two breathing exercises that systematically work to stretch and strengthen the body. Practiced in a heated room, circulation and flexibility are increased allowing one to better release tension and toxins.”

Background: There has been a pattern in my life lately: easing into something is out; jumping right in seems to be my new modus operandi.  My first yoga class was fall 2010.  Since that class, I took a dozen or so classes at the Y.  After I canceled my Y membership, there was six months of no yoga.  So, starting a 30 day challenge seemed like the most logical next step.

First Class: After a short 3 mile run, I headed to my first bikram yoga class.  Probably not the most sensible sequence of events.  With an apple as my only fuel between the run & the class, I was ready.  Bikram is hot – it is 105 degrees HOT.  Although I can handle high temperatures, I really like cool temperatures.  Especially when working out.  I have never sweat so much in my life.  I also experienced dizziness.  90 minutes of hot, sweaty, uncomfortable, bendy, stretchy-ness.  In way over my head.

Week One: First seven classes were the roughest.  Not only because I was doing strange things with body parts but yoga became paramount to all other things in my schedule.  I left family birthday celebrations early to make it to class, took PTO to fit in a yoga class and a run in order to watch my former players play volleyball.  Through all of this, there was a benefit to taking so many classes consecutively – improvement was more keenly recognized.

Week Two: Week two was more mentally challenging.  I loved the way I felt after yoga but my running suffered tremendously.  On one Saturday training run, I wanted to get in eight miles, but my legs felt like bricks.  Sometimes, the first mile seems really hard but I find I’m running faster than I feel.  That Saturday, I could barely move & my first mile was in the 17 minute/mile pace range.  Heartbreaking.  I ended up running six miles, walking two.  I went home and googled anything I could find on the benefits of running & yoga combined.  I was more disheartened because everything I read was positive.  (Note for google searches: if you want positive feedback – use words like benefit in the search bar.)  I was ready to drop the challenge.

Day 13 Breakthrough: Not a yoga breakthrough but a running one.  Running at Point Defiance on Tuesday, I netted a 55 minute five mile run.  I felt strong and it felt good.  The following day, running in Tacoma, I averaged 12:30 minute/miles.  Maybe yoga really was good for running.

End of the Challenge: I missed two days and made up for both of those days with back to back classes.  I cannot remember the first double class but the second one didn’t seem that bad.  Felt a bit invincible afterwards.  Instead of feeling a bit nervous as in the beginning of the challenge, I was starting to feel like I belonged in the yoga studio.  I was making yoga contacts via twitter.  Community seems to make everything easier to handle.  

The Reward: There is a list of rewards for completing the 30 day yoga challenge.  More outline fun…

  • 30 days of unlimited yoga free.
  • Body composition changes: stronger shoulders & quads.  I’m still waiting for my hamstrings to lengthen – those jokers are tight.
  • Increased flexibility.  I injured my left knee last year doing the 1st stage of the dancer pose (pulling left foot to tail) and I’m still nervous about pulling my left leg into this pose but I have been able to do other poses grabbing that foot.  I am able to sit in chair for 3o seconds and smile.  I have attained deeper warrior poses.
  • Breathing.  When my training runs become painful and hard, I have found focusing on my breath has been helpful.  I made it through an 11 mile training run with a tight hamstring and throbbing quad because of the focus on breath.
  • Miscellaneous benefits.  I feel more calm.  I have better posture; I am very much aware of my shoulder position.  Maybe it is an accumulation of several things and have no correlation with the yoga challenge, but people have mentioned how much I have changed.  I feel different too.  Better.
In chatting with buttahcup this morning (she is four days from completing her 30 day yoga challenge), I made this comment summing up the yoga challenge and running: Running allows you the time to process thoughts, issues, …life and yoga is about letting it all go.  And I’m looking forward to next fall when I go through this 30 day challenge again.  (methinks this is going to be an annual event.)