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Sunday, January 20, 2019

Thirty TWENTY Class Challenge

Too many yoga and fitness studios, and I say this with absolute certainly, have started off this year with a Pitta/Vatta, A-type, aggressive personality Western culture "challenge" for their patrons. They call it the 30-day challenge and in an effort to kick off people's fitness routines (and draw in a lot of money) set a goal for people to come in for classes as much as possible within the first 30 days of the year.

Not only is this one of the most privileged of financial opportunities (who can afford 30 yoga classes at $20 a class?), but it is crazy to suggest that any person (especially someone with a job and a family) might actually be able to get to a yoga studio to practice any sort of fitness every day of a month.

Of course they don't explicitly say you have to come every day, but the carrot dangles there, and when people start to see others racking up visits, they get "inspired" ("fired up" "challenged" "dared") to push themselves physically.

This is as always the antithesis of what yoga is supposed to do for us. Yoga asks us to slow down and take notice of our practice. Patanjali says that sometimes we are very honest with ourselves about who we are, and other times our minds are filled with clutter and we cannot see the truth. How are we to see ourselves in an uncluttered manner when we are busy comparing our performance on a chart to someone else?

When we take on these challenges, we may very well be mindlessly letting others set artificial goals for us. Moreover, if we do not "fulfill" the challenge, do we let that affect our self-esteem?

Isn't asking someone to follow an obsessive habit the opposite of what we want to teach? Is the industry inviting behaviors that are counterproductive to actual mental health? What about the implications of repetitive stress disorder on joints? Is each student under the guidance of a personal trainer/physical therapist to ensure absolute balance of practice or is it a free-for all to just do as much as possible in the those 30 days? For beginners, for those prone to obsessive behaviors, for someone healing from an injury, to anyone outside the "prime candidate" age/physique range in yoga, these challenges can pose a very real physical and psychological danger.

As for the studios, are they rewarding those that adhere to their artificial goal, and by implication, not giving attention to those that cannot take on their extreme challenge? This is a very un-yogic practice as well, to not hold space for those that cannot be on "the A team."  In my opinion this marketing tactic takes a yoga business energetically even further away from the teachings of Patanjali. So, how can they continue tout themselves as a yoga studio if they don't treat each of the their students with respect no matter how much or little they can attend their classes?

Sasha Walsh of Jai Yoga (https://www.facebook.com/JaiYogis/) offered her beautiful thoughts in a forum on Accessible Yoga on Facebook:
Formerly, the 30-day challenge. Now, the 30-class challenge.
Why?
Because we soon realized that a 30-day challenge isn't the most accessible and that it COULD breed behavior/beliefs that we are actually trying to disrupt.
 What we are trying to encourage is to EXPLORE how moving more can positively impact the way you feel. We aren't trying to ENFORCE competition or self-deprecation.
YOU ARE ALREADY ENOUGH. The more you give yourself opportunity to feel your body, the more time you spend embodied, the more you'll realize you are already enough.
So move because you want to keep feeling the feels. Not because you feel pressured or expected.

Thank you Sasha. Thank you.

So in conclusion: to all who come to my classes: get a note card. Every time you take one of my classes (free, at the YMCA or otherwise), come up and have my mark the card. Each time you get to thirty TWENTY classes, let's go out for a coffee or tea on me. Because YOU matter. Because YOU are enough. Because you did the work and I appreciate you.

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