30-Day Yoga Challenge

The goal of yoga isn’t the Headstand, the Handstand, the Dragonfly or the Scorpion. It is much simpler than that - it is fashioning space where you were once stuck and appreciating your body. It is being aware of your mind and calming the noise it creates. It is being at peace with who you are.

And of course, if you move into the Bird of Paradise pose smoothly at a hot yoga flow class for the first time, it is your heart exploding with joy on the inside, and a deep breath on the outside.

This is day 23 of the 30 Day Yoga Challenge at Essential Yoga Studio and, for the first time ever, I feel like yoga and I belong together.

Until now I’ve never been much of a yogi, though my collection of yoga pants is plentiful. On occasion I might set up my mat in the comfort of my living room just to be distracted by my dog’s over-enthusiastic need to stretch out beneath me. That, or the dust bunnies floating on my floor put me into a cleaning frenzy and my practice crumbles.

Fortunately, at Essential there aren’t any fluffy, dusty distractions – only yoga.

I sign up for the challenge mid-September after my friend Sinead convinces me to. I have 40 days to complete 30 days of classes  – there is flow yoga, core yoga, yin yoga and hot yoga, among many others. I don’t know the difference between any of them, only that they all serve a purpose.

In the first couple weeks I learn about proper alignment and familiarize myself with the numerous poses, adjusting them to suit my capabilities.

“Eventually you’ll crave a deep stretch when you’re in line at the grocery store,” a teacher says one night. A few days later while waiting to pay for a tub of Ben & Jerry’s half-baked ice cream I think of this, and find myself stretching in line.

Before long yoga becomes a part of my daily routine. One night while attending my second hot yoga class (the room temperature is set at 40 degrees C), I realize I can’t take the heat and remove my shirt, now clad in 3/4 length tights (awesome tights, for the record) and a sports bra.

I carry no shame whatsoever despite there being 15 other people in the room. The sweat beads and pours from my skin. First I feel like dying, then I feel reborn; profuse sweating has that effect. There is an enormous amount of non-judgemental acceptance here – that, in turn, makes it easier to accept myself, even in a sweat-soaked sports bra.

My new friend Mel and I share a laugh as we slip into the next pose, the sweat so abundant that we make squelching sounds. We stifle giggles; who knew yoga was for making friends, too?

When I speak with Francesca Ter Poorten, owner of Essential, about my experiences during the challenge, she is nothing short of encouraging. I watch in one class as she moves into a headstand with ease – she is deliberate, precise and connected. I admire her dedication, though she never once makes me feel like less of a yogi for remaining in Child’s Pose.

Francesca opened her studio in 2004 after realizing that she wanted to share what yoga was doing for her mind and body with other people. “I love the excitement of the yogis in Fernie, they inspire me every day,” she says.

By day 15 I can feel my body changing. I go from dreading a Vinyasa (usually a series of Chaturanga, Cobra and Downward Facing Dog poses) to longing for it.

Then one night with Sinead as my teacher, I move smoothly into the Bird of Paradise pose. I’ve been practicing the pose without success for several days, but tonight I feel balanced and grounded. I text Sinead later and tell her how happy I am.

“Yes!” she replies. “I did that pose for you, I knew you could do it on both sides!”

As the challenge comes to an end I think how incredible yoga really is – not necessarily because I’ve done a Handstand (I haven’t), but because now I understand its purpose. In doing so I’ve come to understand myself a little better, too.

And that, my friends, is the whole point. The light in me honours the light in you.

For yoga in Fernie visit essentialyogastudio. com, thecastleonfirst.com, vitalityfernie.ca or evolutionhealth.ca.