For the love of the challenge!

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A snapshot from the Instagram challenge I’m participating in

If  your practice is feeling uninspired or you need some motivation on the mat, allow me to suggest a challenge. Web challenges, Instagram challenges, and in-studio challenges can be great ways to hold yourself accountable to a daily practice, or just to see consistent progress in your practice.

So far, I’ve done two of Yoga International’s challenges, I am halfway through my first Instagram challenge, and I’m in the midst of an in-studio challenge. I’ll comment on each.

Yoga International is one of my favorite yoga websites. It has well-researched articles as well as great videos from talented instructors. You can get three free articles a month, or subscribe to YI for more access. Every once in a while, however, you can sign up for a free challenge. When you sign up, you’ll get an email with a link to a video focusing on a particular pose or concept. Because the challenge lasts a few days, you can look forward to a nice respite from whatever rut you may have worked yourself into. As a yoga teacher, I especially appreciate these challenges because I’m exposed to new wording and new ways of entering familiar poses.

Instagram challenges can also be a fun way to reinvigorate or progress your practice. Usually hosted by an Insta yogi and a yogi brand, these challenges offer benefits beyond the potential to win whatever prize is being offered. As with web challenges, you’re exposed to new poses. But because you’re taking pictures of the poses, you can also see alignment mishaps you ordinarily miss, and you can have a tangible measure of progress. Additionally, posting these photos gives you a way to be accountable to the wider yoga community while also serving as inspiration to your Insta friends who want to try yoga. I’ve had a few friends tell me they were inspired to try a pose after seeing an Instagram post, which was a great bonus to the personal benefits I already received from trying the challenge.

In-studio challenges offer a great opportunity  to connect more deeply to your local community of yogis while growing your practice. The studio in which I teach and practice, The Yoga Stand, is currently hosting a challenge encouraging yogis to make it to the studio at least 20 times in July. When you practice that often, you’re nearly guaranteed to see growth both physically and emotionally or spiritually. Plus, you establish a habit that’s easier to maintain in the following months. Even if work or scheduling makes it difficult to do the full challenge, try it anyway and set a personal goal. With our vacation and husband’s work schedule, I knew I couldn’t make 20 days in July. For that reason, I set a personal goal of 12 to 15 days in the studio, practicing at home on the off days. That way, I can still feel a sense of accomplishment in this challenge.

I sometimes shy away from challenges –particularly the more public ones like those on Instagram and, to a lesser extent, those in the studio. But I’m glad I’m becoming more open to entering into those challenges and even sharing more of my practice with others. If you’re on the fence about a challenge, consider that you’re not the only one who may benefit. You may inspire others to try something new, or, if you’re an instructor, you may refine your teaching. For me, those are reasons enough to look forward to the next challenge!

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