I’ve decided to undertake a HUGE task: Training for and breaking the Guinness World Record for the Longest Yoga Marathon (Female) which currently stands at 32 hours. If I succeed in my endeavor, I will be the first American female and second female in history to break this record. I knew going in this was going to be a huge physical feat, little did I know that this would completely change my life.
I recently spoke with a master teacher (who I very much look up to) about the event. “A world record for yoga… Imagine that,” he said. I could sense his skepticism and knew right away what he was thinking. How can it be “yoga” if I’m making myself do it for 36 hours? Doesn’t that go against everything that yoga is? My answer… absolutely… but that’s not why I’ve decided to do it.
I have to back up a little if I’m going to explain why I’m doing this. Paint a picture of me a mere year ago. It’s Friday night as I’m writing this, so I’d probably have my arm linked to some gorgeous-yet-too-tan-for-early-March fellow with a cigarette drooping lazily off my red lipsticked lips and a martini precariously balanced in my other hand. I’d probably have on something a little too tight and be talking to you a little too loudly since the speakers ringing in my ears hadn’t stopped since, oh… 2005? I shan’t call myself a mess because I think too highly of myself for that. You see where I’m headed with this.
Don’t get me wrong. I called myself a yogini back then too. I religiously went to yoga classes and balanced perfectly in pose after pose as my eyes swept the room for someone who could contort themselves better than I. I pranced around in my LuluLemon everything and touted the benefits of vegetarianism, meditation and pranayama. Yep, I was definitely a devout yogi. No question.
Flash forward to 2011. I happen into teacher training for my 200-hour RYT. On the morning of the first class, I feel pretty drowsy as I spray myself down with body spray (so I don’t smell COMPLETELY like the bar I went to last night) and throw my mat in my car. “A 12-hour day of yoga? Psssht. Have you seen my scorpion? I got this,” I think to myself as I hastily apply mascara in the mirror at a red light.
I walk into the studio and take my place in the circle among the 25 others going through certification with me. Two hours later, I’m sobbing uncontrollably. I finally met myself on the mat, and didn’t like what I found one single bit. This was just the beginning of the journey, and that first step is a scary one.
Then we come to the point when I first gave thought to the Guinness World Record. I had been teaching for about 6 months and had gone through a gamut of emotions since deciding to leave my marketing job and focus all of my energy on teaching and training.
I realized I needed new friends. I was settling in relationships. I allowed myself to partake in a slew of vices that kept me from ever being present in the moment, and, man, was I ever unhappy. As my wonderful students followed my lead without waiver or question, I felt like I wasn’t living my yoga, so how could I expect to have it shine through me to reach them? How would I ever inspire a group when I couldn’t find happiness or inspiration within?
Thus began the path of training to break the record, starting with 108 sun salutations a day for 108 days leading up to the 36 hour yoga-thon on Earth Day weekend 2012. I launched a blog to publicly journal the emotions and thoughts that come up as I delve deeper into myself and my personal practice. I read Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Iyengar’s Light on Yoga, and Erich Schiffman’s Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness. I stopped going out. I stopped smoking, drinking, eating fried foods / refined sugar / meat. I started meditating and going to temple. I went back to yoga class and surrounded myself with others who had my same interests.
In the end, I may or may not break this record… and that’s why this IS yoga.
I won’t kill myself for this title; if my body says “no more,” I’ll stop. It’s not the record I’m after anymore. It’s the enlightenment of being able to meet myself on my mat every single day and like the person I am. I love me — and this is the first time in my life I’ve said that while truly believing it. No Guinness Record could ever compare to that.
I hope you’ll open up and tell me, right here on Yoga Modern: can you see it this way, or does it still sound to you like just trying to “win” at yoga?