My on-again, off-again relationship with yoga stretches back 20 years to the time I first stumbled through a friend’s yoga class, not having a clue what I was doing and hanging on for dear life to keep from tipping over.
When I visualize my best self, yoga is always a key piece of the picture. But it’s so easy to find reasons not to do it: I’m too busy, I’m out of town, I want a taco.
On a recent visit to Colorado, my sister and I were talking about making a commitment to yoga and we decided to try a 30 day challenge. We agreed to do 20-30 minutes of yoga a day and at least one class per week for 30 days. By doing the challenge together, we’d keep each other on-track and it would jumpstart both of us back into a regular practice.
We’re now 26 days into the challenge and although I’ve missed a few days here and there, I’m feeling great. I knew going in that I would feel better physically and mentally, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see how yoga has positively affected my freelance work.
My Mind is More Calm and Clear
Freelancing can get hectic. Between juggling gigs, clients, interviews, emails, pitches, schedules, invoices and the actual work, it’s easy to get spun out. I get tense and have a hard time calming down my mind which thinks it always needs to be working. Doing yoga brings my normal mind state to a much calmer place, and when I’m calm, I have more clarity in my work. Even when I’m facing multiple deadlines or a pile of to-dos, I find that I’m approaching it with a sense of calm and a new perspective. As my yoga teacher told our class last Saturday, staying in plank for five more breaths is the hardest thing you’ll have to do all day.
I Have a New Center
About a week into the yoga challenge, I had a bummer of an a-ha moment: work has been the center in my life that I orbit around. It’s what I do first, it’s what I spend the most time thinking about, and it’s the thing I use to gauge how I’m doing. Once I prioritized doing yoga every day, regardless of what I had going on with work, my new center became myself and my sense of well-being. This has been an incredible shift and an opportunity to put a little healthy distance between me and my work.
I Have More Space In My Schedule
A yoga teacher once told me that there’s no such thing as being too busy for yoga because yoga actually creates more space in your schedule. It sounds a little woo woo, but it’s true. The spacious calm you get from yoga lends itself to working more efficiently and planning more clearly, both of which give you more time. The spaciousness I’m experiencing also brings to mind a zen saying: you should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day—unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour.
I Wake Up Feeling Good
I hate to admit it, but a little morning anxiety is not unfamiliar to me. I usually wake up feeling pretty good, but as soon as I start thinking about everything I need to take care of, the anxiety creeps in. But—and this is the honest truth—I have not had one episode of morning anxiety since I started doing daily yoga. Not a single one. I’m not sure if this is because I’m more physically engaged or because I really try to focus on stilling my mind, during my practice and focusing on my breath. Maybe it’s a combination of the two but I’ll tell you, it’s a wonderful thing.
I’m Sleeping Better
Since I started the yoga challenge, I’m sleeping like a rock. I’m a well-established side-flipper in the night, but I’ve woken up a few mornings in the exact position I went to sleep in. My partner finds this damn-near miraculous, and my freelancing thanks me for getting deeper, uninterrupted sleep.
Yes, my mind is getting stronger and my discipline is getting a workout, but it’s so exciting to notice that my body is getting stronger too. I particularly notice it with upper body stuff: cat bows, plank, going from downward dog into cobra. One day I was doing cat bows and when I got to my usual number, I realized I could do more and go lower. It was quite a little thrill. The body is so responsive when given the chance! The freelance connection here is that there’s always room to become better at what you do. I love the idea that the more you work at something, the better (and stronger) you get.
Now that we’re nearing the end of the challenge, I’m wondering what’s next—how to keep the momentum going, because the benefits to my well-being and work are undeniable. Throughout the challenge, I’ve missed some days, and some sessions were shorter than others, but it’s been truly mind-blowing how transformative yoga can be—for body, mind, spirit…and freelancing.
Photo by Zach Dischner (CC-BY-20)