Challenge 7 – 30 days of yoga: overview

Friday was Day 30 of 30 days of yoga. I did it! I gave up my morning walks most days to make the time to do yoga in the mornings, and reduced my daily step target to 12,000. I missed reaching it on nine of the 30 days but most of them were weekends or holidays where I don’t have my regular walks to and from work, so I’ve often struggled with reaching my target, even if I do go for a walk in the morning. And of those nine days there were only three that I didn’t reach 10,000 steps, which is my ideal minimum. Those were all days I was home by myself with Kramstable and didn’t get up early enough to do yoga and go for a walk as well.

I’m not too disappointed overall, because I did yoga every morning. Because I hurt my back doing an over-enthusiastic locust pose early on, I’ve been taking it very easy and spend the first five minutes or so of each session doing the exercises my physio set for me when my back was really bad at the end of last year. I do not want to go back there, so I’m being a lot more careful now.

Between the last yoga class of Term 3 and the first class of Term 4, I effectively had three weeks away from formal instruction. I really noticed this at the start of Term 3, but this time, even with a relatively short daily practice, I didn’t have the same issues when we went back to class this term.

So I’m going to keep doing it and maybe mix up the poses that I do a bit more, because I’ve pretty much been doing the same ones every day.

The other thing I did was do my yoga practice before my 12 minute meditation, to try and wake my body up and get out of sleep mode before I meditate. It’s worked most days, except the ones where I went to bed too late and all I wanted to do was go back to sleep.

I think someone needs to review the evening routine challenge right about now.

Anyway I promised myself a new (thicker) yoga mat if I could keep it up for 30 days to encourage me to keep going, so that’s this week’s project.

In the other challenge, I’ve been doing cryptic crossword puzzles in the mornings instead of drawing, though some days I’ve had time to do both. I’ve just started my 18th puzzle on Day 8 of the challenge, and have completed nine of them. Most of the others are sitting there with only one or two clues that I just can’t figure out taunting me. I don’t know whether to look up the answers and work out how they fit the clue or to leave them until I get more experienced and can figure them out.

In the mean time I have learned some interesting things this week:

  • Nubia is a region in southern Egypt and northern Sudan, along the Nile River.
  • The okapi are the only other living members of the giraffe family, aka the Giraffidae, besides the giraffe obviously. They are striped like the zebra but they look like the giraffe without the long neck.
  • Lissom means supple, thin and graceful. I am not lissom.
  • Puttee is a large strip of cloth wound around the leg from ankle to knee. It can be part of a solder’s uniform. Can also be a leather legging. (This wasn’t a crossword clue; it was on the TV quiz show The Chase.)
  • The capital city of the Dominican Republic is Santo Domingo. (This also wasn’t a crossword clue; it was a question at a trivia night.)

In my drawing, I’ve moved onto trying to draw faces, eyes and hands. The results have been somewhat different to the subjects. I keep trying to tell myself that this is early days and I’m not supposed to be good at it at this stage. It’s a challenge I want to persist with.

This week’s goals:

  • Get a new yoga mat
  • Get as far as I can on at least 6 more crossword puzzles
  • Draw two faces
  • Complete steps 5-7 of Living With Intent
  • Write a blog post on where I’m up to with the “clarity” challenge
  • Write a blog post on what I learned this week

Book 30/24: Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8)

I was intrigued enough by the title Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8) when I saw this book in the library to pick it up and scan through it, because I had no idea what the title meant.


Obviously if you’re a crossword enthusiast, you would have picked up pretty easily that it’s a cryptic crossword clue, which is what this book is about.

Well, partly about. It’s the memoirs of South African-born writer Sandy Balfour, which tells the story of his leaving South Africa with his girlfriend to eventually living in London. The story of how he got deeper into the world of cryptic crosswords is intermingled with tales of his travels, the story of how he and his girlfriend made a home and family in London, and Mr Balfour’s continuous questioning of where he belongs.

It explores how to interpret clues and touches on the compliers of these crosswords from newspapers like the Times and the Guardian. This fascinated me. I had no idea that “setters” operated under pseudonyms and had their own styles and ways of interpreting the rules. Mr Balfour explains how, although crosswords were invented in America (by a British ex-pat, which a previous reader of the library’s copy of the book has gone to great pains to point out on page 103), they were refined by the British to the extent that they are seen as something quintessentially British.


Throughout the book Mr Balfour uses clues to illustrate the points he’s making – some which he talks through in the text, and others which he leaves for the reader to solve. He also reproduces a puzzle from the Guardian (number 22445), which was about him, set by legendary Guardian setter (the late) Araucaria using words provided by Mr Balfour, for his 40th birthday. That’s a pretty cool gift!

(I love this. Araucaria’s pseudonym was taken from the monkey-puzzle tree (botanical name Araucaria), which is also known as the Chile Pine, anagram of Cinephile, which relates to his love of film, and is the pseudonym under which he set crosswords for the Financial Times.)

