After approaching 5 years working at IPG Mediabrands, I decided in its current form, it was not for me, and that the things that meant most to me, were not at hand, and nor were they likely to be in the immediate future. I also decided that I wasn’t very happy with the current state of my health and fitness – something that in the 5 years that I have been in Australia has been on a slippery slope, probably been down to insanely long hours, plenty of late nights, and an aversion to salad and, not playing rugby as often as I would like.
I made the initial decision five months ago when I committed to change my work life, that I would start to change the fitness bit, joining the swimming pool at Alfred Park, and swimming most days over the Australian winter, but also lining up re-attending at yoga at Body Mind Life sometime in September.
Yoga’s been something I’ve dipped my toe in and out of – generally during the summer when I was able to do it on a rooftop in Kirribilli with a beautiful harbour view, outside in the sun, rather than inside, sweating furiously. However, having booked a twenty pass ticket, I was talking to the reception at Body Mind Life (my studio of choice) and got talked into (willingly) doing a 40 day Yoga revolution.
The program is based around a book by Baron Baptiste 40 Days to personal revolution, who appears to be quite an influential yogi, and founder of his own institute in the US – website. The book can be found on Amazon. I thought that I would share some of my experiences in the last 40 days, and maybe it will give someone else the impetus to try it.
I guess as with anywhere, there are a few Surry Hills posers/hipsters there, who are a little bit “look at me” at the classes, but it’s all part of the awesome, that is Surry Hills, and one doesn’t really care – it adds to the atmosphere, and gives you a few stories to share. I think my funniest one was turning up to a class where “Jesus” and “Eric Idle” were doing a double session on a Saturday morning when I had a hangover, and all I could hear was their “whispering breath” from the other side of the room – not what I needed.
Revolution Start Day minus1 - I decided to go to a Sunday class to limber up in anticipation of starting the 40 days. Typical luck, I was attempting/undertaking a stretch with the strap, and managed to pull/tear/wrench my shoulder. I debated for a number of weeks what to do, as it just wasn’t getting better – no worse, but I am sure it hasn’t helped. Anyway – on day 39 I have an ultra sound to try to work out what’s wrong.
Week 1 – Without exaggerating, week one was pretty horrific; I was exhausted after every session, I was surrounded by these perfectly lithe people, who were effortlessly gliding around the mat, while I was crashing about, not able to get into some of the poses, and having to take alternative positions, feeling quite self conscious and pouring sweating. I was aching in places that I didn’t know I had places, but, I knew that in theory, the training effect would ultimately kick in, and it should get better.
The meditation was the hardest thing – how do I, a reasonably hyper-active 33 year old sit still for 10 minutes each day? Well I found Calm.com a number of months ago, and they now have an app for both persuasions – apple / android!
I established reasonably quickly that undertaking the classes was taking between 2.5 and 3 hours a day including shower/travel and whatnot – a big ask in most circumstances.
Week 2 – Having started with Essentials Classes in Week One (28 Degrees length from 60-90 minutes varying) I decided to do try a few things – to take very early classes – 6 and 6.30 am, so that it didn’t really disrupt my day. On the day that I couldn’t, I attended an open class (30 degrees and 75 or 90 minutes) wow, I nearly passed out. I reverted to childs pose several times just to get through. I don’t think that this is down to anything other than my body being very poor at regulating my temperature generally – I had the same thing when I rode my bike wearing a camelbak. I guess it must be one of my genetic dead end traits. In short for me, week 2 was as hard as the first one, but, I went out hard, and knew that to keep my motivation up, that I would need to keep at it if I had any chance of getting through week 3.
Week 3 – I had my first of two “experiences” that I’ve encountered in this program in week 3. I had been attending the classes religiously for 6 days a week for about 15 days, and I was seeing everyone doing all the fancy inversions, and had been observing a little sceptically – anyhow, the focus of the week in the yoga studio was inversions, and I learnt how to get myself into a shoulder stand – something relatively simple, but quite impressive. Anyhow, the following day in class, I can only describe as an experience – at the very end of the class, right before the relaxation, I did my all new shoulder stand, and I had some strange elation, or as I described to friends, a non-sexual orgasm. A feeling of immense pleasure, and release – apparently upside down is when some of your glands release toxins (I haven’t verified this) – maybe it was a chemical endorphin release or adrenaline, I don’t know, but it was an exceptionally good feeling.
I also went to a different studio – there are two Body Mind Life’s in Sydney – I had been attending the Surry Hills one, at the weekends, for a change of scenery, I tried their Bondi studio, and then hit the beach after for a swim and a relax – it was a nice amplifier for the feelings post yoga.
