5 things I learned from doing 30 days of yoga

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.

 

5 things i learned from doing 30 days of yoga

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.

 

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my maternity leave fitness bucket list

If there’s one thing on which many parents can agree, it’s that finding time to get your fit on can be a struggle when you’re juggling kids, work and running a house. I know my own fitness efforts have always been pretty sporadic, going from a few months of 5.30am alarms for pre-work gym sessions, to only managing one evening Clubbercise class a week, to all-out couch potatoing…and all sorts of variations in between.

As I sit here, over a week past my due date with baby number three, I’m about as far away from getting on a treadmill as you can be (though maybe a wee jog might get labour started…?). I haven’t even touched my pregnancy workouts for a few weeks now, as the mere thought of pulling on my leggings makes me want to go for a nap. But there is a small part of my brain that is actually quite looking forward to getting back into fitness once this little guy is here.

I am not a natural sportswoman, and my relationship with exercise can often be more guilt-fuelled than from a place of genuine passion. But I’ve found that if I keep shaking things up, set myself challenges and look for things that are fun then I can get quite into it. With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of things I’m hoping to take a stab at.  Obviously I’m not going to rush into it, and I have a postnatal DVD I’ll use at first just to get used to owning a non-pregnant body again, but I don’t want to pass up the golden opportunity maternity leave offers to whip my body into a shape other than blob-of-Playdoh.  I’ve tried to put them in some sort of order, but I’ll see what takes my fancy when the time comes.  And it goes without saying that I will also be hitting up my incredible Clubbercise class each week too!

 

Lots of walking

This is a double whammy of good, because it’s just as important for my sanity as it is for my body.  I walked a lot, miles a day, last time I had a baby.  It helped me drop the huge amount of weight I’d put on in pregnancy but it also got me out of the house and out of my own head for a part of each day – invaluable when dealing with post natal depression and a colicy, refluxy baby.  I’m hoping to walk our four year old to and from school on days when it’s dry, but even on days when it’s raining I’m not adverse to getting on my waterproofs and getting some air when it’s just me and bubs.  Plus, it will give me some time to listen to podcasts too.

 

30 Days of Yoga – Yoga with Adriene

I stumbled across Adriene and her free yoga videos last year, and she is perfect.  Her attitude is amazing, she makes yoga so accessible and for all levels, and has so much content on YouTube.  I dabbled a bit with this challenge when I first came across her but wasn’t able to commit, and so I think this could be my time.  I’ve loved my yoga practice in pregnancy and tapped into the breathing and mindfulness through hypnobirthing too, and would be keen to keep those things as part of my lifestyle.

30 Day Shred – Jillian Michaels

This is a classic, which means you can grab a DVD of it really cheap.  I did this workout a few years ago, and found it was a great way to get my head into strength-mode (I followed it up with Insanity and getting into weights).  I have continued with strength and weights-based exercises during pregnancy so I’m hoping this wont be a shock to the system, and more like a gentle re-introduction to some muscles I’ve maybe forgotten I had!

 

C25K

Or “couch to 5k” to give it its full name.  This is a game changer – it was for me and I’ve seen so many other people sing its praises.  Basically, you follow a programme (and there seem to be about a million to choose from) which starts you off from walking and progresses you until you can run a full 5k route.  Different programmes work through the progression at different rates, so there’s bound to be one out there that works for you.  I’ve done it twice before, the first was a Race For Life training plan for Pretty Muddy, and the second was a programme on my Microsoft Band.  I was amazed with my first attempt – I literally couldn’t run the length of myself and yet in a matter of weeks I completed the Pretty Muddy 5k in 35mins.  Told you – game changer.  My issue is I often fall out of a routine once I’ve got up to the 5k distance and then have to start all over again, so I’m hoping to make it a regular thing and then progress to 10k (eventually!).

 

The Modern Woman’s Guide to Strength Training – Girls Gone Strong

Whilst I’m working on my cardio, I also want to get back into my weight training.  Girls Gone Strong are an amazing collective of inspiring women who aren’t afraid to lift, and were my first introduction into what is probably my favourite form of exercise.  GGS is about so much more than lifting weights though – body positivity, acceptance, health and supporting your fellow woman are so core to this movement.   I bought their programme, and this is where I’ll be building up from again because it is such a great approach and the tutorials for every move make sure that you’re as safe and effective as you can be.  I want my sexy shoulders and butt back!

 

Blogilates calendar – Cassey Ho

I came across the whirlwind that is Cassey Ho in my last maternity leave and I love her!  It’s amazing what she’s achieved since I first started doing her workouts – she’s now a fitness megastar and has built quite the empire.  She has about a bzmillion free workout videos on YouTube and compiles a new workout calendar each month.  I’ve never completed a full month of her workouts, but I’d love to give it a proper try.  Her energy is infectious, but don’t be fooled by the bubbly personality and pop music – she is hardcore!

 

Insanity – Shaun T

Speaking of hardcore…  I’ve left this one until last because to be honest, the thought of it right now makes me want to puke!  Hubs and I have attempted it twice, and although we got close we have never quite finished the 60 days.  But this works.  I’ve never pushed myself so hard or impressed myself so much as when I was doing Insanity.  I think if I get my cardio and strength up, and tick off a few of these other challenges then maybe (just maybe!) I might stand a chance at finally getting to the end of this.

 

I’m aware this is a big ol’ list, but nine months is a long time.  My approach to fitness has always been to do what I enjoy, so if any of these things don’t turn out to be as fun as I’d hoped/remembered I’ll just ditch them.  But the world gym is my oyster, so lets just see what I can achieve!

What are your current fitness goals?

 

 


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