It’s been 10 years. A whole 10 years since my Guinness World Record Breaking 32 hour yoga marathon. Ten years since I was reborn.
As I write these Guinness World Record 10 year anniversary reflections, I am sitting in a coffee shop on a quiet, rainy Sunday morning. The rain, the empty streets remind me of the day I went into active labor with my son, also a Sunday in August when many were away on summer vacation.
Comparing the marathon of childbirth to my yoga marathon
I’ve often drawn parallels between my yoga marathon and the marathon of childbirth. Metaphorically, there are many. Ten years ago, I was not a mom yet and had no experience of pregnancy or delivery. Still, when people questioned my rationality and ability to do yoga for 32 hours straight without sleeping, I would often say that if women can give birth, and be in labor for over 24 hours, which is insanely physically and mentally demanding, then I can surely do a yoga practice for this long or longer.
(Ironically, now having gone through pregnancy and delivery four years ago, I can honestly say that giving birth to my son was way harder and for me, longer than doing yoga for 32 hours. This is another story… See articles Preparing for Childbirth & Life as a New Mama)
Gestation period and the process of becoming
Today, I reflect on how time has passed since that long, slow, deep, life-changing practice. In many it was a lot like giving birth. The 108 days of 108 Sun Salutations leading up to the Guinness Marathon was exactly like a gestation period, separated in “trimesters” of 36 days.
Like a pregnant woman discovering and growing life within her, through this long practice and the 108 days leading up to it, I came to understand that my potential, our potential as humans is infinite, and in many ways, miraculous. This was my process of becoming grounded as a yogi and truly immersing myself in the secret world of yoga, meditation and spiritual healing. A new confidence in life arose from this, along with a quiet knowing this is what I am meant to do. No more pretending or imposture syndrome. My path is clear and this is real.
Entering another realm
Still, it has been difficult for me to put into words what I experienced during this yoga marathon and what it meant to me. (How to describe “everything” that is beyond words?) It was like entering another realm: scary, intense, surreal. But I felt safe, safe enough to explore the depths of my practice, of my being.
Because I was attempting to break a Guinness World Record, there was a strict container for me that included time-keepers, “judges” that documented my practice, a coordinator, a yoga teacher that certified that I was indeed practicing yoga and not doing something else. It was a huge production. I was beautifully surrounded by people there to hold space for me to practice as long as I possibly could. It was the greatest gift anyone has ever given me. Just to think of these people and what they did makes me tear up. I can never express enough gratitude.
It was never just about the Record
Contrary to what my naysayers (of which there were many including my yoga teachers) believed, this 32 hour yoga practice was never just about breaking a record for me. This was an exploration of my outer limits. I wanted to know what is my body and mind really capable of doing. The structure the Guinness provided, and the volunteers present allowed me to do this (without moving to a cave in India as the legends suggest).
The notoriety of the Guinness world record also attracted press. This attention fed my other intention which was to raise money for charity. Thanks to my supporters, we raised more than $12,000 in private donations.
What I saw and experienced during that practice I am only now starting to understand. I have been collecting these pieces and slowly, painstakingly threading them together. Only this year, for instance, have I finally started embracing my own mental fragility and acknowledging a depression that has resided within me since I was a little girl.
It was through yoga I that found the pain, trauma and suffering I hid from the world and even hid from myself.
Yoga saved me from a destructive path
“There is more here,” the yoga would whisper to me. “Listen.” It was yoga that changed my addictive nature, healed me from an eating disorder and prevented me from spiralling down a deeply destructive path. My practice provided me the space and courage to examine the traumas I experienced.
I became so good at sitting with and holding the sadness, rage and pain that I allowed them to stay quietly within me for decades. From the outside, I may look calm and collected, but inside, I was wrestling with my demons and stressors, like everyone else. My depression remained hidden from the rest of the world, shrouded in shame and guilt that I wasn’t “more yogi” or “more transcendent”.
The length and dept of the Guinness practice cracked me open. It made me aware of what I had been living with and how uncertain and anxious I felt about my role as a teacher. Still, I was not able to speak about it, because of fear and shame. To me, at the time it felt shameful to question my faith in yoga and myself.
Ten years later, I am the same but different
Ten years have passed. I am the same but different. I am more understanding of myself and more courageous. Motherhood has had a profound effect on me and my desire to grow is more powerful than ever. Like all young kids, my son is deeply perceptive, and I know he feels what I feel. With him as inspiration, I enter another level of acceptance and healing knowing that although I survived could accept being sad on my own, but I can no longer accept being sad for my son.
Now with COVID it feels like That which has been incubating beneath the surface is now coming to light and asking to be healed.
When in doubt, I continue turn to my practice, looking inwards for answers. I remain still and wait until I know. It always surprising to me to find how readily available guidance is when I am quiet and patient.