What Doing Yoga for 30 Days Taught Me
On 19 February, I finally accomplished my goal of getting up before work to do about 30 minutes of yoga. Luke and I had been talking about it probably since the beginning of the year. We decided we'd have a 1 week trial period when we'd set our alarm for 6:30 just to get used to waking up. That turned into 3 weeks of hitting snooze for about 30 minutes every day. But that Monday, we just went for it. We set an alarm for 6:00, turned on a lamp when the alarm went off, and started Yoga with Adriene's TRUE 30 Day Challenge.
I completed days one through five fairly easily. I liked the routine of getting up and getting moving in a gentle way. It felt like it would be an easy habit to permanently adopt. But then we went away for the weekend and stayed in rooms that didn't have much extra space, didn't sleep well, and basically got up and headed straight to the breakfast table with Luke's family. We didn't continue the morning yoga for those two days, so when we got home on Sunday afternoon, I doubled up on days six and seven. For day eight on Monday, I was back at it.
I was looking forward to day ten because that meant I would be a third of the way through the challenge, but it was honestly the first day that I seriously considered voluntarily not doing it in the morning, knowing if I put it off till after work, I probably wouldn't come back to it. I did eventually get up to do it and of course felt better for it.
I was pleased to discover that getting over that ten day hump was what I needed to power through. Every morning for the next 17 days, I got up and did yoga with Luke, whether it was at 6:00 on a weekday or a little later on a weekend after we slept in. On day 28, which was a Sunday, we watched the end of Guardians of the Galaxy and ate cake for breakfast in bed. Because...balance. That day, I did yoga before dinner, so I still got it done and I did notice that I felt slightly out of habit.
Regardless, I returned to my morning ritual for the final two days of the challenge, knowing I would continue it for as long as possible. I've never been a morning person and while waking up that early isn't always easy, it really feels like it's worth it. I like that I've already accomplished something, that I've already moved before my day really begins. It's a wonderful way to ease into the day and has given me a reason to continue to wake up early on my weekdays off work so I don't mess up my sleep schedule too much.
So over those 30 days--and beyond--I've learned quite a bit. While Adriene has such a relatable approach to yoga and doesn't make it feel snobby and pretentious, she still packs quite a punch and offers something for everyone. She still talks about the breath, about why you're here, about your mind body connection. And I love starting the day with those little nuggets of wisdom and insight.
In all of my history of exercising, from recreational soccer on up, I've been terrible at controlling my breath. When I first tried yoga, I couldn't connect my movements to my breath. I always feel like I'm panting uncontrollably when I exercise and I hate that feeling, especially after listening to people talk about the power of breath in things like yoga and Pure Barre. It turns out, it takes practice to master conscious breath. And sometimes all you need is just one big deep breath--one anchoring breath--to gain control. Sometimes maybe a few. When Luke hears me taking a deep breath (outside of yoga), he'll ask if something is wrong or if I'm "just catching up". It can go either way, to be honest with you. But it does feel like a little reset button whether I need to relax or I need to catch up on my breath, even if we're just sitting on the couch bingeing Netflix. Breath is powerful. And harnessing that power in conjunction with your movements, like in yoga, makes you so incredibly aware of the spirit that keeps you alive.
Practice makes presence
One of the hardest aspects of both yoga and meditation for me has been devoting the time. I'll be the first to admit that I want to do so many things, but I usually don't want to put in the time to get them done. If I were better at that, I'd probably speak another language, know how to paint and play the piano, be the ultimate DIY-er, and so much more. I always check how long it's going to take to do the morning yoga and make a mental note of what time it will be finished. That's not really how I want things to be though. I want to be able to invest time in myself without wondering how long it will be until I can get back to doing whatever it is or doing nothing. I need to practice being present without time constraints, especially when it comes to investing in my health and happiness through both yoga and meditation. And that might mean getting out of bed even just 5 minutes earlier to ensure there is plenty of time to do a whole yoga flow.
"Self love isn't just for rock bottom."
