I just finished a Challenge-With-A-Capital-C at my gym where we had 44 days to complete 30 classes in yoga and/or spin cycling. I ended up doing 39 classes and in the process, learned a whole bunch of interesting stuff about myself. I thought you might be interested too, and I'll tell you why in a little bit.
The main reason I signed up for the Challenge was because of the amazing prizes. There's a $1500 credit at Fairmont Resorts up for grabs, along with a year of massages and some other enticing paraphernalia. ( I totally did not know how to spell that word. Who knew there was a second 'r' in there? Did you? I didn't.)
Back to the Challenge. Before it started, I had been going to the gym regularly and doing my own thing. Riding bikes, rowing, stair climbing, lifting some weights, running some laps on the track, etc. I had been enjoying it very much, and at the same time, kind of coasting. I was physically working hard and kind of thought I was at my fitness limit.
When I started going to the Challenge classes, I found out that I had a whole lot more in me. I learned that I LOVE spin cycling. I realized that I had not really stretched my fitness comfort zone in years. It was so peculiar... I was in a spin class, sweating, breathing raggedly, and struggling and then this wave washed over me. The wave said, "I am so happy to be here. I love this." Although I enjoy being active, I have never experienced that profound love while struggling before. Super interesting.
As for the yoga classes, another curious thing happened. Generally, people think that I do a lot of yoga. I guess I just have that yogic vibe. Although I've tried a lot of yoga over the years, I've always gotten injured. Even in prenatal yoga. Even just doing sun salutations. So, I swore it off as something my body didn't enjoy.
Until the Challenge. I've been going to all sorts of yoga classes for the past month and a half and for some reason, no injuries! I'm really enjoying it and I've had the same wave of love in those classes too. Dripping sweat (because some of the classes are hot yoga, not because I have a perspiration problem), quads begging me to release Dancing Warrior just a few seconds early, laboured breathing in some contorted twist and the wave of love whispers, "I am so happy to be here. I love this moment."
This Challenge has made me reflect. I joined it to win prizes, and then I got so much more out of it. My experiences has many parallels to what I believe about self-care. (This is the part where I turn my learning into your learning.)
1. Although you may think you can do a great job of self-care (or anything for that matter) by yourself, there's just no way you get the same experience of having someone else be your guide. The best self-care is done in community. When you do it by yourself, you think you've arrived at your limit. With someone to help you, you can go so much further, cut your learning curve in half and access parts of yourself you didn't even know were there.
2. I thought I couldn't do yoga, and now I can. You may think you can't create time or space in your life for self-care, but you can.
3. My ego told me that the only way to do the Challenge properly was to go every day. (Helllllooo Inner Over-Achiever.) 100%. 44 out of 44 classes. And there were 5 days where I couldn't make it happen. My ego wanted to tell me I failed because I didn't get it right. I noticed my ego and I carried on. We may think there is only one way to get self-care right, but that's just the ego trying to trick us. And it's ok. That's the ego's job. To be tricky.
4. It's useful to learn from experts. I thought I was doing a-ok on my little cycling workouts. When I went to the spin classes, though, I re-learned the lesson that experts know more than I do, and that's a good thing because they'll show me new things and I love learning. Learning new things is super good for the brain. It makes us feel alive and powerful. Make sure you've got some experts in your life.
5. There is no substitute for getting out of the house and doing things with other people who've left the house. We need face to face contact.
6. As part of the Challenge, stickers were given out at the end of each class to put on a public board in a well-travelled hallway to track participants' progress. I was reminded that I really love getting stickers. I think if more stickers were handed out on a regular basis, we'd be a lot happier. Here's a photo of my stickers. Aren't they FUN?!?
7. I also learned that I'm super picky about instructor's music choices. I like real music, not the techno-y remixes where they've changed the singers regular voices into chipmunks, over the incessant beat that pounds more and more frequently until it sounds like machine gun fire. An Ed Sheeran ballad just does not sound good with a squeaky voice and the tempo ramped up to the equivalent of a chuckwagon race. (You may only know what that is if you live in Calgary, home of the greatest outdoor show on earth... the Calgary Stampede.) Yahoo!
I encourage you to do something in the next day that prioritizes your own well-being so that you can give from a place of love and fullness rather than resentment and bitterness because you're simply exhausted and have nothing left to give. A world full of people who give fully to themselves and then spill out love is the kind of world I want to live in. And I bet you do too.
Yours in courage and love,