It started with a simple step. The fifth of February 2017, I walked into my local yoga studio. I'd been countless times before. Once a week. Twice a week. Once a month. Over the previous seven or eight years, I took in a good number of yoga sessions at Liberation. I also practiced in Liz's backyard studio. I made a few trips to Kundalini Rising, a studio about a mile north. But I walked in on the fifth of February 2017 with a commitment.
Initially, the idea was to create a thirty tree day challenge for myself. A way to make a personal pilgrimage. It was my own little Camino de Santiago, except presented as an ongoing yoga practice. I was certain I could make it through 33 days. Hell, as my dad says, "You can stand on your head for 33 days." (That part's not actually possible, but you get the point.)
I stayed the course. Pushed my aching body through the goal of 33 days.
Something funny happened on the way to Santiago de Compostela. Something funny has happened with all three of my pilgrimages.
In 2013 I walked from St. Jean Pied de Port to Finisterra. That trek left me introspective and engaged. I wanted to shout about pilgrimage. I wanted to share the experience, the food, the sense of wonder. I also realized I didn't need as many things in my life.
In 2015 I walked from St. Jean Pied de Port to Muxia. that trek left me calm and willing. I didn't necessarily feel the need to shout the message, but I was still more than willing to share. I gained a deeper understanding of my lack of need for things. I pared down my belongings in a substantial way.
In 2017 I did not walk The Way of St. James. I made the conscious decision to focus my efforts and funds on a fledgling business - a business that employees 10 people and has such potential. That business needed some love and I made the choice to forego pilgrimage and devote time and resources to it. In a bit of a funk from that decision, I made the commitment to stick with 33 days of yoga. Again, it was my personal camino.
That decision left me altered completely. I've not missed a day of yoga since. I've found time to meditate. It left me more calm and more centered. In short, pilgrimage has changed my life.
It was easy.
Taking the time to walk fifteen miles a day for a month or more is actually easier than I thought it would be. I was able to arrange work and hearings to allow two full months of limited responsibilities on the home front. I had to make sure the house was tended and the bills were paid, but those things are easy enough.
A daily yoga practice is pretty easy. Sure, it's actually a little more difficult than taking a couple months off from work to walk pilgrimage. But a daily practice is as simple as showing up at the mat for a prescribed amount of time. You can go to a studio. You can do it at home. You can do it in a hotel. You can do it in a field of grass.
It was difficult.
The physical discomfort one experiences while walking camino is real. I did not meet a single pilgrim along the way who felt totally comfortable and pain free the entire trek. People get sick. People get injured. People get blisters. Bones ache. Muscles scream. Life continues, only it's on foot and physically demanding.
With a daily yoga practice I've found that the difficulty arises from schedule and over use. Schedule: The day to day expectations and demands are there all the time. Daily grind seeps into all corners of a life, if allowed. Overuse: This is a common complaint among yogis. I've met yogis with sore wrists and backs. I'm nursing a case of tendinitis in my elbow, thanks to hyperextending my arm too many times. People get colds. People get injured. Bones ache. Muscles bark. Life continues - only you carve out a bit of time each day to move through the poses.
I can tell you how to change your life. I can. I can give you the steps you need to alter your life permanently- right now. I'm happy to let you in on the secret.
But - it's complicated.
I can assure you that it's much easier than you expect. I can promise you that it's much more difficult than you imagine.