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Yoga: Can 30 days Transform Your LIfe?

The Nantucket Yoga Room 30-Day Yoga Challenge

Come to my class and I might deliver you an ass-kicking from time to time, but let’s set the record straight, for once and for all.  I don’t teach yoga to kick your ass. It might seem like a yoga body is the goal for those who practice regularly, but I don’t teach yoga so that you can have one. I don’t teach yoga so that you can get your leg behind your head, or balance on your hands, or turn yourself inside-out. I don’t teach yoga to “make you sweat”, or to help you get skinny, or to fill your mind with thoughts of loving kindness. I don’t teach yoga in hopes that you find God, or become a vegetarian, or stop using deodorant.

True, if you come to one of my classes it might happen; you might enjoy an “ass kicking”, you might experience thoughts of loving kindness and you might get your leg behind your head. You might even give up eating meat. But I will have had relatively nothing to do with it.

If you practice yoga with me, or with any number of the talented yoga teachers at The Yoga Room on Nantucket Island, you will reap the many benefits of yoga (increased circulation, flexibility and strength, improved digestion, stress reduction, and better mental clarity), not because of us, but because of the practice you do. You are responsible for your own experience, and we are but a few of the many guides you will seek out along your path. We suggest things. We encourage things. Some of them you do on your mat. Some of them you do off your mat. How many of yoga's more subtle lessons you put into the practice of your life has everything to do with you. I certainly can’t force you to watch your breath, but absorb enough encouragement and you might find yourself using the technique to calm yourself the next time you're at Five Corners stuck in August traffic.

I teach yoga because it does just that; it works it’s way into our everyday lives. I’m a believer. I truly and honestly believe yoga has the ability to transform peoples’ lives, justas I have seen it transform my own. If I didn’t have my own empirical evidence to back this claim up, I wouldn’t put my career behind it.Let’s be very clear about something though: I’m not talking about the type of occasional one night stand kind of practice I had in my 20s, I’m talking about a fully committed relationship. It doesn’t have to be with one teacher, or even one tradition, but this relationship has to be passionate and attentive, wholehearted and steadfast.

For yoga to really take effect; to get under your nails, to sink into your skin and change your life, you have to at least be open to taking the walk down the aisle, to stand up in front of the people you love and pledge that yoga is an hugely important part of your life. Then it happens: Yoga is no longer something you “do” but something you live. That’s when it gets interesting. (And I’m not talking about the moment your Lululemon takes over your dresser - see Brahmacharya).

This relationship usually unfurls slowly. In the beginning you might take one class a week, working yourself up over a few months to several classes a week. Maybe then, you get a subscription to Yoga Journal, and start reading books about yoga. Then later something like elephant journal becomes your homepage, and you start thinking about doing a weekend of R&R at Kripalu. The next time you plan a vacation, looking up the local yoga studios tops the listof priorities.  Then you know you’ve got the yoga bug.

Once the relationship has been fortified, internal changes begin to take place. You catch yourself before you engage in gossip, and you don’t...even though you really, really want to. The next time someone says something mean and hurtful, before you fire back a retort you stop, breathe, and let it go. Instead youfind compasion for them, and extend them thoughts of loving kindness. You forgive yourself for your past mistakes and vow to act with improved awareness. You begin to practice self-acceptance.

These are the things that begin to happen when you practice yoga regularly. To that effect, this October, the other teachers and I at The Yoga Room, invite you to join us in our first ever 30-Day Yoga Challenge.  It’s a pretty simple idea; for one month we’re encouraging each other to practice as much as possible; at home, with a DVD, online or at the studio; ours or elsewhere. As added incentive, students who take class at The Yoga Room least 3 times a week will be entered to win a drawing for a free 10-class pass (a $150 value).

My personal goal is to practice, in some way or another, every day for 30 days in a row. Last fall I did something very similar and set an intention to practice every day for at least 20 minutes for 60 days in a row. I thought it would be a breeze - it wasn’t. I’ve gone on to write several blogs about the trails and tribulations of sticking to a regular practice (Handstand vs. Parenting, The 60- Day Challenge, The Daily Meditation, Zip Up Your Legs, to name a few) on my site, and I’m always struck at how so many issues arise, how the discoveries continue and how there is always more to write about.

In closing, let me assure you that we do indeed do lots of abs work in my classes - so if you want six-pack abs you could come to yoga, and walk away with a phenomenal core. I’d rather see you come to class, however, for the myriad of other things a committed practice has to offer; the reduction of anxiety, improved self-esteem, the cultivation of patience, of mindfulness, and a deeper awareness of your actions and how they effect those around you. The bottom line is Yoga will wake you up. Your practice will help you shed the story of who you think you’re supposed to be and help you unveil the truth of who you really are: who you already are deep inside.

If you practice yoga with dedication and an open mind you could just change your life. I hope you can join us.

Caitlin is a yoga teacher, mother, dancer, and healer.  She is nationally certified in massage therapy and has been studying yoga for over 13 years.  She lives on Nantucket with her son Griffin and partner Burr, and teaches year-round at The Yoga Room.  She is also the proprietor of Nantucket Massage Therapy and Yoga.  She began teaching workshops and master classes around New England last spring, and blogs regularly about her yoga practice on and off the matt on her website.