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Three years ago, Stacy’s Bozyk’s colleague suggested they do a 30-day yoga challenge together. While the now 39-year-old Torontonian had been practising yoga for years, she wasn’t going regularly at the time. She liked the idea of getting back in shape’and the studio’s promise of a discount for post-challenge classes sealed the deal.
The challenge started just a few days later ‘ no time to tone up in advance. Her rib cage muscles, shoulders and arms ached that first week. But since the studio, Tula, offered hot yoga, as well as other forms of yoga and Pilates, she tried them all. ‘I found out that if I was sore, hot yoga helped my muscles relax and it was easier to work through the tightness,’ says Bozyk.
Soon she was mentally mapping out her days to fit in exercise. She’d inevitably miss a class during the week, so Saturdays she would make up for the missed day by doing Pilates and yoga ‘ a real endurance test. ‘You end up setting little personal challenges.’
Anyone who does yoga has inevitably seen studios offering 30-day, 21-day and morning yoga challenges at a set price (about $150 for a 30 day). These increasingly popular programs seem to be everywhere, particularly in spring and summer. But should you try one? Here’s what to keep in mind:
Reasons to try a yoga challenge
Challenges are great because they ‘give students the opportunity to take part in a repetitive practice,’ says Montreal-based Jess Robertson, co-owner of Moksha Yoga, a chain of 60 studios. Regular yoga increases your fitness and skill level.
Most run about a month because of the often cited ’21 day rule:’ it apparently takes 21 days to form a new habit.
For a studio, a challenge also helps draw in new students. Over a month, challengers take a range of classes and meet a lot of teachers and fellow yogis. If there’s a chance to save later on classes, a newcomer can turn into a regular studio member.
How to prepare for a yoga challenge
Robertson says there’s no perfect time to do a challenge, but you should avoid hectic times at work or when you’ve booked a vacation.
If you have an acute injury like a hurt knee, don’t do a challenge until you’ve healed. If you have a chronic issue like a bad low back, a challenge might actually help ‘ just inform the teacher before each class and modify your poses if needed.
Bozyk, meanwhile, suggests out-of-shape yogis try to get in a few classes or some kind of workout before the challenge starts.
As to where to take a challenge, Robertson recommends careful scrutiny. ‘Find a studio where you know that the teachers are well-trained and will guide people from any physical level.’ Even if you’ve never done yoga before, you can still do a challenge.
How to stick with the challenge
During your challenge, take it easy ‘ particularly in the first week. ‘Work at 70 percent. Doing 30 yoga classes at 70 percent is much better than doing five at 110 percent,’ says Robertson.
Keep all possible yoga props ‘ block, blanket, bolster ‘ near your mat. There’s no point in wrenching yourself into a perfect triangle (during a challenge or ever, really) and pulling a muscle that will bug you for the rest of the month. If you’re tired, you’re at higher risk for injury so put safety ahead of doing visually dramatic poses.
If you’re having trouble simply getting to those classes, Robertson suggests scheduling in your yoga time like you would an event or meeting.
As for the laundry issue: be prepared to do hand washing at night. Robertson recommends a splash of vinegar in your machine when you do a proper load of clothes, as it helps squash that sweaty smell.
Bozyk felt fantastic by week three of her challenge: She was energized, her clothes fit better and she had no taste for junk food and alcohol. A few months later, she spent two weeks at an ashram in India, where she did yoga for hours each day. More recently, she did a morning challenge in Toronto. She’s better now at keeping up with her practice, even doing it at home, and is always open to another challenge. ‘It was a really positive experience for me.’
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