About 60 days into Spain’s CV-19 stay-at-home mandate, I realized something. Without making it a goal, I’d practiced yoga every single day for the entire time. Some sessions were shorter than others because some days I also included ballet barre exercises with a local Valencian woman or good old interval training.
I kept on with the yoga even after Valencia entered Phase 1 of our return to normal. It meant we could enjoy long, brisk walks with Lizzie (TBDE). For all the bizarre qualities of this lockdown, including the worry and fear, I felt it appropriate to take a consistently higher than normal level of care with nourishment and fitness. I especially found this unexpected upheaval of our life made me want to focus on exercise.
Despite the two month confinement, I feel like I’m getting stronger and even, I don’t know… springier? Springier as in “boing-boing” springy not Spring the season springy.
Speaking of Spring, I could sure do with a little less pollen in the air these days. Ah, but then I’d sorely miss the flowers. Speaking of flowers, it was while I was springing among the flowers in Parque Central that I decided to take on a new challenge.
I’m going to do a minimum of 30 minutes of yoga every day for ONE YEAR. I'm doing it just to see how it changes me physically and mentally.
I’m cheating a bit. I already have two-plus months in the bag. Truth is my original thought was to continue until my 68th birthday. When I shared that idea, Jamie said, “Why not a whole year?” Well, that would add another five months but I answered, “What the hell, why not?”
I’ve always loved the books where people track their one-year challenges. For example:
- A Year of Less by Cait Flanders,
- Julie and Julia by Julie Powell, or
- Younger Next Year by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, (spoiler, the authors let you off the exercise track for one day a week).
Whether the challenge is to get fit, read one book a week for a year, learn to cook or write poetry, everyone knows that the best way to make progress is to practice, practice, practice. That’s what a one year challenge is all about.
My first one-year challenge
There are two things I’ve learned about successful ONE-YEAR Challenges in general.
- Tell family and friends to keep yourself honest. You're reading it. Done!
- Set out the rules in advance. Read on.
- Monitor the experience.
I am going to take the advice of YouTube yoga master Tim Senesi. He says, “ build restorative yoga into your practice. Every day does not have to push you to the limit.” My rules are:
- Yoga every day for 365 days beginning March 15, 2020 (the day of the Spanish lockdown).
- A minimum of 30 minutes a day.
- Any type of yoga including restorative yoga.
- Keep a journal of my experiences.
I’m punting on the record keeping
Without notes from the first 60 days I have to punt on the record keeping. As I mentioned, I’m already two plus months into this. It all started while traveling with friends when our scheme of rigorous daily hiking was suddenly disrupted by the CV-19 lockdown. Luckily,
- we had a yoga mat,
- yoga has always been my favorite in-home exercise,
- and - TA-DAA – two months later I’m writing this.
Starting today, I’m keeping a journal. I’ll share updates with you here when I reach the six month mark and again at one year. I f anything interesting happens along the way I’ll write about that too.
Motivation comes from a WhatsApp group
In early April my sister-in-law, Jeanette, set up a WhatsApp yoga group of her friends scattered in three different countries. The group decided to do Adriene Mischler’s 2020 30-day yoga challenge. We each reported in daily from our various time zones. Because Adriene always includes her dog Benji in her practice, we even began to share pictures of our pets when they joined us on our mats.
Adriene likes to identify an intention for each day’s practice. It was something new for me to hear how others internalized the word of the day. I got a kick out of Day 3 when the word was “Awaken”. There was quite a conversation exchange about awakening the cookie monster in both North Carolina and Paris. If there had been an ounce of flour or baking powder available in Spain I would have been tempted to produce my own vegan oatmeal raisin cookies. But, no, I was out of luck and my cookie monster went dormant.
I think camaraderie was especially important as we were all getting used to the “new normal” of filling every 24 hours at home. I have to admit that I don’t think I was as shell-shocked as my North Carolina friends because Spain had a 15-day jump start on confinement. On the other hand, our lockdown in tall apartment buildings was much stricter than theirs. They could still drive around, go for mountain bike rides, pick up their take-out food, and enjoy their gardens. Such is life.
If it weren’t for Jeanette’s idea to have this yoga group, I probably would have taken some time off after completing the first 30-day challenge. Even though I am pretty motivated, once you finish a goal you either set a new goal or quit and some in the group were quitting. Fortunately, we still have a group of four people in two countries who light up the chat line when they finish their practice. It’s almost like physically meeting with friends in a class.
I have to say, when the group chose Tim Senesi and his seven-day Quarantine Challenge I began to question my decision. His yoga might be for 20-year old beginners but no one in our group can claim that generation. The fun and excitement went out of our daily chatter. Finally, around Day 4 we took Tim’s recommendation for people struggling with the Quarantine Challenge to switch to his 30-Day Total Body Workout Challenge. And, now we are more than half finished with our second 30-day challenge.
My expectations for my year of yoga
I’m pretty sure that if I were writing these expectations two months ago I would have hoped for an energized body. I’m pleased to say I’ve already become the energizer bunny so I need to imagine even bigger improvements.
I want to improve my strength and balance. And I’ll take even more spring in my step too. But, an even bigger wish is to take online classes from a variety of teachers so I will know the moves and how to get the most out of them. When the teacher says “expand” or “grow your spine” I want to really know what that means. I want to maximize the yoga postures and learn enough to practice quietly to my own breath and at a pace beneficial to me.
What do you think about one-year challenges? Have you ever done one? Are you thinking of doing one? If so, let me know.
Susan Carey retired in 2017 after a long business career most recently in animal welfare leadership. She writes about her experiences as a recent retiree living in Spain. Susan lives in Valencia, Spain with her husband, Jamie, and the senior pets they brought with them from the United States.