I Did It! (And So Can You!)

posted in: Day In The Life, Paean 7
Fiber artwork depicting adaptive yoga by "FiberArtGirl" in 2012. Image: Wikipedia!
Fiber artwork depicting adaptive yoga by “FiberArtGirl” in 2012. Image: Wikipedia! See footnote.


I did it! Yesterday was Day 30 of my 30-Day Bikram yoga challenge. I did 30 classes in 30 days without skipping a single day. How about that. It took serious dedication, I ain’t gon’ lie. But it also wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve ever done because I was genuinely grateful to be there.

When I walked into the studio a month ago, my body was crying out for help. My knees were junky, my shoulder hurt all the time, and bad habits were catching up to me in all kinds of ways. I was hungry to do some work in that hot room, even if it hurt — and it frequently did. But when you have the right mindset about something, the struggle bus doesn’t seem like the worst way to get from Point A to Point B. At least you’re gonna get out of where you are, right? At least you’re going to have Point A in the rearview mirror before too long and if Point A is just that lousy, you can’t wait to see it getting smaller and smaller as you go forward. The struggle bus feels pretty good when you see that, even if where you are is kinda rough.

I don’t usually prescribe things or give advice — a girl needs to figure out her own life before she starts telling others about theirs — but tonight, I can’t help myself:

My dears, try some yoga.

There are PaperGirl readers out there who are practitioners already and I am mentally high-fiving you all. But for those who haven’t ever tried yoga or have fallen off their practice, I urge you with not a whiff of ecstatic-weirdo-convert or tiresome “Let me tell you how much you’re missing by not doing [insert thing here]”: Give yoga a chance.

It’s about breathing and stretching. That’s all. Yoga is not a religion. It’s not a threat. It’s just you.

“Yoga” means “union,” as in the union of your body and your breath, for example. You don’t have to be fit to start; that’s never been true. You can do yoga with injuries because there are modifications for every pose. People in wheelchairs do yoga;* people who have had spinal surgeries (and all kinds of surgeries) do it. You can move your toe one little inch and if that’s your yoga that day, if that’s you doing something good for your body, that’s terrific! You’re doing yoga!

I’m telling you, my knees don’t hurt right now. Really, after just 30 days of stretching and breathing and stuff, they feel great. My shoulder hasn’t felt better in two years. And I’m a very skeptical person! But the proof is in the mirror. My pelt is shiner. My eyes are sparklier. I don’t feel as sad as I did 30 days ago, either.

Hey, don’t take it from me. My mom — the one-and-only Marianne Fons — does regular yoga. She started years ago when a studio opened in Winterset and she credits yoga with helping her be more flexible. She loves how during “relaxation” at the end of every class — yoga classes end with “savasana” pose, which is basically like taking a mini-nap!  — she often gets great ideas, like what her next quilt will be, or how to end a chapter of her novel. Mom also says yoga gives her extra pep. We all want more pep, even Marianne, who was born with a pep surplus.

Yoga is not a contest. You don’t have to go in being “good at yoga”; the big revelation is that no one is ever “good at yoga.” Because that is not the point. Having yoga in your life is about taking a few minutes each day to love your sweet, tired, beautiful, tough, hard, soft, aging, sick, strong, fabulous, confusing, mysterious, gorgeous, true body. Nothing more, nothing less. You are so powerful. Did you forget? Yoga can help you remember. I promise.

Give it a shot this year. Tell them Mary sent you. Do any kind of yoga, whatever feels good. It can be “old lady yoga” or Bikram yoga. Ashtanga is way cool but it’s pretty demanding. Lots of gyms offer it, many cities that do Groupons will offer awesome deals to get started. Shop around. Get a pal to do it with you; that could be fun. Don’t see it as a New Year’s resolution; see it as your birthright to be a friend to yourself, to act on your own behalf.

Okay, advice over.

You know what I did to celebrate the completion 30 day challenge? I went to yoga. So I’m 31/30. Well, I also got a veggie burger from Devil Dawgs around the corner from the studio and mercy that thing was good. It’s the spicy sauce and the grilled onions.

*The image for this post came from Wikipedia as usual, but how neat that when I searched ‘yoga’ I found a quilt about yoga!! This was made by someone called “FiberArtGirl.” Way cool. Thanks, quilter. This is really lovely. 


7 Responses

  1. Lynn Wilson
    | Reply

    Thank you, Mary. I practiced Iengar yoga for years until caring for dying parents stopped me. I think I will start again.

  2. Anita Brayton
    | Reply

    You inspired me to increase my haphazard work out routine when you first posted the 30-day challenge. I started integrating yoga with cardio/light weight training. I had forgotten how good it feels to balance, stretch and breathe in a conscious manner. I challenged myself to “do something” for a minimum of 30 days as a Christmas present to myself. The real gift is my husband is trying out yoga with me!!!!! You made a ripple!

  3. Gina
    | Reply

    Glad you went back…..it would be a shame to stop cold turkey after such an accomplishment.

  4. nadine donovan
    | Reply

    Well….. I have never really participated in a Yoga class. I have a sister in law who swears by it. I have been wondering about it. I live in an area were there is not much around. Maybe I could search the net for some good videos.

  5. Heather
    | Reply

    Thanks for the much needed kick in the tuckus to get back to doing yoga, Mary! The benefits sound impossible, but I’ve experienced them first hand. It’s past time to get back in the groove and start feeling better!

  6. Sarah
    | Reply

    Well done Mary! I’m old and way out of shape, but you’ve got me thinking about yoga for myself. Whoa! Maybe you should take this blog to your writing class as an inspirational piece? Anyway, kudos to you.

  7. Chrissy Ortman
    | Reply


    I remembered reading in the past that you were a Bikram yogi, and then after a move, started again in another city, and then was off it, and now you are back on again! I, too, practice Bikram yoga and I recently returned. I am currently 13/17 and have plans for a double tomorrow. The biggest benefit I derive from the practice is that my back is free from pain. When not practicing, my low back hurts constantly and when I wake up in the morning, I’m hunched over like an eighty year old woman. I’m feeling so blessed to be back in the hot room and I love the feeling of rocking the standing bow pose, or the triangle, or the camel, or whichever one is working for me on any given day.
    I love reading your blog. Thanks,

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