A personal account of UBCO’s Rise and Shine Yoga Challenge.

This year has been a year of changes for me. I have been trying to experiment and discover new things that make my mind and my body feel good. One of the things I discovered was yoga. I took my first class in September and loved how challenging yet peaceful that one hour had been — I had to continue.

Yoga is a great practice to connect our mind and body. It makes us more aware of all the things we carry with us and how our racing mind can interfere with the way we breathe and the way we move. Yoga is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety levels, not to mention the obvious physical benefits of flexibility and muscle strength.

For THRIVE month, the UBCO Yoga Club has a ‘Rise and Shine Yoga challenge’ in which every day of the week there is a free yoga class at 7 a.m. I know… 7 a.m! This means waking up before the sun and perhaps after going to bed at an indecent time. To that I say, let’s do it!

I took this resolution because I am excited about the long-term benefits that this morning practice will have in my life. I want to improve not only at yoga, but also at better understanding what my body and mind need.

I will be documenting this 30-day experience and hopefully encourage more people to join in this experience, in addition to tracking my physical and mental progress.

Day 1 – November 4

I don’t know if it was because I couldn’t fully fall asleep at night, but it was surprisingly easy to wake up at 6 a.m. in the morning. It might have also been the excitement of starting a new practice. You know what they say, everything new is shiny.

When I arrived at the studio, yoga mat in hand (no I did not buy it just for this challenge), it was really cold. Thankfully, one of the props we were using that day was a blanket. I know, right? There are also yoga blocks, to make reaching solid ground easier; there is the blanket to cushion joints or rest; a yoga strap to elongate your arms and make some stretches easier; and finally, the yoga bolster which is a firm cushion that helps support posture and is mostly used in restorative practices. For this practice, we used blocks, the bolster, and the blanket.

There were a lot of people and not enough room. Even Roger Wilson from Health and Wellness was there! I don’t know how else to describe it, other than it was a really smooth and soft practice, definitely catered towards beginners and perhaps designed to not scare the participants away. It was incredibly relaxing and got me ready for the rest of the day.

In the evening, there was another event by the UBCO Yoga Club in which the execs went through a workshop on how to create a personal, at-home practice. One of the presidents, Sarah Daniels, provided the participants with a hand out on the steps to take if you want to practice on your own. This was indeed very useful and was covered in detail by our Events Editor, Emmah Barber.

Day 2

Today, the cold was the worst part. I could barely concentrate on relaxing for the beginning of my practice because I was so cold.

Needless to say, there were far less people today than there were during the first day of the challenge, but the turnout was still pretty amazing (about 10-12 people).

As the instructor starts, I set my intention for the practice. The style of yoga we are practicing wants to direct mind and body towards one purpose. I am self-aware. That is my intention for a lot of my practices. What it means is that I want to be aware of the limits of my body and not self-chastise if there is something that perhaps I can’t do.

And man, were there some poses during this practice that I couldn’t do. It was a very difficult practice that required a lot of upper body and core strength, probably the two weakest parts of my body. Not only this, but the instructor was going quite fast. This was alright but I had no time to settle into a pose when suddenly I had to be balancing my entire body weight on my hands.

There were definitely poses I had never seen before and concentrating on this made it harder to be mindful about my breathing practice. Nevertheless, after the practice, I felt great. I did not punish myself for not being able to do it all, and I was very good at following through with my intention, which is always a nice motivation.

Day 3

Because I have a shift at the Collegium at 7:30 am, I could not attend class today.

However, I did not want to break the pattern of practicing yoga daily. With all the tips and tricks that I gathered from the yoga club execs, I decided to practice on my own time.

In the evening, I found a 15-minute yoga practice that seemed easy enough. I hated it.

If you did not know, there are different types of yoga. The one that the instructors have been practicing with us in the mornings is called vinyasa. This style’s purpose is to seamlessly move through poses using breath as our guidance. This type is commonly referred to as “flow” yoga because the poses are not static, but rather temporary. Classes are never the same because vinyasa offers a multiplicity of postures.

I did not know this while I was trying to search for my first practice online, and so I clicked on a random video.

While I was practicing, I noticed that I was barely moving. In fact, for a solid five minutes, I was not moving at all. Where vinyasa could have taken me through six poses in 16 minutes, this practice only took me through three, and it was awful.

The type I accidentally chose was Yin yoga. This is a much slower-paced practice that focuses on seating poses, and really getting comfortable in the position you are in. It is reminiscent of meditation and it uses some of the same principles. People in this practice can hold poses for up to 20 minutes at a time.

As the impatient person I am, this practice is not yet for me.

Day 4

I switched spots. I do not know what got into me, but I switched the place where I usually place my mat.

Because yoga is meant to bring our minds and our physical environments closer, we practice facing the window overlooking Nonis field and the trees surrounding the gym, rather than facing the mirror like most classes.

Nevertheless, for the past few days, I have chosen to place my mat on the bottom left corner of the studio, where the mirror is directly to my left side. This way, I am able to see if my postures have the correct form and adjust accordingly.

However, since the intention for my practice was non-judgemental of myself and others, I decided that I would go to the front of the room where I would have no access to my reflection whatsoever. I did this because I wanted to be fully connected to my body feeling and because I recognize that practicing in front of the mirror all the time can also fuel my vanity and preoccupation with body-image.

This was not the best decision. The instructor was really fast-paced and not a visual teacher. He’d rather have us concentrate on his voice and follow his instructions rather than show us. I don’t fare well with this because I need a visual guidance when it comes to yoga. With everyone else behind me, I had a hard time figuring out the poses.

Something positive did come out of this position shifting. I was definitely more connected to nature and more grateful about the sun coming through the window and making it a beautiful day.

Day 5

This is the first day it was difficult to wake up in the morning. The effort of the whole week was weighing on my eye-lids.

But I did it. I managed to get to the studio on time to reclaim the spot I’d lost the day before.

The practice for today was not vinyasa, but hatha. Vinyasa actually comes from hatha, but the latter is a much slower practice that is fully breath focused. Mind you, it is not as slow as Yin, but it does give time to relax and settle down into the pose and still have some of that flow that characterizes vinyasa.

Today I forgot to set an intention for my practice. This, paired with the slower-paced flow, definitely made it harder for my mind not to wander to all the things I had to do during the weekend. That being said, I am beginning to build more resilience which means that if my mind escaped me 100 times, I was able to bring it back 101 times.

It was a relaxing practice overall that still had an element of strength and some poses I could not do. I am not going to lie, these ones I felt a bit bummed about because I thought I was getting better. Then again, it has not even been a week, so we’ll see what happens next week.