September 29, 2012

Be The Change Challenge: 30 Day Mind, Body & Soul Challenge

"Our bodies communicate to us clearly and specifically, if we are willing to listen." ~Shakti Gawain

It seems like only yesterday when I signed up for my first 30 day yoga class at a high school down the street from my house. That was five years ago.

I stopped practicing after that and joined a gym instead. At the time, I had no idea what I was doing or what working out should look like. I was motivated by the wrong reasons though: my underlying goal was to lose 25 pounds of baby weight that still clung to my body. After giving birth to my son, I was definitely lacking in discipline and self-worth. I just wanted results. I started training pretty hard at the gym, sometimes five or six times a week. I had amazing instructors who I connected with and who supported my dream about training competitively. I never anticipated all the challenges I would encounter along the way.

2 years into my training, I had a rollerblading wipe-out incident which literally knocked me out of my body and back into a whole new world of self-discovery: I wasn't able to walk. I couldn't go to the gym. Depression hit me hard and stayed with me for a very long time. I was outraged, "Why me?" "What is the reason for this?"

I did not know that a beautiful path lie before me where I would have to confront and struggle to find my true self.

Yoga magically reappeared in my life for a brief moment in 2011 when I stumbled upon a free yoga event taking place on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. The Curious George in me decided to give it a try.

This was my first encounter with the lovely miss Megan Campbell, who happened to be teaching on the hill that day. Megan's loving, selfless, carefree presence hooked me with an instant affinity. I felt rejuvenated and energized. I was truly inspired.

Yet, I did nothing about it. This feeling was quickly dead and gone.

Still, I made a connection with Megan online, with a Facebook and Twitter follow, and a subscription to her newsletter. I read about all of the amazing work she's done and continues to do and I felt inspired to do something about it.

So, on a very last minute whim, I decided to participate in the 2nd Annual Ottawa Yogini Yogathon where I officially met Megan for the first time and saw the superstar that she really is.


A few weeks later, I began my weekly sessions of Parliament Hill Yoga. Although I was still very much a beginner, I felt so humbled to be there taking part in something so magical. Once school was out for the summer, my 7 year old son joined in on the fun and was exposed to the practice of yoga for the first time in his life, an experience that we will cherish forever.
When the last session of Parliament Hill Yoga ended on September 12th, I was already on Day 12 of my 30 Day Be The Change Challenge. After class, I finally listened to what my heart was telling me and I decided that I could do more.

You see, for the first 12 days of this challenge, my daily exercise consisted of walking my son to and from school every day and practicing yoga at home (thanks to the awesome YouTube videos that Megan put together for the group). Combined with healthy eating, daily affirmations, healing mantras, chakra work, meditation and random acts of kindness, I figured I had it all covered.

Truth is, I hesitated.

Even though the offer was out there, I didn't want to take part in the unlimited yoga classes at Pure Yoga Ottawa because I was scared. I felt that I didn't have enough courage inside myself to walk through the doors of a yoga studio. It was something that was completely out of my comfort zone. My inner voice wanted me to stay where I was, where I was comfortable. Up to this 12 day mark I actually listened.

I finally stopped listening to my inner critic and attended my first ever class inside the studio. It was a Wednesday evening class with Ichih Wang. I kinda sorta already knew of Ichih from "The Big One" on Parliament Hill. It was definitely the biggest yoga session I'd ever been to, with almost 2400 people in attendance.

Now, here I was, in a small but cozy hot room for the very first time, not knowing what to expect. As soon as Ichih started talking, I felt completely comfortable and I soon realized that I had nothing to fear.

After powering through Ichih's class, I decided that I still wanted more. So I joined in on the next class, also led by Ichih, which was a softer, slower yin yoga session. Bittersweet!

After that experience, I finally began to listen to what my mind and my body wanted and I treated myself to more yoga. A total of 15 sessions in the studio, which is alot for me considering I was used to doing only one session a week.
You see, there's something special (almost magical) about being in the hot room. Something happens. Something healing. Something transformative.

During my 30 Day Be The Change Challenge journey, I realized that on and off the mat, I still have a s*?! ton of work to do on myself. I feel like I'm struggling to find my genuine self as I continue to question myself as I know myself.

I now know a bit about what a genuine yoga practice looks like though:

A genuine practice does not come easily.

It isn’t about increasing your flexibility or losing weight.

A genuine yoga practice does not give ego a boost.

Instead, I feel humbled at my own limitations as I practice my poses.

I have become more aware of how acts of kindness (donating a pair of shoes to an impoverished child) do not change the system (the child still lives in poverty).

I've confronted some of my own demons on the mat.

I've realized that I have unforgiveness stored in my heart chakra.

I'm learning to love myself more and, in the process, to love others as I slowly release pain from this life and (at times) the pain from previous lives.

I still have so much to learn, yet I always feel like I have accomplished something worthwhile after a practice. I bring this energy and sense of achievement home with me where it has a positive effect. I am very selective with the elements I add to my life and yoga is one of those welcomed additions. It has already enriched my life so much, far beyond the time I spend practicing the poses.

Yoga inspires me. It makes me more fun to live with and it awakens my mind. For me, yoga is about making peace with myself and others and embracing who I am-both on and off the mat.

Now I what yoga does and what it’s used for;

Healing. Transformation.

Exactly what I've been looking for.

“Healing is not, after all, the same as curing. Healing does not mean going back to the way things were before, but rather of allowing what is now to move us closer to God.” — Ram Dass


  1. Hi, Maria! Whenever you’re getting into any fitness regimen, never ever forget to remind yourself of what motivates you. That is the big difference between a gym workout and a yoga practice. Gym-goers are often willed to create a nicely-sculptured body. But with yoga, it concerns improving the mind, the body, and the soul. How are you now after having gone through a bit of yoga?

    Saundra ^.^

    1. Hello Saundra! While each new experience is different for everyone, yoga has truly opened my mind and heart into the field of all new possibilities. It's helped expand my horizons, expand my wisdom, my personal spiritual growth, in every aspect and facet of my life.

      I've stepped out of my comfort zone and have expanded upon the greatness that is ME. Learning to go deeper within my Self; discovering my own unique gifts and talents (again and for the very first time).