During the month of May, I participated and recruited others to participate in a 4-week challenge called, “Grow Your Yoga“. This month-long Moksha Yoga Studio event was an OFF THE MAT challenge, meaning the application of yoga principles and philosophy into the real world. At first, I was puzzled about how I would be able to successfully recruit others for this cause. I soon realized that the best way to engage people was to utilize social media (Facebook Event) and of course, support the efforts of my home yoga studio such as signing up people in between classes. Each week I sent out encouraging messages and resources to Facebook friends to help them stay motivated during the event. If you continue to read on, you will learn about my personal experiences during each week, as well as some lessons learned.
Week 1: Be Healthy – Eating sustainable foods for 7 days!
Given that I have been vegan since my yoga teacher training, my commitment during this initial week challenge was to eat well, local, and if possible, organic. Each morning I started off with my morning shake (see pictures below) and then continued on with delicious and nutritious recipes I found on websites such as http://ohsheglows.com. This experience has sparked my interest and motivation to seek out where my food comes from. In addition, I am now familiar with the availability of fruits and vegetables within Ontario.
I also wanted to encourage others to Be Healthy, as well as raise funds for our fundraising event (Week 4) so I spent one evening baking treats to sell at the studio. I made vegan and gluten-free raw desserts, chocolate cupcakes and 2 different types of cookies (see below). The sale was a hit! Let me know if you would like the recipes.
Every year during the second week of May I also celebrate National Nursing Week. I decided that during this 7-day challenge, I would also help to organize a Salad Day event at my workplace for nurses to promote Be Healthy.
Steps to organize a Salad Day include: 1) ask participants to bring in a minimum of 2 items for a salad, 2) organize a list specifying items that participants will be bringing, 3) as the organizer you may supply the greens and dressings, and 4) encourage everyone to make their own customized salad with the ingredients that are brought in and enjoy!
Salad Day was a lot of fun! Any leftover salad items were mixed together and delivered the units for the nurses who were not able to leave the care stations. What a success! I can’t wait to do this again.
Week 2: Be Peace – 10 minutes of meditation every day!
For the following week, I committed to a minimum of 10 minutes of meditation a day and a daily practice of hatha yoga (both in and out of the hot room). This was probably the most enjoyable challenge for me. In hindsight, I wish I had made these commitments for the entire month. Regular practice of meditation and asana bring so much joy and peace into my life.
I learned from both my online and in-person communities that many people do not know “how to meditate”. I provided in-person support and electronic resources such as videos: “One-Moment Meditation” and my favourite iPhone app: “Mindfulness Meditation – Mental Workout ®.”
Nursing Week continued into Week 2 of the challenge thus providing me with an opportunity to provide a 60-minute yoga class with meditation to a group of nurses from within the organization. It was a pleasure teaching this group and I hope there will be other opportunities to teach yoga to more health care providers in the near future. I additionally taught my first yoga class in the hot room of my studio (90 minutes with 27 students including teachers I look up to!) and ended with a 10-minute guided meditation. This was an amazing experience and I am so thankful for all of the support and love I received that day. ♥
Week 3: Be Accessible – No gossip? For one whole week?
Surprisingly, this was the most challenging week of the month. I found myself holding my tongue in work-related meetings and in social situations. This experience made me realize how negative comments can steer the conversation toward a downward spiral and the value of sticking to facts. I stopped speculating about things I did not understand or have control over and in these moments found more happiness. I also paid attention to any negative thinking that came up and reframed personal criticisms realizing there was little to no basis for the destructive self-judgment.
My guidance for the week came from Don Miguel Ruiz: “Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.“
Week 4: Reach Out – Fundraise for the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust!
The last and final week of the challenge was dedicated to fundraising for the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust. I created a Crowdrise account when I signed up for Grow Your Yoga and asked various people (Facebook friends, family and colleagues) to donate whatever amount they were able to give. Watch this video to learn more about the fundraiser and the beautiful Maasai community. It was wonderful to be a part of this activity as it opened up my eyes to the fact that despite the miles between us, we are all connected and can work toward a common goal.
On the last day of the month I was asked if I would sing for the talent show fundraiser at my home studio. I thought I would do something fun so I asked a good friend if he would sing along with me (Thanks R.Z.). This helped with my nerves as I have little to no experience singing in front of groups, unless I’m hidden in a choir. We performed a duet originally sung by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. It was a thrill and I know I will cherish this memory for some time to come.
I enjoyed being a part of Grow Your Yoga as I gained more self-awareness and global awareness too. By engaging in one week practices, I was given a glimpse of areas in my life that I can successfully improve. I look forward to integrating some of these behaviours (like daily mediation) with more confidence and ease. I also enjoyed being a cheerleader for my friends, colleagues, and even some new acquaintances. One of the greatest gifts this challenge presented to me was an opportunity to strengthen relationships within my community and what could be better than getting to know your neighbour.