All this without even touching on the varied and interesting experiences Mr Balfour has had since he and his girlfriend left South Africa, which would have been great reading even without the crossword references.

I loved how this book was put together, and about half way though I knew that this would be my next 30-days challenge. I have about a week to go with 30 days of yoga, but I’ve just today completed my drawing lessons from You Can Draw in 30 Days – it’s only taken four months! So much as I love my 10-15 minutes drawing each morning, I’m going to replace it with learning to do cryptic crosswords.

I’ve tried this in the past, and I have a basic understanding of some of the clue types, so my challenge is to learn more. I’m not confident enough to attempt anything like the Guardian crosswords, but I have a couple of books designed for beginners, so I’m going to get them out and see how it goes.

By the way – can you work out what the clue in the title of the book is? (I couldn’t.)

Time to take stock

When I started this project back in June, I imagined that I’d be able to have two challenges on the go at the same time – one would be a small habit change that I would try our for 30 days and the second one would be something more substantial that I would think about over 30 days and see how I could incorporate some new ideas into my life. I imagined that at the end of each challenge I’d launch into the next one the next day.

It’s not working out this way and I’ve been feeling very frustrated about it.

The 30 day habit changes are working well – I was pleased with how the 30 days of no alcohol, the 30 days of facing fear and the 30 days of evening routines panned out. But the less defined challenges have been, well, a challenge. Not a complete failure, but not progressing in the way I thought they might.

I think there are at least two reasons for this. First, I haven’t really been clear on what I want to achieve out of the challenge and what I’m actually going to do and second I haven’t set aside time to do the undefined things I’m going to do, so I’m fumbling round in the dark a bit (a lot) and not making much progress. What I need to be doing is setting myself a SMART goal (we all know about them right? – Specific/Measurable/Actionable/Realistic/Time-bound – or something like that), working out that actions I need to take, and booking time in my schedule to do them, instead of thinking “oh I haven’t worked on the blog for a while, I’d better go and do something” and not knowing what I actually need to be doing, and ending up getting distracted by squirrels and other shiny things.

The second reason isn’t one that I’d thought about much, but a couple of things I read recently reminded me of a key thing I’d left out of my project plan (in so far as there is a plan) – Down time. In short, I was expecting myself to be able to swing from branch to branch to branch, encounter new things and take as much on board as I could without ever stopping to consolidate or to rest. (Thanks Kendra!)

A good analogy I came across recently was that life isn’t a marathon, it’s a series of sprints – more like interval training if you like. Google that and you’ll get many varieties of it (and people who don’t agree), but the idea is that your body and mind need periods of down time after a period of intense activity. This is true on a daily level (you can’t work flat out all day long), a weekly level (why we have weekends) and a yearly level (why we have annual leave). But it’s also true, and this is the bit I was missing, on a project level.

I can remember one particularly intense project at work a few years back that I worked flat out on over several months. I really enjoyed it, I loved the pressure and the intensity of the work and the feeling I was doing something worthwhile. It was one of the high points of my recent career history. But when it was done, I completely crashed. I went back to my normal work, but I wasn’t able to get my focus back and in some ways I wonder if I’ve really recovered from it.

It’s the same for these “undefined” projects. Trying to bounce from one 30-day project to another without stopping is completely unsustainable. What’s happened is because I haven’t factored in any down time or time to process anything for the last two challenges I’ve tried to do, I’ve basically done nothing in those challenges. First because I haven’t panned and secondly because I haven’t really processed, closed off and recovered from the previous challenges.

So I’m doing a total rethink of the project to slow things down and focus on one thing for as long as I need to, and then to take some more time to process it before moving on. I hope that by doing this I’ll achieve something lasting. Some of the things I want to do will take longer than 30 days, and some might take less. (Example: my drawing lessons, which if you go by the title of the book should have taken me 30 days, but I’m still working though it – I’m up to Lesson 28 after almost four months.) And the 30-day theme will continue with ongoing 30-day habit change challenges.

This means I’m not giving up on Challenge 6 (clarity and purpose) after 30 days. I’m going to keep working on this because I think it’s important. I’m making a firmer plan for what I want to do, and I’m trialing the Happiness Planner as a record keeping tool.


I feel a bit more optimistic now that I’ve figured out what’s going on and have made some more concrete plans. And I’ve decided to reward myself with a new yoga mat if I do 30 days of yoga in a row. 13 days to go! Yay!

What I learned this week

30 days of yoga is going well. I’m now 14 days into the challenge and I haven’t missed a day so far. I’ve had to incorporate my back exercises into my practice, because whatever I did to my back has either stirred up my old injury or resulted in a new one, and it keeps flaring up again.

I’m being Very Careful, especially with the back bends, and I haven’t been game to try any twists. My normal class starts up again this week so I’m looking forward to seeing if it will be easier to get back into it after almost three weeks away than it was last time when I didn’t do anything during the holidays.

Now onto what I learned this week.

