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360 Days of Downward Dog

I never thought of myself as the type of person who did yoga.

Yoga was for other people—fashionable, bubbly, naturally athletic people who liked gym class. Not a clumsy introvert like me.

Then 2020 happened. I spent hours walking outside. When it got too cold and dark to do that, I turned to YouTube videos. I landed on some easy yoga videos and gave them a try. I didn’t even have a mat, but I finished those beginner yoga sessions feeling pretty good. It helped that the teacher gave options, dumbing down the harder moves. And it really helped that I could do yoga in my house, alone, where no one else could see me wobble in tree pose or barely lift my head in cobra.

A few months later, I tried a 30-day challenge. Then another. And another. It wasn’t serious. After all, I wasn’t a yoga person! But as the pandemic rolled into its second year, I decided to see how many days in a row I could maintain a yoga practice.

In the year 2021, I did yoga 360 times.

I did yoga on New Year’s Day, and on my birthday, and on Christmas. I did it on weekends, and on days I was busy, and on days I was sad. Some days, I did yoga at six in the morning. Some days, I did yoga at eight at night. It didn’t matter when. All that mattered was that I turned on the YouTube video and followed one class per day.

It also didn’t matter how I felt about it. There were days I loved every minute of the class. There were days I hurled curse words at the TV the entire time. There were days I sat on my mat for several minutes after the video was over, blissed out by my yoga practice. There were days I rolled up my mat the split second it was over and literally ran out of the room.

Some funny things happened during all those good days and bad days. For one thing, I got really, really good at yoga. I’m flexible, I’m strong, and this old gal can hold a plank! That wasn’t my intention. I simply wanted to “do yoga” every day. I didn’t care if I was good at it. In fact, I never actually tried to get better. My only goal was to get through the class. I was going for quantity over quality. But wouldn’t you know it? The quality happened anyway.

The other thing that happened is that I became a person who does yoga. Seems obvious, right? Someone who does yoga every day is clearly a person who does yoga. Just like someone who bakes every day is a baker. Or someone who plays piano every day is a piano player. But I resisted that at first, still thinking of myself as the weak, clumsy, non-yoga person.

But something clicked around March or April and I started thinking of yoga as part of my identity. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t good at it yet. It didn’t matter that I was resentful and cranky some days. It didn’t matter that crow pose scared the bejezus out of me. What mattered is that I showed up day after day.

I missed five days of yoga this year. Two were because I was traveling. Others were because of headaches or dental work. I’m not worried about those days. Nor am I going to try to go for a “perfect score” in 2022. I don’t have to be perfect. I just have to roll out that mat day after day after day.

I have a feeling that doing yoga in 2022 is going to be easier than in 2021. Not because I’m better at it, or because I’m used to the routine, but because it’s a part of me now.

I’ve become a person who does yoga.

About the author: Alex Kourvo is an editor-for-hire and writing instructor. She’s still too scared to attempt crow pose.