Tl;dr thank goodness this damn experiment is finally over.
Yoga: definitively not for me
I gave it my best shot, y’all, I really did.
Sure, I didn’t go into the last experiment of the year liking yoga. I had low expectations. But that wasn’t to say I didn’t want to like yoga. It’s a form of stretching/exercise/mindful breathing that many people enjoy and that I can do for free in my room whenever—what’s not to like?!
But the best I experience I had during this 30 day challenge was not actively hating everything/counting down every excruciating second until the video finished and I could mark that obligation off for the day. That’s…a super low bar.
I was practically giddy after finishing the last video. I hate vacuuming, but I could not roll up my yoga mat and vacuum the rug underneath it fast enough after finishing that last video (although that wasn’t a symbolic act of ridding myself of the yoga challenge or anything. I probably should’ve vacuumed before I started the challenge, and a month and a half later it was past time).
It honestly felt like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders when I realized I wasn’t going to have to do yoga the next day or the day after or ever again if I didn’t want to.
So that reaction was telling.
So how’d the 30 days go, aside from not being overly enjoyable?
I wanted to enjoy it
I didn’t actually want to spend a month having an unpleasant experience, so I didn’t go into the experiment actively determined to prove myself right about not liking yoga. I tried not to get frustrated when my body wouldn’t do something I wanted it to. I tried not dwelling on how things were uncomfortable. I tried not to think every day about my dislike of yoga. I tried to enjoy it.
Trust me, I know all about how yoga is a practice in letting go and accepting where you are in the moment and every day on the mat is an opportunity to not judge yourself for how your practice looks that day.
I know that yoga isn’t deadly serious and there were plenty of reminders to have fun. But I was never able to fully relax and try to enjoy each day’s practice. And yes, that was frustrating.
Just get it over with
It took me something like 45 days to finish the 30 day challenge. Sure, there were some travel days or days full of family obligations over the holidays where yoga was never going to happen. But that’s exactly why I started it early at the end of November, to give myself some extra space for those inevitable yoga-free days.
But it wasn’t enough to make up for my apathy and there were plenty of days where I had no excuse not to do yoga but still didn’t anyway.
The last three days took me over a week. You’d think I would’ve just powered through the end, but I just could not work up the motivation to finish it up. And, predictably, I was extremely relieved to have finally finished the thing and could’ve saved myself a few days of having it hang over my head if I’d just done the last few videos even when I didn’t want to.
Hi, yes, I am a procrastinator, why do you ask?
I didn’t cheat
The last video of the 30 days of yoga is titled “find what feels good.” Not only is that one of Adriene’s mantras, but it also essentially meant the last day was unstructured so you could do what you wanted. You could follow along with Adriene on the video as she did her own practice (but didn’t vocally cue anything), but you were encouraged to do your own thing. And we all know that sure as hell wasn’t going to happen.
As soon as I realized that, I thought long and hard about just closing my computer and calling it good with 29 days of yoga instead. No one would’ve ever known that non-yogi me skipped out on a day of unstructured freestyle practice!
But I would’ve known. And I would’ve done an excellent job at feeling super guilty for not finishing the challenge all the way. So, because I am my own most scathing critic and I didn’t want to hear me berating myself for skipping out on the last day, I pulled up a video from earlier in the challenge.
Set yourself up for success, even when it’s annoying as hell
Another thing that made the challenge not overly enjoyable is that I gave up most of the empty floor space in my room so I could keep my yoga mat out. I knew if I had to physically unroll and lay out my mat every day, I would never get through the challenge (I already had so many excellent other excuses for why a certain day’s video could just wait until the next day!). But it was annoying to have to walk around and oh, was I beyond excited to finally do the 30th video and immediately roll up my yoga mat.
It’s nice to have the space back in my room/not need to step around my mat all the time. And it’s also incredibly nice because, unlike my yoga mat, that empty space doesn’t remind me of the unpleasant thing I know I need to do that I’m trying to find excuses not to do.
Still, like I said, I needed to have my mat out, taunting me. Know yourself.
Guess what pose never gets better?
True to people’s suggestions in my comments, the blood rushing to my head got slightly better with time. But emphasis on the slightly because it was still highly uncomfortable.
There was one day where I did two videos in a row to try to catch up, but five minutes into the second video I had an excruciating headache. Apparently blood rushing to my head and back however many times during a video was okay, but any more than that was too much for my body to handle. Even a forward fold was horrendously uncomfortable.
