Before my youngest son was born, I wrote about my maternity leave fitness bucket list. Well, at four months in I can say that I’ve ticked off one of my challenges – to complete Yoga with Adriene‘s 30 Days of Yoga. It may have taken me 34 days rather than 30, but I did it! And I learned a lot along the way.
30 days of yoga
I came across Adriene and her cool, laid back style of yoga some time last year. In short, I love her. I can’t decide if it’s because I want her to be my best friend or because I want to be her, but she is awesome. She’s funny, positive and inspiring, and she makes yoga accessible. There are no expectations in her videos that you will be a super yogi who nails all the poses. If anything, I think she gears it to us normals. She has the ability to do the crazy poses, but she doesn’t use her videos as an excuse to show off her own skills – it’s all about you.
The 30 Days of Yoga videos range from about 15 to 35 minutes, so they’re easy to fit into your day. No two days are the same, which keeps it interesting. But, in the same breath, there are a lot of postures that come up in most videos, so you can make progress. This isn’t a hard core, drop a dress size in two days sort of workout. I didn’t do this for weight loss or really any purpose other than for the yoga itself. Just to enjoy the movement and the experience, and to see what I could achieve.
I don’t have a big history with yoga. I took some classes which were run at work a few years ago, but the focus of those was more on relaxation. I enjoyed them a lot, but when it came to more bendy, strength-requiring yoga I’ve always ended up a bit frustrated with myself. But I had a yoga DVD that I did in pregnancy, and I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to keep it up. As my first workout challenge (and really, challenge isn’t the right word here) since finishing my postnatal recovery, with 30 Days of Yoga I just wanted to see if I could do something for my body each day. Turns out I usually could.
what 30 days of yoga taught me
1. I am not a hippie
I love the language of yoga. I enjoy focusing on my breath and clearing my mind (or at least trying to). I like moving my body in ways which gives me the chance to get to know it and appreciate what it can do. But I am not spiritual in any shape or form, and I just can’t get in touch with that side of yoga.
Does it matter? With Adriene, no. And that’s what I learned – yoga is for everyone. You don’t need to fit into a specific box to get the most out of the practice. If there’s a phrase or concept that comes up that you don’t connect with, just let it pass you by. Take what you want out of your time on the mat, and enjoy it.
2. I can commit to something
Ok, so I did miss a couple of days where life just got in the way. But in general, even if it’s only 15 minutes, I can carve time out of most days to do a little work. All it takes is a little focus. It’s so easy to let days slip by without exercising if you have no plan to follow. A challenge like this is great because it makes you more accountable. Even on days where I couldn’t be bothered, I had that niggle in the back of my mind that I didn’t want to fall behind.
I need to channel that in to my regular exercise. Possibly by setting myself goals, like five weeks without missing a class or working out three times a week. Or create a programme for myself – there’s something satisfying about ticking off the days.
3. I can make progress
Adriene’s mantra is find what feels good, and that is the best advice for yoga (or any activity) that I’ve ever heard. In the past I’ve been frustrated with yoga. My balance is shocking, my core and upper body strength non-existent, and never in my life (not even when I hypnobirthed) have I ever emptied my mind completely. But with 30 Days of Yoga, it isn’t expected that you will be perfect…or even all that good. You just need to find the best way to move for you body at that time.
And without stressing about it, you’ll find that you get stronger and more flexible. Little by little, doing what feels good changes and progresses. My heels were nowhere near the floor in downward facing dog at the start of the challenge, but by the end I managed to get them down there a few times. Even in the balance poses, I could feel myself making little improvements. That’s exciting, and had made me want to keep up my practice.
4. Breathing and stretching feels so good
We all know how good it feels to throw your arms up and have a good stretch, and certain poses in yoga give you just that sort of sensation. But what I really came away with from 30 Days of Yoga is just how good you feel afterwards. I usually feel great after a workout, but with yoga it’s not just an endorphin glad-I-did-that feeling. It’s more than that – it’s feeling freer in your movements, and like a weight has been lifted. It’s a feeling that lasts, too.
I am a highly strung person, I’m always worried or anxious about something, always seem to have a million things needing my attention. Yoga gives me permission to switch off from everything and just focus on the breath going in and out of my body. Tuning my movements into that flow takes a bit of focus, and switching my focus to that rather than my thoughts gives me a little period of calm. Like I said before, I’ve never been able to totally quieten my mind, but even turning the volume down a little makes me feel so much better.
Yoga encourages you to let go of tensions in your body, ones you may not even realise that you’re carrying around. Adriene’s instruction really taps into that in a way I’ve not experienced before, she seems to know exactly when to prompt you to unclench your jaw, smooth your forehead, drop your shoulders. It’s like she’s coaching you in person.
5. I love yoga
I think it’s probably come across in this post, but I’ve fallen in love with yoga. I think I’ve fallen in love with Adriene too! I’m excited to see what I can achieve if I keep up my practice. With my other fitness goals, it’s unrealistic to think I’ll do yoga every day, but I want to make time for a couple of sessions a week. Adriene has some other 30 day challenges which I will definitely be doing in the future, but until then I’ll be dipping in to her massive collection of videos.