Adriene said this during her self love practice during the challenge and it really resonated with me. It made me think about why there is so much focus on self love in my life right now and to possibly consider my unhappiness with work. I know that in order to be a good wife, which is my highest priority in this season of my life, I need to take care of myself so I have something to give to Luke. That might mean I have to work a little harder to refill my own cup. While I was not at rock bottom by any means--I have had much bigger rocks, much lower bottoms--I was certainly not living my best life and ending up going part time at work to try to salvage some of my time. Even though I have more free time and I feel aeons better, I'm still at a job I don't love 24 hours a week. So self love seems like a good thing to build into my life right now so that I can continue when I feel like I have a bit more purpose and fulfilment, particularly professionally. (In February, I wrote a post all about how I'm practising self love during my professional struggles: 5 Changes to Make If You're Unhappy Where You're At.)
You carry your emotions in your body
This is actually a concept I've been aware of for quite some time after my church started using a process called check ins, in which you look to your body to tell you which of six basic emotions you might be currently feeling. Yoga has further explored that idea for me as I continue to focus on the mind-body connection. Adriene often says that how things show up on the mat are often how they show up in real life and that applies to our emotions. Between the check in process, yoga, and meditation, I'm learning to acknowledge those emotions and accept those emotions. If there is tension in my neck or shoulders, I try to consider what's bothering me. Sometimes it's obvious, sometimes it's not and I have to dig a little. If there are butterflies in my stomach, I try to pinpoint exactly why I'm feeling scared or excited. I've discovered that our body is always trying to communicate with us and that it's really important to take a moment to listen. It's beneficial for our physical health, but also for our emotional health.
Surrender to the results
Focus on the self love and the results--the changes--will come. Not the other way around. Oh my gosh, how much do we all need to remember this? I'll be the first to admit that for most of my adult life, I've made the choice to exercise--whatever form that has taken over the years--because I hate my body, with the hopes that I'll fall in love with it once I have toned arms, thin legs, and a flat stomach. It turns out that's not a good motivator since I've stopped doing nearly every form of exercise I ever tried. I've never ended up with with thin legs or a flat stomach, but I will admit my arms have been fairly toned at points and Pure Barre certainly did a number for my butt. So I already know that mindset doesn't work, I just needed someone to articulate that to me really, really well. Enter: Adriene. What is really going to make a difference is exercising because you love your body, not because you hate it and want to change it. I think I need to put this up on the wall in our bedroom (where we do our morning yoga) so I remember this always!
My posture needs practice
As I type this, I'm sitting up straight with quite good posture, actually, but I can't even count how many times a day I catch myself slumping or with my shoulders trying to hug my ears. Basically every time Adriene invites us to roll our shoulders back and away from our ears, I realise just how high they actually were. I try to keep that little voice with me through the rest of the day to serve as self-corrections, especially while I'm sat at my desk for long hours. Yoga has also given me a lot of language to use my reminders, from rolling my shoulders down, to pressing my shoulder blades toward one another, I'm more conscious of the position of my hips, back, and shoulders when I have bad posture and the adjustments I made to get better posture at the beginning of the day in yoga.
I can do things that I want to do
I don't know how many times I've set out to do something with grand plans of self-improvement or the like and then failed miserably. Over the years, there are so many goals I've left unaccomplished. So it feels really good to do this one and to be able to continue the habit as part of my everyday routine. Those 30 days really taught me that I'm worth investing in and that I can accomplish my goals and that's probably the greatest lesson I've learned from this journey.
I'm now nearly 2 months out from that starting date and I've continued to keep a daily yoga practice in my everyday routine since then. Since starting on 19 February, I've only missed two days, that day at the beginning of the challenge and last Friday. To be honest, I haven't kept it up as part of my morning routine every day, but on days when I haven't practised in the morning, we've done bedtime yoga instead. I think my preference is to keep it in the morning for all of the reasons I mentioned above, but we've been a little more relaxed in the mornings as we've both been fighting apparently relentless colds. Since completing the TRUE 30 Day Challenge, we've been picking and choosing specific videos. If my hip is bothering me, I'll do her hip and lower back practice. If I slept on my shoulder wrong, I'll do her neck and shoulders practice. We've done yoga for when you're sick, bedtime yoga, morning yoga, and a lot of the flexibility practice. We've also gone back to practices from the challenge that we particularly liked. We try to pick a video at night so we don't waste time in the morning scrolling through trying to choose.
The best part about yoga is that it's a journey. I've noticed a lot of changes in myself physically, mentally, and emotionally. And it's so lovely to be able to something every single day, even if it's just for 10 or 15 minutes.