Lent is officially over. People who gave up sweets for 40 days heave eaten cartons of Peeps by now and Lent teetotalers are sporting their first hangover in forty days. This sounds rather cynical. I don't mean it to be. It's just that, let's face it, Lent tends to be forty days of deprivation for many people. I was told once that if it's something easy to give up, you probably shouldn't be giving it up for Lent. The whole idea is to make it a sacrifice. It's meant to be a period of atonement and self denial. It's not a New Year's resolution kind of thing. It can easily fall into that type of category for someone like me who is not Catholic or religious. Making myself get on my yoga mat every day for forty days doesn't seem like much of a sacrifice considering how I feel about my yoga practice, but it is a sacrifice to make time to get on my mat every day. Lent is a way to prepare a Christian soul for prayer and reflection on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yoga was created to prepare men's bodies for hours of seated meditation. Mediation is just another form of prayer, so of course it makes sense to me to devote forty days to yoga. I missed four days: one while in OKC for John's service, one because I was driving across country, and two because I was just lazy. The days after a lazy day, I'd end up staying on my mat for longer than usual just to make up for being a slug. So what did I learn from my forty days of yoga? Well, I'd like to tell you that I had some great epiphany, that all this yoga helped me drop the eight pounds I picked up over the winter, or that I completely stopped worrying about all the things. That would be the ideal. The truth is that some days the only thing that made me get on my mat was the guilt of not getting on my mat. I took a daily photo to keep myself honest. There were a few days when I thought if just get on my mat for the photo, I'd be good. That tended to be a good motivator because once I was there, I got into being there.
Forty days of yoga also forced me to commit time to being on my mat. This is something I've always struggled with, particularly when there are other people in my life. I tend to drift to the other things I should be doing, cleaning, making dinner. There's not enough time in the day. By dedicated Lent to yoga, I had to make time for it. That meant that my normal schedule of things tended to get jumbled. I had to learn to be more flexible and seize the spare moments in between things and shove other things over. I had to play Tetris with my schedule. And there were days where I did thirty minutes of sun salutations and said "enough!" because that was as mindful as I could be on my mat that day.
I have had people who have seen me in practice say "Cindy, you're so good. How long have you been practicing?". I always chuckle at this. I have been practicing for a little over fifteen years now. I am bendy and I have great balance. I can breath calmly in difficult poses. These are the things those people can see. They can't see what's happening in my brain or the effort it takes to be present on my mat on some days. If those were the things that they could see, they would think I'd only been practicing for a week. What I am thankful for is that they can all see the joy that practicing yoga brings to me. Even on those days I struggled to be there, I found a moment of joy and peace. And that's the take away: it only takes a moment.