I just completed my first day of the 21-Day Yoga Challenge. The rules are simple:

Do at least one-hour of yoga every day for 21 days straight. 

That’s it! If you fulfill this task, you’ve completed the challenge. If you’re like me and you want to go a bit further, here’s what I’m doing:

Measuring before and after, on a scale of 1-10 these four metrics:
– Physical – How good do I feel physically? How many times a week do have have a moment where I find myself feeling really good in my body for no apparent reason?
– Mental – How focused to I feel? How often do I catch my mind worrying or stressing unnecessarily?
– Emotional – How expressive am I? Is my emotional processing immediate or delayed?
– Spiritual – How connected to I feel? How often do I experience extended periods of  unconditional love and acceptance?

Yesterday my levels were:
P – 6.5
M – 3
E – 3.5
S – 7

Physically I felt out of shape, and I hadn’t done yoga or exercised in a couple of days. Mentally, I was definitely in a depression for much of the day, which led to lack of focus AND delayed emotional processing. My spiritual metric was about a 7. It feels so strange to have a spiritual metric! Perhaps spirituality isn’t meant to be measured by a metric, but let’s see what consistent measuring does for me. I hope have a 2 point increase in P and S, and a 4 point increase in M and E.

I am anticipating (and, honestly, leaning into) some additional changes. Firstly, I predict that I will be drawn more to a plant-based diet, including more fruits, vegetables, beans, oils, herbs, and teas. I predict that this change will decrease my coffee intake and clear up my skin. I also anticipate clearer, more heart-centered relationships emerging during this time, because as I become clearer and more heart-centered, I attract people on a similar vibe or frequency.

This isn’t my first rodeo…
I’ve been practicing yoga for 12 years. My approach has been such that I’ve learned from many different teachers in many different styles, all leading to a cohesive personal practice, but for the past year I’ve focused almost solely on weight-lifting, letting yoga fall by the wayside. Now it’s time for a change. I love how open and free I feel with regular yoga practice. The whole process can catalyze great change and healing, as I began to experience ten years ago.

Ten years ago, I began a daily yoga practice, and practiced 2 hours a day for 3 months straight. In that time I changed and evolved in many ways physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. But the change that I appreciate the most – ten years later, mind you – is how yoga put me in direct contact with emotional challenges that I HAD to deal with. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t pleasant. But it was absolutely necessary for my soul’s growth.

I had to confront the toxic shame of my childhood that shook me to the core of my being. 

I’m still working on this by the way – It’s a work in progress! I feel very vulnerable to be sharing this with you, my readers, but I’ll take a stab at it. I wish that by doing so I can inspire others who have lived through similar circumstances to heal, grow, and integrate the lessons of toxic shame. This will likely be an ongoing exploration, not limited a single post.

I was shamed for my body, eating, sexuality, expression, and more. I remember one afternoon where my sisters dressed up in their tutus, and I decided to put on a leotard. In our play, I wanted to be a statue, so I stood on a milk crate and became a stoic beautiful statue, changing positions every few minutes, as my sisters danced around me.

My father couldn’t understand this type of non-binary gender expression. He took pictures of me that made their way into the family photo album, which was regularly pulled out to show visitors. Being seen in this way became a regular shaming ritual.

The entirety of a childhood in a hyper-religious family is enough to keep any good counselor in business. Suffice it to say, yoga helps. I wish, through regular practice, to understand myself on a deeper level, and unravel the knot – the complex of the psyche – that toxic shame has twisted around me. The real me. My true self. That which always is, and which is always becoming.

Dating as exploration

The fun part of all this is I will be dating throughout the challenge! As someone who grew up through toxic shame, one of my greatest fears is being seen before I’m ready to be seen. The fear itself sometimes freezes me into a state where I never wish to be seen. It’s static and constricting. I hope that yoga will help me become more fluid, confident, and, instead of a barricade, place on my heart a screen door that lets the breeze through.

What I’m learning about myself is that the static roles that I employed when dating in the past don’t feel right anymore. I would attract people that I could “save” because that’s how I got most of my love as a child – by being the rescuer! Now, I know this role no longer serves me, so I’m forced to go outside of my comfort zone. Maybe it will be easy, but the last date that I went on I found myself trying to play the rescuer role when it wasn’t even relevant. I hope to catch myself even sooner next time and choose a different frame, like the “Tim having a good time” frame. I like the “Tim having a good time” frame.

In dating, my pattern has usually been bouts of monogamy followed by bouts of celibacy. I will be challenging this model during this time. While the ideas of polyamory and alternative dating/relationship styles are interesting to me, I’m going to be sure that I’m not using the option to connect physically with multiple people or partners as a way to avoid letting them in emotionally. So transparency is paramount, with authentic heart connections taking precedence.

My guidelines will be as long as it’s fun, transparent, and good for Tim, it’s happening. Maybe I’ll meet some cool yogis who wants to connect (and do acro-yoga!). I’m not going to the classes to get dates, but heart-connections happen, man.

The Journey

I love how the experience of the journey itself is shapes the individual. I love how an experience that seems out of your control can shape you into the person that you wish to be. I love the choice to discover what makes my heart sing, and the choice to pursue that joy until the ends of the earth.

I have a few more thoughts, but as I am focusing on quality, conciseness, and consistency, I will reserve them for another post.

For now, be the light.