I didn’t turn off the video, but I didn’t do a lot of the poses, so you could reasonably say I only did 29.5 days of yoga. There’s nothing like blood pounding painfully in your head to make an already unpleasant experience even better! I lay on the ground for probably 10 minutes after the second video until the worst of the headache finally went away.
And—you knew this was coming!—downward dog will never ever ever be a comfortable or resting position for me. Just because the blood didn’t rush to my head in two seconds flat sometimes didn’t mean that it only taking five seconds was any better (plus have I mentioned that that pose is murder on my ridiculously tense shoulders?). Child’s pose all day every day for an actual restorative pose. I got lazy towards the end and skipped a bunch of the downward dogs. I regret nothing 🤷♀️
The videos I enjoyed/didn’t hate most were the much slower, mindful breathing type. The faster-paced flow days I never really got into, which tells me two things, both of which I already knew.
Flow yoga is Not My Type
I think part of it is because since my first yoga class years ago, I have always had problems with breathing and connecting it to the movement. It’s never seemed intuitive, and it doesn’t help that yoga breathing seems completely opposite from the breathing we do at barre (exhale on the exertion). Flow yoga also goes through downward dog a lot. And, as I’ve already mentioned just maybe once or twice, I despise that pose.
It’s the only thing I’ve ever done because I guess it’s the most popular, and it seems to be what all of the classes around here are. I’m not honestly sure what yoga would look like without it—is yoga without a bunch of sun salutations even yoga??
If I wanted to, I could answer that question for myself. I could do research into other types of yoga that aren’t so flow-based. But eh, it’s not a priority. Because I do not enjoy yoga. And I can say this because I did a 30 day challenge and gave yoga my best shot!
Real talk: I’m not upset that that means I therefore have a brilliant reason not to spend a single dollar on classes near me in the future! Yoga classes around here are damn expensive, too.
Meditation is more my type
The video I chose for the 30th day was one I remembered being much more mediation-based instead of flow-based (there was still a downward dog or two, but honestly I might’ve skipped out on all of them. Life is too short, y’all).
For years I’ve had an extremely intermittent meditation practice; I’ve done (and blogged about) a meditation experiment before. My lack of a regular meditation practice isn’t due to disliking meditation, but rather to my inability to build it up into a regular habit. There are certainly ways I can go about changing that.
And because I know I don’t hate meditation the way I do yoga, that makes me think that maybe I can only focus on one thing at a time: just the breath, not breath and movement? That actually ties in with things I’ve been thinking about single-tasking (and how I need much more of it in my life), which will show up in another post in the near future.
I promise I’m almost done talking about yoga
So yeah, with all that, I think it’s obvious to say I have no idea when I’ll do yoga next. It will definitely not be happening anytime in the near future, but hey, maybe at some point in the future I’ll feel like I need a good stretch and want something more structured than just stretching on my own and go looking for a yoga video. It could happen.
I don’t have to know when or if I’ll be doing yoga next, and that’s an incredibly freeing feeling.
On the meditation front, it’s extremely convenient that the January barre challenge this year has a meditation/mindfulness component to it. So I’m working my way back into a consistent practice anyway! I’m not going to go so far as to hope that maybe this’ll be the time it finally sticks, but you never know.
And hey, with this 30 day challenge now I can say I’ve done something hard that I didn’t like. A lot of my life is fairly comfortable and there aren’t many opportunities or reasons to stray too far out of my comfort zone. This yoga challenge definitely pushed me out of it.
Guess what: I can do hard things and survive.
Moving on to 2019
So for January’s experiment I’m doing another 30 day yoga challenge, right?
AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA ABSOLUTELY NOT.
I’m actually putting the monthly experiments on hold for now. As you can probably tell from the lack of a post about it, I haven’t decided what my 2019 goals are. Obviously I don’t like the idea of year-long goals; that’s why I started these monthly experiments in the first place.
As much as I liked this format, I haven’t had much success building on habits or keeping things going past the month I focused on them. And while I’m extremely aware of the inherent flaws of pursuing constant self-improvement (we’re humans! We’re allowed to take time to just be who we are instead of relentlessly pursuing perfection/being someone else), I’d still like more tangible progress that lasts beyond a month.
I’ve toyed with the idea of setting quarterly goals (still a way shorter timeframe than a year, but require more focus than just a month), but those don’t seem quite right, either.
I think I’ve got something that’ll work for me, but until that post is written and published, nothing is official yet. And TBD on whether I do monthly experiments this year. I wouldn’t be surprised if I take some on, though.