When I was decamping from Barbados in December 2013, among the things I refused to throw away was my thick purple yoga mat.
I bought the mat in May or June of 2003, in a sports store on Henry St., and while I did use it from time to time, the truth is I have been lugging it from house to house in three countries, and it’s seen only minimal action in all that time.
Prior to actually buying this mat, all my previous intense bouts of yoga practise happened on a Mayan rug acquired from Phil Ra, sometime in 1997 and never, ever, ever, ever returned. It has been permanently ‘lifted’, we say. I have also lugged the Mayan rug from place to place with me since I got it.
Neither mat has seen much yoga action in the more than a decade. In the past, my yoga practise always centered around the routines in an old book I acquired from my grandmother’s bookshelf, “Weight Control Through Yoga” by Richard Hittleman. I picked it up off my grandmother’s shelf when I was 19, and carried it around with me for a few years, until I actually began to attempt the exercises when I was about 23 or 24. That led to an almost nine month period of regular yoga, that saw me lose about four sizes (and never put them back on again). I remained a 16-18 until my most recent weight loss.
I wore that yoga book out. I drifted away from yoga again, and didn’t pick it up again until I was 27 or 28, when in combination with classes I attended with Keffi, and my routines with the book, became another five or six month bout of practise. I didn’t lose a pound, but I became intensely flexible. Remarkably so. I drifted off again, and aside from buying the actual mat in 2003, I’ve done almost no yoga to speak of since my late 20s.
I am not sure why I never threw that yoga mat away, but every time I put my hand on it, something in me just never, ever considered getting rid of it. It’s one of the few things I left Barbados with in January of this year. Shit, it’s been to London–all over South England–and back with me. I threw away the final third of the copy of the Hittleman manual in December gone, with real sadness because it too I had kept and moved with consistently over the years, even though like the mat and the rug, I never used it.
So back in February of this year, after I had an epiphany about affirmation and manifestation, I realized yet again how my mantra for 2014 rang true. I have decided not to wait for anything. I am not waiting for the perfect moment to wear a dress or a pair of shoes. I am not waiting on the perfect circumstances to love with my whole heart. I am not waiting for the perfect man to love with my whole heart. I am not waiting for the perfect location to create. I am not waiting on anything I don’t have, to try and do something I need to do right now. I am not doing any waiting anymore.
For me, these are always one excuse or another for not doing something I need to do right now. When my Carpal Tunnel raged unchecked and out of control most of last year, I knew that yoga would be one part of the only permanent solution for my pain I would come across. Maybe this is why I never threw away the mat or the rug, or the torn remnants of the Hittleman manual over the long years of disuse.
At any rate, in February I began to do sun salutations. Very randomly mind you. I did it with no set pattern, and with no pressure. I just slowly began to move my limbs again. By the end of March, I realized I needed to push myself a little harder, or I would continue to be random and not actually benefit from any practise.
So the first thing I did was head onto eBay and look for another copy of the Hittleman’s manual. We’re creatures of habit, and that manual has been the core of my practise for almost 20 years. I felt that it would give me enough to chew on until I was ready to progress to the next level. I had searched more than once for a copy, but Hittleman’s manual is now out of print. So to find a copy at all is lucky, and very often when you do find a copy the price can be exorbitant. I have seen $20USD, $40USD and other high prices that I simply balked at. So when I found a copy for $9.99USD, I hedged my bets, bit the bullet and ordered it.
However, my practicality knew the book wouldn’t arrive for at least a month, and I didn’t want to wait that long to begin to push. So on April Fools Day, I challenged myself. I didn’t do it with an announcement or fanfare. I just got up and decided for 30 days I would attempt to do at least one complete Sun Salutation a day.
Of course I began slowly. However, by the end of the second week, my reps were up and I began to include at least one Moon Salutation as well.
One of the smartest things I did, was to post statuses to Facebook (more recently with photos), with the basic challenge, my day count and whether I had completed the challenge for that day or not.
In 30 days I only missed two or three (for very valid reasons). Also so many people asked me where I had gotten the challenge from, and remarked that they wished they had known, they’d like to do it with me. That’s where the idea (promise to write) this post came from.
Thing is, I had to explain all I’ve been writing here. This was no challenge I read on a website anywhere or in a magazine. It was a very, very, very personal challenge made by myself to myself, very spur of the moment with zero planning.
By the end of the 30 days, I had increased my reps to five a night, both Suns and Moons, and on the 29th day, the Hittleman manual arrived. That night I started incorporating the routines into my nightly practise.
Here’s the other thing: It’s Day 55 as I write this, and I’m still going.
There is no excuse that my mind seems capable of coming up with, that my body adheres too, unless it is true fatigue or illness. I’m on the mat five or six nights a week, and I am doing the work.
My mat has become this place where I love myself. My love for my body and the care I give to it, in many way for the first time in 40 years, is revealed to me on the mat.
My efforts are being rewarded, not with weight loss–I dropped off all that weight so many years ago now, I can’t imagine what I would have to do to put it back on–but with a kind of calm and peace of mind… a ‘simulflow’ (I know I am paraphrasing Herbert there), that is very real to me. My mind isn’t exactly quiet yet, but every time I go to the mat, and I focus on the connection between my body and my breath, something magical happens.
I love the person I’ve created in me. I love the woman I’ve become, and yoga is a huge part of that for me. Embracing my practise again is like meeting an old friend. Like journaling and egging and affirmation and Orisha devotion, yoga is a conversation I have with myself that allows me to peer into the deepest part of who I am. For the first time in 40 years, I really love the reflection I see looking back from that still, sacred place.
So about the challenge: There is no ‘official method’.
Decide to do it for 30 days and do it for 30 days. Commit to yourself and do it. No magic, no impressive wisdom to share. My only advice is: DON’T WAIT.
I am doing yoga on the floor next to my bed, as there is no other space for me to go. It is a tiny space that allows only forward and sideward movements. I cannot spread out in any way. I still get down on the mat and do it… 55 days strong.
Tell me how you do…