“Waste zero time beating yourself up for what you haven’t accomplished. It’s pointless.”
I put off writing this post because I haven’t really wanted to acknowledge that the 40 Days to Personal Revolution program has ended. I tried to convince Bethany that I actually signed up for a program called 120 Days to Personal Revolution, but she said, “No, Ali, that’s not what this is. It’s 40 days. Child’s pose. Namaste.” So yeah, this is my final recap from the 40 Days program at Lyons Den Power Yoga.
As always, here’s the rundown of previous posts before we get started: The introduction, Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, and Week 5. Get caught up if you need to, and then come right back. I have a lot to say.
It should come as no surprise that my main takeaway from the 40 Days program was that I loved it. I signed up for 40 Days not because I had a big life decision to make or a moral dilemma that needed pondering and solving.
I signed up for this “challenge” for Day 1 through Day 40, with no expectations about where my life would be or how I would feel on Day 41. In hindsight, that was actually a pretty uncharacteristic move for me. I’m normally all about the big goals, the concrete plans, and the search for definitive answers. I’ve always been an “end game” girl, not a “journey, not the destination” person. But this was my approach, and it worked out wonderfully. For once, I loved not having set expectations or aspirations, and just seeing where the 40 days took me.
The theme for our final week of the program was Triumph. Every class felt like a little party, our final meeting was filled with breakdowns, breakthroughs, tears, and lots of hugs, and I felt so close to the other 46 participants.
We celebrated our “graduation” exactly how you’d expect: with a 90-minute class (we were packed into the heated room, and I loved the closeness) just for the 40 Days participants, led by Bethany, with a live drummer! We must have done 6,200 handstands within those 90 minutes. We started class upside-down, doing handstands, and eventually worked our way into an entire handstand series. My arms are still dead, and I’m walking around like a gorilla with long, useless arms by my sides. (I doubt gorillas’ arms are actually “useless,” because don’t they use them to throw poop at each other? So…not useless.)
The class was ridiculously fun and lighthearted, and I was surrounded by so many of my favorite people. I smiled for hours that day — including at the after-party, where I had three glasses of champagne and just goofy-grinned and said “I love you, Namaste” to everyone all night.
Bethany gave a really lovely and heartfelt mini-speech at the end of class, and at the end I tried to thank her in return, for creating this amazing space and community for all of us, but instead of saying the words I had eloquently rehearsed in my head, I immediately got that choked-up lump in my throat, and cried in front of everyone. Needless to say I will not be giving a toast at Brian’s and my wedding. Unless I drink four glasses of champagne. Then, yes, toasts and Namastes for all.
Now that I’m on the other side of the 40 Days program, here are my greatest takeaways…
The program is what you make of it. That whole “nothing changes if nothing changes” mantra, right? I put a lot into the program, both through the physical practice and upping my mental game on and off the mat. As a result, I feel so much stronger in my yoga practice (handstand! forearm stand! tripod headstand! flipping my down dog into wheel! tripod headstand into wheel! dropbacks!) and like an entirely new person mentally. Seriously.
Meditation can be really nice. I had never meditated before the program. Brian always tried to get me to give it a shot, but when Brian tells me to do stuff I whine and complain and can come up with a list of 10 reasons not to do whatever he suggests. But when Bethany said meditation was part of the program, I was all in, committed, ready to sit in silence for days at a time. Well, that’s not true, clearly: My meditation game was strong for the first three weeks, but once we got into 15- and 20-minute meditation sessions and beyond, I abandoned the practice completely. Still, I enjoyed and appreciated the shorter meditations and can definitely see myself meditating going forward. I struggled to quiet my mind many times and tried lots of different meditation strategies (silence, with music, listening to a podcast/guided meditation, etc.), but the experimentation was a fun part of the process.
Many of the weekly themes really hit home for me, especially presence, equanimity, and restoration. I am so much more present and aware now, which can be difficult in these very busy lives we all lead. I’m more focused, I’m more calm, and I’m less anxious. When bad or frustrating things happen, I literally say to myself, “Equanimity, Alison.” I acknowledge what’s happening and I deal with it. No reaction. And restoration — that was the week I had my breakdown and oh my god took an unplanned rest day. The drama of it all. I felt so much better afterward. Triumph!
