Inhale Peace, Exhale Tension: Inside Aspen Shakti’s 30-day Challenge
Asher on Aspen
My mat rolls out evenly on the hard-word floor. The fresh scent of sandalwood incense fills the room. Class is especially full today and I find myself appreciating the ambience of it all. As I nestle in, lying flat on my back, I notice the light fixtures reflecting shadows of exquisite shapes on the ceiling. I gaze to the right, where twinkling lights cascade down the mirrored wall. In the corner, an altar sits open with crystals, white sage and candles. Heat waves linger from the class before. It’s day 18 of the challenge and I am exhausted.
For the past three years, Aspen Shakti has united the local community by conducting a 30-day yoga challenge. Essentially, if participants attend 30 yoga classes in 30 days, they receive a free yearlong membership. This year, 160 people are taking part — the largest number of participants since the challenge started.
Light chatter is hushed to silence as our instructor walks to the front of the room — commanding our attention with her gentle yet strong presence. The serenity she exudes brings us to an awareness of our breath. “Come into stillness,” she beckons. We begin our practice with mudra — hands pressed together at heart level. Collectively, we bowed our heads and our teacher advised each of us to set an intention for the evening’s class.
I find myself immersed in the simplicity of the inhale and exhale. We are encouraged to match our breath to our movement and when it becomes time to move, we transition on our mats into various postures designed to harmonize both body and mind. This subtle meditation within the movements makes me appreciate why people all over the world are so drawn to this practice.
Moving from a standing to an inverted pose, I find myself struggling to find balance. “Perfection is merely imitation,” my teacher says, noticing my stumble. As I pull myself into alignment, I realize how this practice has influenced me, both in and out of the studio. The words of affirmation echoed throughout class each day have shaped my mindset and evoked positivity.
Honestly, I was hesitant at first to commit to this challenge. Thirty classes in 30 days is a big-time commitment and I wasn’t sure my schedule would allow for it. To be perfectly frank, I have never done anything like this ever before. Yoga has always come in and out of my life, but I have never pursued it this consistently. Despite my fear and hesitation, I knew deep down it was time to set some goals and make a positive change in my life. Not to mention, ski season is right around the corner and getting in shape is definitely an added bonus.
The offseason can potentially be a very dark time of year. With less light and colder temperatures, it’s easy to feel the seasonal depression. However, the act of gathering with a community of people every day for 30 consecutive days is inspiring. Some people go to therapy, some go to church, others may go bar-hopping, but this particular tribe goes to yoga. Everyone recharges in their own way, and yoga is definitely mine.
Out of curiosity, I poke my head up from child’s pose and scan the room. After a quick glance, I spot my hair stylist, another columnist, my dear friend’s mother, a local librarian, my old boss and one of the clerks from City Market. It’s quite remarkable that we are all here right now in the same space, doing the exact same movements. In this moment, I truly felt connected to my community. I hear the teacher’s calm voice in the distance. “Take this feeling, this love, this light that you’ve experienced tonight and blanket the town with the positive energy that you’re feeling right now.”
The practice is so much more than a workout for me — it’s a discipline that teaches me to be calm and to breathe through life’s difficult moments. I have found no greater practice than this — to simply find the calm. Alas, one final bow signifies the end of class. “The light in me bows to the light in you. In sharing these things, we are united, we are the same, we are one,” my teacher whispers. “Namaste.”
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