Thanks everyone for the comments I've received, both on the blog and via email. Martin asked if the 100 day challenge lived up to its hype, whether it went as Mary Jarvis describes in her blog, etc... Mary Jarvis' pitch for the 100 day challenge is here.
When I started the challenge, I only planned on doing 60 days. I had been practicing 5 times per week, and sometimes six. So I don't think I felt the immediate physical shock that many people do when they start a daily practice. Mary says that the first 30 days are mostly physical. The physical challenges for me probably peaked at about day 40. My hamstrings tightened up. I developed some tendonitis in my left knee. And eventually I aggravated my sciatic nerve. Those were the big physical obstacles.
At the same time, I definitely felt myself building stamina and strength. Many of the classes were very tough, especially some of the Zeb classes, and I got so I could handle the physical demands of class, even through doubles, with little problem. And I also learned how to deal with continuing with class through minor nagging injuries.
I definitely think Mary is right about the second 30 days. The physical demands aren't foremost anymore. Instead, the biggest obstacle of the challenge at that point was just getting to class. The nice thing is that you don't really have a choice. But I did find some classes where I resented being there, as I said yesterday. And there were other classes where I would grow impatient with the teacher. Or I'd just be mad or frustrated. On the plus side, it was during this time when I first started really appreciate stillness and discipline throughout the class.
I know other people who did the full 60 days and went through much the same. I can think of at least two people who made it through the entire 60 day challenge, and who I have not seen at the studio since. I don't know what happened, but I wouldn't be surprised if they got to the end of the challenge at an emotional low point, took a break, and just haven't been able to get themselves back. I don't know how common this is, but I don't have another explanation for these peoples' disappearance.
Somewhere between day 60 and Hurricane Ike (about day 96), my practice opened up "like a flower petal blooming." The studio was my happy place. I felt more at ease with myself than I had in years. My body worked better than it had in a long time, even with the minor injuries I was still working through. And during that time, I think I realized that I was really in this thing for the long haul. The idea of not doing some kind of yoga practice became almost unimaginable.
Keep in mind that when I started the challenge, I had only been practicing for two months. In some ways, the changes I saw in the first two months were even more radical than the changes that came in the challenge. Bikram yoga has definitely changed my body and my life. How much of that do I attribute to the challenge? It's hard to say, but quite a bit. The challenge had a huge impact on the way that I practice, and on learning respect for my body -- both the capabilities that I had not imagined possible, and the limitations.
In the end, I think the number that you put on the challenge is a bit arbitrary. But then I also think the challenges should be longer than 30 days or even 60 days. Those periods are short enough that the people who do them look forward to reaching the end, and then too often I think they can then file that experience away. It becomes just another achievement. There's nothing wrong with that, except that its then too easy to make the challenge a discreet event, instead of an integral part of your life. To make it on the longer challenge, I think you have to break through some walls of anticipation, and finally get comfortable with the idea that you really can do this hard thing every single day. And by doing that, it truly becomes part of you. For some people, that realization may happen much earlier. I saw this breakthrough, or this gradual dawning, somewhere between day 70 and 90, and I am very grateful that I did.
As a final note, I should say that I'm writing all of this from memory. So it may or may not be consistent with what appears in the first 100 days of this blog. I may go back and see what I was thinking at the time, because sometimes its funny how memory works.
And a final, final note (I promise): I will get to Gates' Day 78 meditation in another post.