And Brian has noticed my little transformation! This morning he told me that I’m “so much better at rolling with the punches, and even more beautiful and talented than ever.” He didn’t say the second part out loud, but I could tell he was saying it on the inside.
My comfort zone is the opposite of what I originally declared it to be. During Week 1, I said I wanted to get out of my comfort zone by running harder and really pushing myself to do speed workouts, which I typically avoid. By Week 4, I threw that idea away. My comfort zone is working hard and always being on the go. Getting out of my comfort zone means taking better care of myself, resting more, and listening to my body more than I listen to my training plan. Go figure.
My relationship with my body is an ever-present struggle. I wish I could say that at the end of the 40 days, I felt as though my body looked as great as it feels, but that’s not the case. I feel strong as hell and did things in class I never would have even attempted a few weeks or months ago. Hell yeah! But I still criticize myself every time I look in a mirror, and hate that I wrote in my journal more than once that “I wish my body looked as strong as it feels.” I am so my toughest critic here (at least I hope I am — yikes, I hope no one out there is as mean to me as I am to myself!), but I’m aware of it and I want to change. So…work in progress.
I also know that the breakthrough that needs to happen here probably won’t be the result of a physical change (like getting a flat stomach or suddenly having less large thighs), but a mental one. In other words, I think the problem is less about my actual, physical body and more about what’s going on in my head. (Does any of this make sense? Have I lost you? This all makes perfect sense to me.)
I should journal more! I love blogging, but I loved journaling. Believe it or not, I don’t share everything here. It was nice to spend some time a few days a week writing down my private, secret thoughts, hopes, dreams, wishes, and haikus.
I learned to shift my vision in a simple but effective way. Instead of seeing big life changes as scary and uncertain, I now see them as “amazing, exciting opportunities.” Game-changer.
Replacing “but” with “and” is a great tool. And I love it.
A final thought, because I’ve already kept you here too long, and I know and I’m sorry (meh, I’m half-sorry)…
The community throughout the 40 days was absolutely crucial for me. I made so many new friends, and I don’t mean like, “I have a few new yoga friends now.” I made lifelong friends. I shared deeply with these people, and they opened up to me in return.
Being with these people, all of whom were in the program wanting different outcomes, was a powerful reminder that [and I’m sure there’s a more eloquent way to say this] we all have our shit. Life really isn’t easy for most people, despite how it looks on Facebook or Instagram or anywhere you can apply a filter.
We (or maybe just me) spend so much time online — on social media, reading blogs, etc. — and it can get a little discouraging, if not exhausting, constantly just getting the highlight reels from peoples’ lives. I so appreciated the human connection aspect of this program, and the rawness with which people shared at our meetings. People really let down their guards and inspired me to do the same. We all let each other in, and many of us were strangers when the program started! It was deeply comforting being reminded that life can be really messy sometimes. As much as people can post their picture-perfect avocado toast breakfasts and impeccably clean and well-decorated homes and impossibly toned bodies, we all have our stuff.
Maybe some people really are as perfect as they seem on the internet. But spending so much time with 40+ individuals was a beautiful and important reminder that everyone has something going on. That girl with the sick job and the really cute yoga outfits and the slammin’ body who can do handstand before every chaturanga and make it look easy? She has stuff going on. We are all working through stuff, and most of us don’t have the answers most of the time. I found so much comfort in that, and have been inspired to act more compassionately as a result. I’m truly, madly, deeply grateful for these connections.
Oh, and the 40 Days program was in no way a competition — seriously — but at the end, Bethany announced who had taken the most number of classes throughout the 40 days.
I took 35 classes in 40 days. First place. Boom.
(OK, it was a three-way tie for first. But still.)
“Nothing is certain. You’re gonna take leaps in life. And some of them may work out — and some won’t.”