1. In my drawing lessons, I’ve been learning about two-point perspective. This was fun. Lots of straight lines here!


2. I read the book The Road to Lower Crackpot by Brian Inder, the Laird of Lower Crackpot. It’s a fascinating read. In the book, Mr Inder says,

“The name Crackpot comes from a real village in Swaledale, Yorkshire. It means ‘a low place where crows gather’. I added ‘Lower’ because we are in the southern hemisphere’.


This interested me because my mother’s family emblem is the crow. I asked her if any of her ancestors came from Swaledale, but she doesn’t believe that they did.

3. If you see something in a shop you want, buy it when you see it. It might not be there when you go back to get it.

In the same vein, take photos when you have the chance, because you might not go back that way again. We went to Freycinet National Park on the weekend. I took lots of photos.


What I learned this week

Way back in June I started to look at the Growth Mindset as one of my 30-day challenges and somewhere along the line I mentioned that I’d been trying to note down something I’d learned every day. Until recently I’d been able to find at least one thing each day, but lately I’m really struggling. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing – learning one amazing thing in a week is surely better than learning seven useless things.

But I thought it might be fun to challenge myself to try and at least note down three things that I didn’t know before each week and write a post each Sunday.

So here is the first of a (possibly) regular feature: What I learned this week.

  1. I learned that Simon Sinek (author of Start with Why, which I am currently reading) defines authenticity as when everything you say and everything you do, you actually believe.
  2. The capital of Latvia is Riga. This came up on two quiz shows I watched, two nights in a row.
  3. If you use a Lush coffee face mask you get coffee grounds all over your shower when you wash it off.


Challenge 7 – 30 days of yoga

I started this challenge on Thursday with 15 minutes of yoga following my daily 10 minutes of meditation instead of going for a walk. It feels really weird to be doing yoga by myself, without the direction of a teacher or a DVD. To guide what I was doing, I used a handout that my lovely teacher Fran of Derwent Valley Yoga had given us last holidays to practise with, which I used exactly zero times in the three weeks we had off.

I felt bad because Fran had taken the trouble to sketch out the postures, so I hope that using them now will make up for that.

15 minutes seems like enough time to work through most of the poses Fran has suggested and a few others that I’ve always liked to do, plus end up with a couple of minutes resting in corpse pose (savasana) at the end. I’m avoiding twists at the moment because my back is giving me grief but I’m no having trouble with any of the others.

Unfortunately i didn’t have 15 minutes on Day 2, because I fell back to sleep after my alarm went off, but I managed to reshuffle things so I got in 10 minutes of practice.

Day 3 was Saturday and I had enough time to do 15 minutes and go for a walk, so I was pleased with that. Day 4 (today) was the same, but I think I might have over-extended my back trying the locust pose (salabhasana), so I might give that one a miss for a few days. It wasn’t on the list anyway.

In other news, I am continuing with my drawing lessons that I started as part of my Growth Mindset challenge in June. I’m now up to Lesson 23 of Mark Kistler’s You Can Draw in 30 Days course.

This is one of Lesson 23’s bonus lessons. It took me three days, but I’m pretty happy with it.


Challenge 5: Overview

This challenge (30 Days of Fixing What Bugs You) hasn’t really been great in terms of things I’ve actually been able to write about. I haven’t kept much of a record of what I’ve done. I feel like maybe it was a bit abstract to take this on for 30 days, because doing something depended on something happening that I had to react to. So, with some notable exceptions, most things that have annoyed me have been little blips that I struggled to remember at the end of the day.

Having said that, I think “fix what bugs you” is a really great philosophy to subscribe to. It’s certainly better than complaining about something that either I can fix or I can’t do anything about (or I could fix with a bit of effort but can’t be bothered, so I’ll just sit here and whinge about it thank you very much).

I have taken some small proactive steps in one area of my life that I’m pleased with, and some of that has spilled a bit over into Challenge 6 (Clarity), so I might say more about that later on.

30 Days of No Complaining should have ended on about 14 September, so I could start challenge 7 on the 15th, but last week was a big week and I had other things that were more important. Challenge 7 will start tomorrow, and this will be something practical that I can do every day and measure.

Tonight we had our final yoga class for the term, and won’t be restarting until mid-October. Last term I had good intentions to do some yoga over the holidays, but we went away and it didn’t happen. When we went back to class this term, I really felt like I hadn’t done any yoga for three weeks. It wasn’t good. I want to keep it up this time, so I’ve decided to exchange my morning walks for morning yoga (and reduce my daily step goal to 12,000 during this time). This is something I’ll be much more able to keep track of, and it shouldn’t add any extra time requirement into my day, which means (in theory) I should be able to incorporate it into my morning routine fairly easily.

And finally, here’s something I learned last week. Remember when I wore the bright pink lacy leggings to work as “something I wouldn’t normally wear” as past of the #yearoffear challenge and no one noticed?20160912-yellow-leggings-attract-more-comments-ig Change “bright pink” for “yellow” and everyone notices!