Week 4 – The shine was wearing off the early mornings by week 4, it was a huge commitment to spend 2.5-3 hours a day doing this, with the meditation, the travel, and then the classes – however, every time I walked out of the building after a class – I was feeling good, positive, happy to start or close off the day.
Week 4 included a three day juice de-tox diet, that I was not “enthusiastic” about – however, it went pretty well, I made my own juices – Carrot, Parsnip and Sweet Potato, then a fruit mix – Banana, Strawberry, Apple or something like that. I also drank lots of cranberry lite. I felt a bit dodgy after the classes, but had early nights, and it went off ok in the end.
I was also feeling pretty confident in the poses, and was re-visiting some of the positions that were too hard, or that I was taking variations with. Unfortunately, my shoulder has been giving my quite a lot of grief, so downward dogging, and planking has been getting a bit harder – hopefully a few days rest will sort it out.
Week 5 – Yin is where it is at… I was completely over the normal classes by week 4.5 and this week, with 4 days to go, I am not sure if I can hack another full blown class. I have got to stay motivated, and think about how good I feel after, and that in the middle of it, I really enjoy it.
I had my second moment in my first Yin class, and came out and was waxing lyrical about how amazing it is to anyone who would listen. Just a really deep relaxation, that I felt incredible after. Maybe it was because I was expecting to do an ultra hard class, and it was entirely the opposite, and it was just what I needed at that point.
I think that I have to do an extra day, as I need to make up a day this week – I had a double rest day, to give the shoulder a breather.
The End? Well, it’s this coming Friday, so I will let you know the grand finale. It’s apparently a “disco”. I’m trying to work out if it is alcohol free with tea and carrot sticks, but I’m sure that Yogi’s are allowed one day a week off the beans and seeds. (that’s a joke).
My Top Tips (mostly serious)
- Absolutely mix it up – don’t just do Vinyasa – I wish I had done a Yin Yoga class earlier
- Use the class mats, or buy a decent mat – I got one that for some reason when my hands get sweaty, I can’t grip, causing me to slide
- Use the variations that the teachers offer – it made it a lot more enjoyable
- Drink lots and lots of water in the first couple of weeks – I was drinking about 2L more per day – I even dropped a couple of Hydralyte or Rehydration salts into it
- Get the Calm.com app to help with your meditation – variable lengths, backgrounds etc – absolutely amazing
- Get some early nights and early starts – I was trying the 6 am classes to try and start the day off to a positive – was really enjoyable
- Get a yoga block (like $5 from ebay), to sit on while you meditate at home
- It’s not just about the yoga, it’s about trying to be more relaxed generally.
- Get a tighter fitting tee-shirt or top, as if you have a baggy one, it hangs about your mouth and nose, resulting in you breathing in and out of your sweaty chest. Plenty of the guys in the classes go just in shorts, but I think that’s a bit excessive, and might be part of the yoga courtship ritual
- Get an overlay mat for your yoga mat – I still haven’t got one, but it is a cloth or fibre cover for your mat to stop you from sliding about when you’re sweaty
- Hangovers and Yoga don’t mix
- Washing – there is lots of it – get a few extra outfits
- Moisturise? Really… sweating that much, if you moisturise, it locks a little bit of it in meaning that you don’t drip everywhere quite as much.
- Tights are not leggings – there is a tumblr to tell you that. There needs to be a sign at yoga to remind some people!
- Get to class early – to either avoid the hottest places in the room, or to get 10 minutes relaxing on your mat before the class starts
- In the middle of the day, the classes are a lot quieter (obviously), so you can enjoy a lot more, and you get a bit more one on one
- Chat – ultimately I think yoga is about your own experience, and sharing it with others – even the funny or bad stuff makes a good story, but also shares the unique and personal aspect of your body and its ability not to make the shapes that are in the books
- Take it for what it is, or make of it what you will – there was some funny pseudo-science in one of my classes, that I disregarded, but ultimately it’s about you, and take from “the mat” and “the practice” what means something to you.
The Body Mind Life Studio in Surry Hills is where I did my practicing – the whole team are very pleasant there, they have been very helpful and kind to me during the time I have been going, and know me by name. They arranged Facebook groups, regular meet ups, and workshops during the period of the 40 days, and the set up that they have there is pretty awesome. Had I not had some of the encouragement, it would have been a lot harder – they even have an app that you can book all your classes through – which helps.
So, what’s next? Well, I am debating doing 6 weeks of swimming and 100 push ups, but I’m still trying to get my knee fixed, so swimming might be a challenge. I definitely want to carry on with Yoga, but might just do it a couple of times a week. I also need to do something with my yoga mat – I need to get it home to wash it free of 40 days of blood, sweat and a tear.
Keep the faith.