I’m not a stranger to yoga, having started practicing about 6 months ago, and managing to practice at least twice a week. But I always tend to struggle with the month of January, so when I saw that my favourite YouTube yogi, Yoga with Adriene, was launching Home, a 30 Day Yoga Journey, to take you through January, I was in. I know how much yoga can lift my mood, so I was hoping that 30 days of yoga would have a positive impact.
If you’re not familiar with Adriene Mishler, I urge you to check out her YouTube channel, Yoga with Adriene. I love her videos, I think she cues really well, talks you into poses with enough information, and so often seems to prompt you to just the right thing at the right time. She offers a tonne of variations to suit your ability or just where you’re feeling that day, and I love her attitude of “find what feels good”. And they’re free – what’s not to love? I’ve been doing her videos at home for months, just mixing and matching, but this felt different somehow.
Feeling better and escaping the winter blues were my primary motivations for this challenge, but I was also hoping to build strength to support my running, which has been impacted by injury lately. There is no pressing need to complete the 30 days of yoga consecutively, but I was surprised at just how motivating it was to know that thousands of other people across the globe were all practising these same sessions with you on the same day, and I did end up completely all of the 30 days in a row.
So, what did I learn from doing 30 days of yoga?
I’ve always seen my at-home yoga practice as something personal, just for me. I’m an introvert and prefer my own company in general, but I was surprised at just how inspirational reading other people’s experiences was. Every morning, an email from Adriene would greet me, telling me what to expect from the day’s practice, and with a particular message of support and love.
The community around this 30 day yoga challenge is amazing, and I loved seeing comments from other people on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, saying how they’d found each practice. Knowing that all of these other people were showing up every day on their mat gave me that extra push to make it a priority too. I felt supported and surrounded by positivity throughout the 30 days.
Every journey has its ebb and flow
I loved that Home really felt like a journey, with an ebb and flow to the practices that was clearly very well planned. Poses were added, flows were created, and different parts of the body were targeted, but all in a very gentle way. Day 6 was super hard on the core, and sure enough it was followed by a few more restorative, nurturing days, which my aching muscles very much appreciated.
I noticed a distinct shift in my attitude during Home. When I practiced 3 times a week, I would be more tempted to choose a longer ‘whole body flow’ type practice, as I didn’t want to ‘waste’ the time, but Home showed me so clearly the benefit of shorter, quieter, more meditative sessions. Fitting in something every day had a huge impact on my mood. January was definitely a difficult month for me personally, with lots of illness in our family and other issues, but I’m sure I handled it all far better than I could have if I’d not been able to make this time to show up on the mat. As a busy mum, I’m often guilty of feeling like if I’m not working up a sweat, that there’s no benefit to yoga (as much as I know that’s not true), but Home showed me so clearly the benefit of a more restorative practice.
The shorter sessions were also enlightening for me, as I realised that I could fit them in around the children. So often I feel that I need to wait until the children are in bed, or my husband is around, before I make any time for yoga. But in trying to keep up with the 30 days, I found myself trying to practice while my children were around, and it actually went remarkably well! I found 25 minutes just the right length of time for them to play in the playroom, or watch a TV programme, or watch me practice (and get under my feet, but hey!).
I was amazed at just how quickly I managed to build strength with the consistency of the 30 days. I’d taken a bit of a yoga break over Christmas – only about a week, but it really showed in those first few days. I could feel my lack of upper body strength, and my muscles the next day were definitely telling me that they’d worked hard. But my chaturanga improved drastically throughout this challenge, and I found myself dreading planks and boat pose (my nemesis) far less than I used to before embarking on the journey Home. I even managed to make my Crow take flight for just a few seconds, which surprised me quite a lot! I love how it feels to feel strong and to see your own progress is such a powerful thing.
Patience is a virtue…
Patience is my biggest struggle as a parent. I try to be gentle and empathetic with my boys, but there are still so many moments when I lose my temper and I really wish that I didn’t. And I find that yoga helps massively with this. You’re told to be patient with yourself, to accept where you are on your journey – and I’ve always found that liberating. To forget the need to focus on a particular goal and just ‘be’ felt so freeing, and when you are giving your body that message every single day, it seems to find its way into your subconscious. I’ll admit that I’m not at all perfect as a parent still (who is?), and I’m still not as patient as I’d like to be, but it’s definitely coming easier.
The Journey Home
The final day of the journey Home was a bit of a shock for me. This was my first experience of the 30 day challenge, and I hadn’t realised that it’s become a tradition for Adriene to take off the microphone for this one, and instead of hearing her guiding voice, there is just music. At first I was worried – whenever I’ve tried to practice alone, without the guidance of a teacher, it’s just fallen flat. And at first I was a bit tied to trying to watch the TV, to see what Adriene was doing. But as I moved further into the practice and moved through all of the poses and flows that we had learned over the 30 days, I realised that it was my own practice, and that I knew exactly what to do, even without the guiding voice in my ear. I’d glance at Adriene occasionally, just to see what she’d moved onto, and I’d tend to follow, but at my own pace, syncing with my own breath. It was exhilarating, and one of the most wonderful practices, as I realised that I really did have the tools within me to do this. It really did feel like arriving at the destination of a journey. It’s not something I’d like to do every day, as I do like the cues to check my alignment and know what to move into next, but there was definitely something special about practising ‘free’.
Continuing the journey beyond 30 days of yoga
And I suppose the biggest question of all – what happens next after 30 days of yoga? The benefits I’ve seen have been so huge that I’m intending to keep it up. I really loved the ebb and flow and the journey aspect of this challenge, so I’ve started True, one of Adriene’s previous 30 day yoga journeys (she creates them every January), and when I’ve finished True, there is also Dedicate, and lots more. I’m not planning on being too rigid, and if illness or other things take priority that’s fine, but I’m hoping to make daily yoga a habit and see where that takes me.