6 steps to prepare for your 21 Day Winter challenge.
Three straight weeks of pilates, yoga and meditation everyday is no joke, but it is also the most valuable gift you can give yourself. This is a huge and challenging commitment that will bring with it a roller coaster of experiences from the good, the bad, to the outright ugly. Some sweat, tears and real endurance. You will be tempted to give up but your dedication and commitment to the challenge will evolve into a transformative process that will leave you shining brighter, feeling lighter with so much more confidence and belief within yourself.
This challenge is not for the faint hearted, but definitely for the open-hearted!
Like with anything in life, the key to success is in the preparation.
I would like to share 6 guidelines based on the yogic yamas to assist you to successfully navigate the next 21 days.
1. Setting an Intention – getting clear on what you want.
Svadhaya – Self -study
When you set an intention, when you commit, the entire universe conspires to make it happen.
Spend some time carefully considering your motivation for signing up for the challenge. Write it down and then believe it wholeheartedly. Get clear around your wants and desires. Throughout the challenge you will need to refer back to these intentions to re-evaluate and recalibrate. Your intention may change, grow and evolve over the 21 days and that’s okay, but you must keep coming back to what motivates you and why you are doing this.
2. Commit to kindness – Don’t let your mind bully your body
Ahimsa – non-harming
‘Be kind to your body, Stop making comparison, Let go & Practice self-love’
No matter what happens over the challenge be gentle and kind to yourself. As you move through the challenge listen to your body along the way and remember everything is best in moderation. Be sure to give your body time to recover between classes, surrender your mind to allowing yourself to have sacred time on the mat. Take a meditation class, lean into and stretch in a yin class. Move slowly when you need, but move with intention. Surrender to what you need and what will serve your higher self – no effort is ever wasted.
3. You are what you think - the way you think determines your life experience
Satya – truthfulness
‘If you think you can, if you think you can’t; you’re probably right!’
Many of the world's great teachings acknowledge that what we say to ourselves has a profound power to affect our consciousness. Over the 21 days focus on your thoughts and speech so that you become aware of if and when you choose to judge yourself and others. When attending a class it is not uncommon to have judgements about a pose we find unpleasant. We may say to ourselves ‘this pose doesn’t do anything for me’ (judging the pose) or we may judge the teacher (why is she teaching this now?) But probably and most commonly we may judge ourselves and think, ‘What’s wrong with me that I cannot do this pose?’ When we use speech that expresses judgment, we limit ourselves and others. When we use speech that is truthful, for example; ‘I am having trouble with this pose right now’, we create a very different atmosphere for learning, growing and developing. This applies to how we talk to ourselves and motivate ourselves to show up everyday for 21 days and how we congratulate ourselves for each achievement no matter how big or small.
4. Be where you are – Learning to savour the moment is a convenient, free and effective way to increase the happiness & quality of your life.
Asteya – non-stealing
“As you walk and eat and travel, be where you are. Otherwise you will miss most of your life.”
~ Siddhārtha Gautama
When you’re not where you are, you steal from yourself the experience of being alive in that moment. If you do that most of the time, you will miss your life. The function of the mind is to wander, to plan, to remember and to allow conversation to travel around in your head. But an unwatched mind can be like a runaway train, difficult to slow down.
For the 21 days of the challenge set the intention to practice mindfulness, to be completely present in all that you do, and if you find yourself rushing and needing to ‘tick things off your list’, slow down, breathe, re-evaluate, and begin again. This applies to when you are on your mat as well, stop when you need to, decline that extra vinyasa, hold a pose a little longer to achieve a deeper experience.
5. Let go of the outcome - It's not the destination, it's the journey…
Aparigraha – non-grasping
Let your concern be with the action alone, and never with the fruits of action. Do not let the results of your action be your motive.
The message here is clear, practice for the love of practising. Progress in our practice is encouraging but it doesn’t need to be the only reward. Instead of focusing on a goal, practice simply to move your body in a way that feels good. If we practice for the love without pushing or forcing beyond our edge, then the body will unfold naturally and the more challenging shapes will be accessible in time.
Both on and off the mat letting go offers us so much freedom - the freedom to work and do what we love without worrying about the outcome, the freedom to rely less on external and material possessions to bring us happiness, and the freedom to experience everything life has to offer.
6. Let us pace ourselves – It’s okay to move at your own pace.
Brahmacharya – right use of energy
Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us.
In our everyday life there seems to be a glorification of busyness and we often seem to be running on empty. As the challenge gets underway you may encounter days when your energy is flagging. The solution here will not be to force yourself to another power class but instead to sign up for yin, gentle pilates or to take a meditation class. With a little careful planning you can pre-empt this by signing up for a few days classes in advance ensuring enough time to rest and recharge.
And off the mat? During your day think about where you are directing your energy, is it helpful or hurtful. Become aware of how you feel in certain circumstances and conversations, do they drag you down or lift you up? Become aware of not just what you do, but how you do it. Avoid people, circumstance and conversation that suck your energy, and when this is unavoidable, shift your focus; your mental energy and remain positive.
The very best of luck for the 21 Day Winter Challenge. Some days it may seem as if life is hard but it really isn’t once you stop and think about it. Keep on making your dreams come true, stick to your path and here’s to good fortune on playing your life the way you want to.