“Did you get them? I’m scared,” Andrew asked, peering over the top of the cement walls.
“Just stay up there a few more seconds!” I yelled back. In an anxious attempt to beat the incoming clouds and capture a few more shots, I was running around the outside of his pool like it was Wet Republic on Labor Day. Hang on, did he just admit he’s scared?
Five years ago we were two slightly drunk neighbor kids running around the streets of Old Town Scottsdale climbing statues of cowboys at 2:30 a.m. The only thing we consciously feared were the condo security guards who might catch us doing late night cannonballs into the community pool when we returned to Optima Camelview.
Now we were at Andrew’s Arcadia home where he scaled the side of the outdoor fireplace to document Day 29 of his 30-Day Yoga Challenge. When I finally gave him the green light to climb down, we retreated to his kitchen where my questions about the Challenge began, starting with “Why?!”
“Because my breakup left me completely empty. And the last words that were spoken to me were, ‘Maybe you need to change yourself.’” Andrew sat down on a kitchen stool and looked up to meet my gaze. It wasn’t followed by his usual laugh. Something felt different than the last time I was there.
What Do I Do Next?
Two months ago on a trip back to Arizona, I visited his house one night to catch up on life, and that’s when I initially heard about his recent breakup. The bright purple bedroom which was home to a certain little someone was now empty and the master bedroom was all Andrew’s.
With glasses of wine we sat on his sofa. Having not yet moved into my L.A. apartment at the time, I was admittedly feeling a bit homeless. And without a couple of his favorite girls, I could only assume that his house felt like less of a home – whether he would ever admit to it or not.
Neither of us were quite sure what the hell we were doing next.
“I’m at a point where I’m not sure if I start a new project or sit back and enjoy what I have,” Andrew said as he sipped on his wine.
One might think the answer was easy: “Um, enjoy successfully running Phoenix’s favorite yoga/spin studio. Keep partying on a bike. Have a glass of wine. Life is more than fine!” I knew my ambitious fast-moving friend though. I had surveyed the site of The Madison with him when it was still a deserted Bingo Hall. But what I didn’t know then was the extent of his discontentment – and neither did he.
The 30-Day Yoga Challenge
“She broke up with me. She left my house. It’s a big fucking deal,” Andrew admitted, still perched on the kitchen stool. It felt like someone had fed him truth serum and/or I had suddenly swapped lives with Diane Sawyer.
“I lost something that was really important to me, and in past times I would push the emotions aside and find something to distract myself. I would just drink and party. I felt like doing yoga was a great opportunity to see what I was really feeling – to discover the things I need to change so I don’t lose something that’s really important to me again,” Andrew went on to explain.
So that’s what he did. Over the past 30 days Andrew has taken 30 yoga classes.
“And you’ve still been teaching your spin classes?” I inquired.
“I’ve been doing it on top of teaching spin 4 days a week.” My quads ached just thinking about it as my wide eyes stared back at him. “Yeah, it’s been a lot.”
“I mean, breakups are icky though,” I mused.
“Breakups are so icky,” Andrew sincerely replied. “What I hope this lets men know is that if you don’t take care of things that you love, you’re going to have to love to miss them.”
How Yoga Taught Me to Not Be an Asshole
With the last words “Maybe you need to change yourself” igniting the inspiration to start the 30 Day Challenge, I couldn’t help but ask, “How do you feel like it’s changed you?”
“Oh my god. Everything.”
10 Things 30 Days of Yoga Taught Me
1. Get the feels.
“The biggest thing it’s helped me with is guilt over situations – that I couldn’t just push away things that I wish I would’ve done differently,” Andrew started. “With yoga you’re in such a state of breathing that certain feelings come up that normally wouldn’t. It’s allowed me to feel anger, guilt and sadness and work through them. Early in the challenge I would be crying my eyes out at the end of savasana because of things that I felt during the practice.”
2. Be less of an asshole.
After years of being someone who admittedly made fun of people with “yogi brain,” Andrew finally understood. “What I realized after doing yoga each day is I’m an incredibly nicer person. I react less. I’ve done more volunteer hours. I give more thoughtful gifts. I’m just genuinely happy.”
3. Yoga does the body good.
Andrew now better understands where the yogis get their toned limbs. “People think that yoga doesn’t give you a body, but it looks like I’ve been lifting for God’s sake.” He adds with a laugh, “I’m taller. I gained an inch because I’m so stretched out. And I can sleep. And deal with it if I don’t.”
4. Don’t go around things; go through them.
When I asked if there was one yoga class or instructor who has stood out over the past 30 days Andrew responded, “Donny Starkins. He became one of my favorite teachers because everything that he said felt so authentic.”
“For some weird reason if I was hanging onto something that day, magically he would be talking about that exact topic and helped me work through it. His main saying is that we don’t go around things; we go through them. It hit home with me because that’s exactly what I’m trying to do with these big life changes and decisions.”
5. Stop being a hater.
With less deflection comes less hate, too. “For a little bit I was like ‘She left me. How could she leave me?’ But you start to focus less on what you think the situation is, as well as hatred, as a result.”
6. Ask what you could do better.
Andrew admits, “Before it was like ‘It’s her fault. It’s her fault. It’s her fault.’ And now I’m looking in. No matter how you feel, if a relationships goes wrong or something unfortunate happens, you should figure out how you can do better the next time.”
7. Stop running from commitment.
“How often were you doing yoga before?” I asked towards the beginning of the interview. When he responded with “once every 6 months” I gasped and instinctively shrieked, “Andrew! You own a yoga studio?!”
But he felt like yoga took too much time, which triggered an important realization for Andrew: “And that was my problem with my relationship – I have trouble with commitment. With the 30 Day Challenge I didn’t have an option to not go, whether I felt tired, hungry, sore, super sore. You’re in this thing, and you’re committed to it.”
8. Sometimes you’re scared.
The fear he expressed in sitting atop the outdoor fireplace for too long was no hallucination or coincidence. Andrew confessed, “I’m now a lot more calm and collected when running into issues and problems because there’s less fear and more real confidence. What I found out was that I had a lot of fear, but I was really good at making people think I don’t have any.”
“Now when I talk about problems and issues I don’t focus on the fear because I know I can work through it and make things right.”
9. Let people know they’re awesome.
It was 25% the interviewer in me and 75% the friend who had to know, “Have you talked to her since the challenge?”
“After one class I was balling my eyes out and left a voice message to say, ‘I didn’t say it enough. I’m proud of all the things you’ve done, and you’re a phenomenal person.'”
10. Yoga works.
Come to find out, the other half of the Madison is just as cool as spin, which is apparent when Andrew confides, “Yoga is an outlet that can take you out of the depths of sadness or anger. It’s truly something that has worked. It’s changed the person that I am.”
This afternoon I joined Andrew for Day 30 at The Madison Phoenix. Our mats laid side-by-side on the same floor that was once covered with old bingo cards when we walked it 4 years ago. We started the class cross-legged, hands on knees, and I nervously wiped away the imaginary makeup under my eyes.
“Try not to move,” Anton instructed. “If you’re fidgeting, are you just restless – or do you really need to move?”
Throughout the practice we moved when we needed to move and took child’s pose when we needed to rest. Our motions were deliberate, and restlessness was replaced by contentment and joy.
Yes, he still felt heartache. Sure, I still felt a little lost. But even though we weren’t sure what would come next, we were moving through the practice and poses with intention. We were doing the work instead of being the asshole who runs away.
Location: Andrew’s house and The Madison