If you haven’t discovered Candace Bushnell yet, do it now. She is probably best known as the main writer for Sex in the City, but has also penned some books and her columns are featured in various papers and magazines. She is in her late 40’s, sharp, witty, insightful, spot on in her analysis and very funny. In a recent article about beautification in our culture (from Botox to plastic surgery) she said something I’ve continued to hold onto: over time and experience, you have a sense of what matters and an ability to let go of what doesn’t.

This was by far my most difficult 60-Day Challenge. I don’t know why. I sweat like crazy every class. I thought about every breath. I had to earn every posture. No kidding. I went to Lake Tahoe with friends towards the end of the Challenge knowing that when I came back I would have to do some doubles to make up for missed classes. I was chatting with a member who started the same day I did and he happened to mention the date our Challenge was over. According to my calculations, we had eleven days left. According to his calculations, we had eight days left. He was right. Ugh. That meant I had seven days of doubles to do in eight days. I have not done that many doubles since Teacher Training eight years ago. Thank you, BYSJ community, seeing your smiling faces (twice a day) and knowing that you too were working hard to complete the Challenge made it a bit easier and certainly more enjoyable. I did it. I finished.

And, I learned something really valuable. Again. Each time you do the challenge, you become more in tune with yourself. Each Challenge is packaged the same, however, because of the repetition and the grind of doing such an extreme athletic yoga marathon, you come out with a treasure more rewarding than the trophy you receive at the end of the 60 days: the fruits of honest self-reflection.

For me, I happen to be moving into some new territory with my work-and in my relationships. As one of my friends put it, it’s as if you are beginning all over again, however, we often don’t move in a circle instead we are winding up a staircase. Yes, we might be at the same point again but we’ve risen. You’re different than you were then. I didn’t think much of this until someone at the studio commented on how they never saw me bow out of a posture before. (Now you all know.) They wondered if, at that moment, I got angry and wished the teacher would open the door or put the fan on. Hmmm. No, I don’t do that anymore. Of course there were times that I did hope the teacher would open the door. There were times that I would blame myself for not drinking enough water, for not getting a good night sleep. There were times that I even questioned doing the yoga, maybe this isn’t for you Michele, it’s just too hard, I would say to myself. I laugh now when I think of all that mental anguish.

What I do now, is concentrate intensely on the moment. The power is in that minute or two and I’ve got to get through it as best as I can. Not with a crisis attitude but with a trust that I have what it takes to succeed. Sure, I might prefer more water and cool air but that’s not going to help me in that moment. What is going to help is putting my energy into completing to the best of my ability the task at hand and letting go of the things that don’t matter in that moment.

So, thank you, Candace Bushnell. Your simple phrase wraps up my experience with the Summer 2009 60-Day Challenge. And better yet, I can carry this useful information into the other aspects of my life. My yoga, my earned wisdom from owning my experiences in the classroom, has helped to give me a sense of what matters and an ability to let go of what doesn’t.

At the 60 Day Challenge party last night, Saturday, September 26th, members told their stories of participating in this arduous personal competition. Thanks to all the achievers for sharing your human tales. It can’t help but encourage more and more students to take on new challenges knowing the huge prize waiting for them on the other side.

Albert Fong – Thank you to the staff for all the encouraging words. This is a great studio. I really feel like the people here care about me. I learn something from every teacher. I learn something every day.

Albina Datsukova – Albina’s daughter (who does the yoga) accepted her mom’s trophy and stated “the yoga has brought my mom and I closer together. We support and encourage each other.”

Ban Tang – It was quite a learning experience. So many things have changed in my life because of this yoga.

Bridget Copley – I had no idea it was so good. Thank you to my family for all their support.

Carolina Uribe – Without thinking, I just made time. It was a lot of emotions but really great and an awesome experience.

Cindy Lau – This is my third Challenge and each is a new challenge and a reflection of what is going on for me. My body doesn’t want to do it but my mind does. I recently hurt my shoulder and had to take some time off. I came back with that same ambition but learned that there is another side to bring to my practice which is compassion and acceptance.

Claire Wright – It’s my fourth Challenge and now I just love the friends you make doing this. I love the camaraderie.

Cynthia Wehr – I just do it. I am happy and blessed to be a part of this community. I love you all. To me, it’s like brushing my spine every day.

Gail Sachs – I can’t tell you guys how happy I am to be a part of this studio. This is the best studio in the whole world. Every day is new. Everyday should be new. I am humbled and very grateful.

Hsiu-ching Hwang – I feel my body changing. So I told myself to keep going. The teachers are so good. They help me so much. I lost more than 30 pounds!

Joyce Ancheta – I wasn’t sure because I have three kids and a husband. I decided to put myself on the top of my list. I’ve gained balance in my life.

Ken Atcheson – This has been the most challenging 120 days of my life. One hundred and twenty days ago, I came out of a treatment center. Tomorrow is five months of sobriety. In life you go through peaks and valleys. I had to do this Challenge for myself. Thank you, teachers, for supporting me. You have given me that spark. My whole life is challenging. I was an Accountant for years but was recently granted a scholarship to attend nursing school in Oakland.

Larisa Loish – Thank you to the studio. This is my second Challenge and easier than the first. I love that my husband now takes the yoga.

Michelle Molotsi – I came back after trying this yoga a few years ago. I challenged myself to do 90 days in a row and now I’ve done 118 days in a row. It gives me energy for my kids and the girls they love the yoga.

Michelle Moore – This is my second Challenge. I did 30 classes in 15 days. I went on vacation and came back knowing I’d have to make up a few classes, but I couldn’t do anything. At 45 days into it, I wanted to quit. But, I didn’t. I am so happy that I stuck with it. I’ve changed so much. I lost about 25 pounds and I am running my first full marathon at my quickest pace with no injuries.

Nicky Scioito – My breakthrough in this challenge came towards the end. I noticed that I was lifting out of my waist more to stretch up in Half Moon. This really changed my practice as I can feel more of a backbend and front bend. And, it seems to take pressure off my back which has been a constant source of aggravation forever. It was cool getting to know some of the new Challengers like Nabui and Albert.

Richard Adoradio – I wanted to quit a bunch of times. I’ve never challenged myself this way physically.

Sandria Tran – It was my first Challenge. It was hard to get here but once I did get here, it made me feel a thousand times better.

Shakila Noormohamed – It has been so eye opening. I used to think that I was weak. I am growing stronger. This is such a supportive community.

Sherrie Rose Maleson – This is my second try and my first time finishing. Came back in May after having physical therapy on my knees. I learned so much about my body. It’s been emotional. My focus is better and I’ve come to a place of knowing what my body can do.

Shoko Miyazawa – I started yoga three years ago and did not make it through my first 60-Day Challenge. I questioned myself. I decided to try again and this time I learned to be more compassionate with myself and told myself each day that I can do this.

Pretty awesome statements. Pretty awesome individuals. Pretty awesome yoga.

See you at the next challenge in January 2010!

–Michele Vennard