I'm busy. We're all busy. However, in the past year, I noticed that the busier I was, the more numb I felt. Although I was jumping from one crisis to another, feeling needed and important, I wasn't truly living and experiencing life. I was feeling lonely, exhausted, and overwhelmed. While complaining about this, a friend asked me, "Well, what do you do for yourself?" After a long pause, I whispered, nothing. Seriously. I was so busy taking care of the needs of those around me that I repeatedly ignored and broke the commitments I had made to myself. Resentment and fatigue were starting to creep in. Something needed to change.
I love yoga. Along with my demanding job and single-parenting a toddler, I teach a yoga class once a week. Yoga, I knew, was something I could do more of. Yoga helps me feel connected, present, and calm. So I made a commitment to myself, do yoga every day for 30 days and see what changed. I set my parameters: Every day I would spend at least 20 minutes on my mat. That's it. I even made myself a little chart.
As the days progressed, I began to look forward to my time on the mat. The first few weeks were intense. I did an active Ashtanga routine, sweating, building muscles, and pushing myself hard. It was summer and I felt energized. I began to feel stronger, I carried myself more confidently, and most importantly, I was more patient and present with others. As the 30-day mark approached, I knew I wanted—and needed—more. I had recently participated in a Yogathon that consisted of 108 sun salutations and that number just clicked. So, my journey to 108 days began.
Even though it was just a 20-minute minimum, it wasn't always easy for me to find the time. I had to be creative and committed to make it happen. By keeping my commitment, I repeatedly reinforced the message to myself that I am worthy and I am important. Other subtle pieces began to shift as well. I can't know for sure that they are all a result of my yoga practice, but here's what changed for me over the past 108 days.
1. My sleep improved.
Better sleep happened right away. I made sure I was in bed early enough to get a solid seven hours, but the quality of my sleep improved too. Practicing yoga at the end of the day was what I needed to have a deep, restful sleep.
2. I stopped biting my nails.
This happened unintentionally. I just looked down one day in surprise and noticed my nails were shapely and strong. I was biting my nails from anxiety and nervousness. This began to slowly melt away as I spent regular time on my mat. I still feel nervous and anxious sometimes, but not to the same degree and I haven't started biting my nails again.
3. I increased self-care.
I began to find more time for myself. It seems counterintuitive, but adding yoga to my day allowed me to find more time for myself. Before this, I would often skip steps in my self-care routine because I felt I didn't have the time. Little by little self-care rituals found their way back into my life. Using lotion, painting my nails, taking a bath, getting my hair cut…these all became part of my life again. Putting value on myself through my yoga practice gave me permission to value myself in other areas too.
4. My eating habits shifted.
Unconsciously indulging in an after-dinner snack or glass of wine is something I had been doing out of habit. It became noticeable that it wasn't working for me when I got on my mat. As I typically practice before bed, I could really tell if I was bloated, disconnected, or just blah from overeating. I began to be more intentional about what I was eating and when I was eating. I also began to notice the effect of my dietary choices on my body. This didn't mean restrictions or a major overhaul of everything I ate but more mindful thinking about what I was putting into my body before I did it.
5. My yoga practice shifted.
As I got more in-tune with what felt good, my yoga practice transformed as well. Restorative poses and longer yin-style holds used to drive me crazy. I wanted my yoga practice to be a workout. I wanted to move, sweat, and try to master advanced poses. The more I practiced, the less my ego was involved. Some days, I needed a physical practice but not every day. Now, I was beginning to yearn for my bolster. I was using my practice to rest, to reflect, and to heal as well.
6. I stopped putting myself down.
Words are powerful and hold a lot of energy. I noticed that I was making fun of myself in a harmful way quite frequently. Speaking about myself in a self-deprecating manner to make other people laugh is something I have done for years. It began to feel uncomfortable. I started to make shifts in how I related my experiences to others, moving from saying things like "I am a disaster" to "I'm working on this."
7. I quit Facebook.
Comparing myself to others, on Facebook mainly, was taking a huge amount of time and energy and left me feeling drained. So, I quit Facebook. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but it took me about a month to work up the courage to do it. Quitting Facebook freed up a surprising amount of time. It also made me realize how much I was using others' validation of me, the "likes" and comments as a way to feel accepted. What was missing was my own acceptance.
Taking away that platform left space for me to begin to be "OK" with me, my life, and my choices without comparison. It has allowed me to be more self-accepting. I'm less concerned with how my life looks and can put more stock in how it feels to me, and me alone.
8. I stopped worrying about what other people think.
I've been incredibly sensitive, defensive even, about being a single mom. My life didn't turn out as I imagined. That was difficult for me to come to terms with. My marriage fell to pieces when I was six months pregnant. As the world I knew shattered, my main goal was to keep it all a secret. I didn't want anyone to know I was alone, heartbroken, and struggling.
This pattern continued, and I held it all in, experiencing the joys and challenges of motherhood on my own. I was worried about the judgments of others and spent an enormous amount of time wondering how people perceived me. That was three years ago, and I am slowly opening up. I am deflecting more comments that weren't intentionally meant to hurt and practicing compassion toward those who do try to hurt. Living life with secrets is not how I intend to move forward. Although it's more painful, it is freeing. The more comfortable I am with my own story, the less other people's opinion matters.
9. I started to feel and process my emotions.
The most beneficial part of my daily practice is that it gives me space to process emotions. I was numbing many uncomfortable feelings with food, distracting myself from difficult emotions. Coming to the mat every day brought my broken heart, feelings of inadequacy, and my fears to the surface. It gave me space to be angry, to grieve, and to reflect. As I acknowledge and sift through these complex emotions, I began to feel less raw. Since I am seeking out others' approval less often, I am able to authentically use my own feelings as my reference point about what works for me. It's both a scary and wonderful feeling.
10. My body changed.
Yes, I am more flexible and have stronger muscles; I have fewer headaches, and I didn't get sick at all over the last few months. I carry myself with more confidence and have an increased body awareness. All of these things are great. The physical growth of this journey feels almost like a bonus, though; it's the emotional and spiritual work that have been truly transformative.