I took one free hot yoga class my first semester of university and as I sat in a pool of sweat staring at the contortionist next to me who managed to balance the weight of his entire body on his hands, I decided yoga was not for me. Then, after months of Anna from The Anna Edit raving about Yoga With Adriene, I decided I was at a point in my life where I could give yoga another try. After my first class, I was completely hooked and committed to a #30DaysofYoga challenge.
Spring 2015 was a STRESSFUL time for me because I was applying for my second study abroad over the summer, complete with an internship. I was working A LOT so that I wouldn’t have to take out any more in loans than I had to, and I was trying to sort everything out to graduate in the fall. I know – ALL THE THINGS. So, in my stressed-out state, I thought that yoga could be my saving grace. I was really drawn to YWA because Anna had been trying the #30DaysofYoga challenge and kept talking about how fulfilling it was and how much her flexibility and overall attitude had been improving. She also said it was good as a workout on it’s own some days and just a gentle stretch other days. Curiousity got the best of me and I did a Yoga for Beginners video and then jumped into day one of #30DaysofYoga.
After starting, I couldn’t stop and did yoga for nearly 50 days straight, repeating the 30 Days of Yoga Challenge immediately after finishing the first cycle. In that time, my heels got closer to the ground in Downward Dog, my spine had a mind of its own during Cat-Cow (“drunken” Cat-Cow as Adriene calls it), and my body looked/felt longer, leaner and stronger (hello tiny arm muscles and slimmer thighs, please stay around forever). The physical changes were real and they were important in assisting my motivation and perseverance when it came to a totally new form of exercise. More important than the physical were the mental and emotional changes I have undergone as a result of my yoga practice.
I can’t put into words just how cleansing and refreshing this yoga practice has been for me. I’ve enhanced my lifestyle by wanting to do things that continue these feelings of goodness, like incorporating spinach/kale, chia seeds and fresh fruit/veg into my daily diet and exploring healthier foods in general as I begin to see them as fuel rather than boring and necessary. Yoga also led me to take up running for fun about six months after I started YWA, pairing 30 minutes on the treadmill with at least one video to follow. I also took up Pure Barre classes about a year later because I wanted to push myself physically and thankfully, yoga was there to provide ALL the stretching I needed after that first class left my muscles shaking for hours. Since the 30 Days of Yoga series, Adriene has continued similar series at the beginning of the year. In 2016 she had the 30 Days of Yoga Camp and did 31 Days of Yoga Revolution at the start of 2017. Each series has its own vibe and personality, and I thought I was gong to say Revolution was my favourite, but I genuinely can’t decide as they all provide something different and I like/dislike them based on my moods and what I’m craving. The OG 30 Days of Yoga is really good for beginners, but provides a lot of room to take it up a notch if you’re more advanced. This series encomasses A LOT with balancing postures, challenges, yummy stretches, ab and fat-burning/muscle toning flows and just really provides a good foundation for a total newbie. Yoga Camp is more about taking a mantra and running with it both on and off the mat, with each day providing you with a new goal. I feel like Yoga Camp is more challenging on both a mental and physical level than the 30 Days of Yoga, so sometimes I cry and miss the good old days of Tree Pose, but I definitely carry it with me throughout the day more so than any other series. Yoga Revolution was probably the least intensive but must fun. It’s sort of like the child of the previous two in that it combines mantra with a wide range of moves suitable for all levels. It also sits in the middle in terms of ease/difficulty, which is nice for when I’m unsure of just how much I want to push myself.
I love that I have an entire library of FREE videos to choose from and provided good Internet access, I can do yoga at any time, anywhere (including a tiny London dorm room. Sometimes I want a challenge and other times I literally just want to stretch or meditate; sometimes I have terrible period cramps or post-run muscle cramps; there are days when I just ant to sit and hug a pillow and there are the days that I attempt to tackle a Crow Pose. For me, yoga has been about experiencing a lot of things in the mental, physical and emotional realms of my fitness journey, impacting my life overall. I’ll never forget the feeling of my first cry during a practice where my body fully embraced the cathartic release I did not see coming (it was the Let It Go Yoga Flow video, in case you think it might give you a good cry as well).
In two years, I’ve done the full 30 Days of Yoga series 10 times, Yoga Camp six times and the Yoga Revolution series once (but I am going to start it up again this week) and since then, my Seated Wide-Leg Forward Fold has finally opened a substantial amount in 15 years and I actually consider Downward Dog a resting pose. Really! It is! Like, after a flow that involves a lot of Vinyasa and Planking, there’s nothing like Downward Dog to rest your arms and let you breathe. My biggest accomplishment has to be the .8 seconds of Crow Pose I learned to do in my second month of practicing. No, I haven’t really increased the amount of time I can hold the pose, but the fact that I can actually get both feet off the ground for any amount of time is a serious win for a girl who was baffled/hating on the Yoga Master for not slipping and sliding around in a pool of his own sweat on the yoga mat next to her in that Hot Yoga class six years ago.
I’m most proud of the fact that I turn to YWA every time I feel sluggish, sore or sad; I’m proud of myself for sticking to a physical practice for two years and actively seeking to get back on the mat time and time again. I introduced YWA to my family and two of my cousins do Adriene’s videos on the regular and when I see a friend in need, I send them a Yoga for Stress Release or Yoga for Runners video to get them through the day and even if they never click on another YWA video, at least they tried it for themselves. Yoga isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely for me. I’ve never felt instant gratification the way it hits during a YWA video or after one of her weekly emails. This is a community dedicated to the Find What Feels Good mantra and I’m so incredibly proud to be a part of it and happy to have discovered the corner of the Internet that Adriene has cultivated for those of us seeking love, respect, release, strength, connection, determination, results, kindness, motivation, ease, gratitude, relaxation, mindfulness and friendship.
I know she’s talking to you via a screen, but still, Adriene doesn’t push you past your limits or judge you for not sticking it on the first – or even 100th – try, rather she encourages you to keep trying and to listen to your body. My favourite thing Adriene says is, “One day!” She understands we’re all at different levels and our bodies work in different ways and until I started watching her videos, I was really hard on myself for not getting my elbows to touch the ground or having my fingers meet my toes in a forward fold. Now, I accept that some days my hand can catch my foot in Pigeon Pose, and other days I don’t even want to bother trying. Some days my body is ready for Crow Pose, other days simply do not have it in the cards. Will I ever be able to do a Head Stand? Idk! But I like trying and I like that my body and I can agree that somethings work and others do not. It took me 23 years to learn how to communicate with my body in a positive way, but better late than never!
Thanks Adriene and namaste.