I’m about halfway through my second, 30 Day Challenge and while my body is in serious need of a massage, I feel amazing. In my experience, the Spark 30 Day Challenge has made me a happier, healthier, sexier, and stronger person.
By now everyone has probably heard that yoga reduces stress, but I can personally attest that this is 110% true. You know that meme on Pinterest (and on purses, shirts, bumper stickers, etc.), “Keep calm and carry on”? Well, there’s an even better one that I’ve seen, “I can’t keep calm because I have anxiety.” I’d swear that was created specifically for me. I am always so wound up and, as a result, I get pretty consumed with worrying...about everything. No joke! If I’m in a meeting or even having a casual conversation with co-workers and I have to use the restroom, I have to give myself a little pep talk to excuse myself because I worry that: A) I might miss something important, B) people will think it’s rude to leave in the middle of a conversation, C) they might judge my clothes as I leave, D) they’ll all know that I had to go to the bathroom, or E) All of the above. It’s silly and a completely unnecessary way to live, but it’s just how I’m programmed.
What I’ve noticed, however, is that when I am participating in the 30 Day Challenge (or just practicing yoga regularly), I worry a lot less about everything. Don’t get me wrong, I still have my moments of unreasonable anxiety (for example, fighting the urge to fix the toilet paper roll in every single bathroom so that the paper is coming over the top); however, they occur less frequently.
The studio is comfortable to me, and the students and teachers are so welcoming that I consider it to be a safe zone. It’s a place where I can just be me without having to worry about anything. Not only that, but when I’m focused on getting into the poses and breathing correctly, there’s no opportunity for the worrying to creep in. For that, roughly one hour per day, I can actually turn off my thoughts and relax. It may not sound like a lot, but that daily dose of yoga has had an incredible impact on my level of happiness. As a result, I feel more inclined to meet new people, travel, experience new things, and live life more fully.
As you can imagine, being that much of a worrier takes its toll on my health, both mentally and physically. When I’m not doing yoga every day, I have an extremely difficult time sleeping through the night. And when I do fall asleep, I really struggle to clear my mind and I have a lot of dreams that prevent me from getting quality sleep. Because of yoga, I’ve learned how to quiet my mind and relax more at night. Which, in turn, makes me feel better throughout the day.
Because I have an office job, I sit in front of a computer all day long. I very rarely need to get up and my body actually hurts at the end of the day. I notice that my legs and lower back get especially achy. When I’m practicing every single day, I feel like I am reversing all of the damage that I do while sitting at my desk. My back doesn’t hurt as much, my legs and toes don’t cramp, my digestion is better, and I feel like I have so much more energy.
Now combine anxiety with living a society where there is so much pressure to look good--you’ll find that it’s really easy to feel negatively about your body. One of the benefits of doing yoga, especially for 30 consecutive days, is that it really does help tone your body. At the beginning of the challenge, I felt pretty out of shape, especially since it was right after the holidays. I had over-indulged in a few too many of my mom’s homemade cookies (and a few too many mimosas, if we’re being honest) and I hadn’t been doing nearly enough physical activity. I felt lazy, heavy, and just kind of un-sexy in general.
A few days into the challenge, I started to notice the differences in my body again. Everything started to feel a little tighter, more toned. Now that I’m about halfway through, I feel great. I already feel more energetic and light, and I feel so much more confident about my body. I know that I look more toned and it makes me feel pretty darn sexy. ;)
While there’s more to being confident than just feeling sexy, there’s also something about feeling strong that lets you know what you’re really capable of. Before my first 30 Day Challenge, I couldn’t do crow, or headstand, or anything that required the slightest bit of strength. Like a lot of people, I get easily disappointed when I can’t get the hang of something right away and as a result, I want to give up. The great thing about the 30 Day Challenge though, is that it really forces you to push yourself. When I struggled with headstand during the first challenge and had decided that maybe it just wasn’t for me, I was forced to practice it until I got the hang of it because I wasn’t about to miss the Instagram pose of the day. (I know, it’s silly to be so motivated by the Instagram challenge, but let’s be real, I’m also motivated just to get a sticker to put on the board each day; it’s like being in elementary school again, but better.)
This time around, I’m struggling with handstand. But because I’m anticipating it being one of the poses the day, I’m determined to learn how to do it. As a result, I know I’ll be stronger in the end. And if I can get the hang of handstand, I’ll know that I’m strong enough to handle just about anything (both on the mat and off the mat).
Here’s to a happier, healthier, sexier, and stronger 2015 :)