Yoga is something I had never devoted much time to before deciding to do 30 days of yoga in a row. However, practicing this activity in a disciplined and regular manner quickly changed my perspective on yoga.
I had heard a lot of hypeYoga with Adrien(opens in new tab), a lady who took the internet by storm after breaking lockdown with millions of views of her videos teaching people how to practice yogi. After watching a video I was hooked and had visions of becoming a yogi like Adriene. This surprised me since I usually opt for high-intensity exercise over anything else. But ever since COVID entered the scene there have been the weird moments of calm, so I decided to use this time to challenge myself to 30 days of yoga to see what changes I may or may not notice.
Victoria Chamron Yoga Instructor and Wellness Coordinatorbirch community(opens in new tab)Fit&Well said that yoga is a practice free of judgment or expectation. "You can rest, recharge and take a minute to take care of yourself," she added, "Yoga can be a form of meditation, a meditation in motion. Try it and you will feel like you come out of an active session more rested than when you started.”
I liked the sound of how inviting yoga should be, and after hearing and researching the many benefits of it, I wanted to see how legitimate and transferrable the benefits of yoga could be to the everyday life of a regular person — aka me. So I grabbed the best yoga mat and followed a Yoga with Adriene 30 day daily yoga program. Here's what happened.
I felt stronger inside and out
Since yoga is a strength-based practice, I should have expected to see a shift in this department. However, I was definitely surprised at how quickly I felt my body gain strength and I even noticed a definition shape around my core.
I'm not saying I got a six pack from my daily downward facing dogs, but practicing yoga helps you connect your mind and body, and the more I got the hang of it, the more I engaged major muscle groups in one session .
This piece of advice from Chamron is essential for anyone else wanting to start yoga: "I often say to embrace the swings when I'm teaching my classes—because sometimes those swings make us stronger."
I myself noticed a real difference in my strength and ability in yoga over the days. By the tenth or eleventh day, I felt that my body no longer trembled as I moved from one position to another, and that I could now do so in a state of flow. And I felt a bit like a warrior the more I managed to strike a strong and empowered warrior one pose.
Yoga is said to be a strengthening exercise, which might partially explain why I felt my strength increase as I progressed. After all, yoga is designed to use your own body weight to build and tone your muscles, and there's scientific evidence to back this up.
In this study published in theInternational Journal of Yoga(opens in new tab)The researchers recruited 71 participants from Air Force personnel to find out what would happen if they practiced yoga for an hour every day for 12 weeks. They found that not only did their muscle strength improve, but also their flexibility and they even noticed a reduction in body weight.
What was great about the above study was that they wanted to see if the results would be the same across different age groups, and they did - making yoga a very accessible physical activity compared to other forms of exercise.
Other exercises felt easier
I've always been more prone to hip or knee injuries, and as someone who loves fitness for both the physical and mental benefits, an injury in any of these joints can be really frustrating.
After the 30 days of yoga, I felt less weakness in places like knees and hips as I did other exercises like a 5k run or leg workouts with weights at the gym.
The strength I had developed all over my body most likely played a role. It was as if the gentle stress I put on my body during yoga increased my mobility and improved my range of motion. These areas of my body weren't as stiff anymore and could now better withstand the higher loads of a run.
Iyengar yoga is a branch of yoga that focuses on detail, precision, and alignment and has been used in research to treat the symptoms of joint pain. In a study published in theNational Library of Medicine(opens in new tab)Scientists found that participants suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee experienced reduced pain after eight weeks of daily Iyengar yoga. They concluded that yoga has the potential to be a non-pharmacological intervention for knee osteoarthritis.
We're always told to warm up before a workout, and when you think about it, this is like a mini yoga session to wake up and loosen up your muscles and joints so they work well when you put them to work . Adding this to regular yoga practice will train your body to better maintain your posture and weight.
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I developed a clearer headspace
Sometimes when people are going through stressful situations they make a joke that they need some yoga to calm them down and they are not wrong.
Chamron noted how good yoga is for connection: "A really important part of yoga is connecting with your breath. To understand how to connect movement to breath and how to really feel in your own skin," she said.
I began to notice that I was thinking more clearly and rationalizing any worries I had as I progressed through the 30 days of yoga. However, this did not happen immediately.
At first, I struggled to really stop and be present in the moment, especially when I had to sit still in a position, like Child Pose, just concentrating on my breathing and nothing else. I would find myself thinking about what I would have for dinner later or how long I would have to get ready to leave the house afterwards.
But my consistency paid off and the more I practiced being more present in my yoga, the more present I became in my everyday life. I think that brought me a state of calm when life felt intense - which has often been the case during a pandemic.
I was wondering if this was a placebo case, knowing that people who practice yoga regularly tend to be very relaxed, but there is research to back this up.
The effects of yoga on people's mental state have been the focus of several scientific studies over the years, and the results suggest that there is a genuinely positive association here.
Likeresearch paper(opens in new tab)showed that women who practiced yoga twice a week experienced significant improvements in their mental health. The researchers found that regular yoga sessions reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety in the women, and even noticed less headache and back pain in participants who suffered from it before participating in the yoga study.
Yoga has helped me build healthier habits
The first morning I decided to defy all yoga stereotypes and practice yoga outside, barefoot in my garden with a mat. Despite the grand vision I had built up about it, the crisp winter morning had other plans for me. It was freezing and not as satisfying as I had hoped.
However, Chamron emphasized that you have to value yourself for showing up and not giving up. So I stuck with it and moved things inward for the remaining 29 days of yoga. By keeping this part of my morning routine for a month, I benefited from consistency. My days started earlier, but I didn't feel sluggish or have a mid-day accident. My morning yoga sessions gradually helped my whole body and mind wake up for the day.
I also found that I was better at staying consistent with running and the gym. I think this is down to two things: first, creating a morning ritual increased my productivity, and second, I liked the physical effect yoga had on my body, so I was more encouraged to do a workout later in the day.
Another thing that surprised me was the effect it had on my diet. In general, I like to think that I eat healthy 95% of the time, but parts of the pandemic saw me snack more out of boredom or eat more comfort food.
Very early on in my 30 day yoga challenge, I noticed that I was gaining more control over my diet quite naturally, and not in an unhealthy obsessive way, but in a way that made my body feel good. I listened more to my body and became more aware of when I was really hungry or when I should stop eating so I could feel healthy fullness and not uncomfortable fullness.
This was a sign that my body was probably becoming more aligned with my mind, and most likely why I was craving more nutritious foods instead of sugary snacks. Without sounding cliche, I think yoga forms a lifestyle that shapes other areas of your health.
Not only I recognize a change in my eating habits and practice yoga. A study published inJournal of the American Dietetic Association(opens in new tab)found that regular yoga practice promotes mindful eating and that those who eat more mindfully have a lower risk of becoming obese.
Mindful eating takes a more holistic approach to eating that can help people form healthier, more positive relationships with food, and something I've certainly benefited from my yoga practice.
Eating should not be based on limiting yourself, but on fueling your body. I like to keep my diet full of color and nutrients, and one thing that helps with this is meals rich in vegetables, many of which can be found in one of theThe best vegan cookbooks. Lots of protein is also great for building and repairing muscle in your body, you can always top up with oneBest protein powder for weight loss.