5 things I’ve learnt from 5 days of yoga

I’ve always loved yoga but until recently, I’ve not been doing daily practices.

When I was at University, I joined the yoga society – finding peace on the mat in weekly lessons.

But after graduating, yoga dropped off my radar.

Then, fairly recently, I started doing the odd practice at home, just every now and again. It made me feel better – calmer, more balanced, and happier. So at the end of last month, I signed up to a free 30 day programme called ‘HOME’ on the Yoga with Adriene Youtube channel.

The last few months have been pretty stressful and I’ve not really felt myself so I wondered if a daily yoga practice could help me feel better – in mind, body and spirit.

I’m almost a week in, and here’s what I’ve found.

1. I sleep better.
Back in December, I was experiencing heart palpitations almost daily and I worked out that lack of sleep and stress seemed to be common triggers. I’ve tried to stick to a wind-down routine, but it’s not always easy particularly if you have evening plans. Reading before bed always makes me sleep better but after yoga and a good book, I’m asleep super quick – and it’s deep sleeping too. It’s relaxing me and I feel like I have much more energy in the day.

2. It’s stretching and toning some of my muscles.
I went into work after day two and my legs felt really tight. I realised it was because of the lunges that had been incorporated into my practice the night before. Then today, I stretched up and my core felt tight – because of all the planks and rocking movements I’d done the night before. Don’t underestimate the slow movements and static poses. I’m excited to see what my body feels like after a month of this. The practices are short but there are moves focusing on the core, the legs, the backs and even the arms, as you’re often needing to hold your body weight.

3. The instructor matters.
I’m sure not everyone will like Adriene as a yoga instructor, but for me, she’s perfect. When I was at Uni, my instructor was a surfer who had a bamboo mat and, through hatha yoga, focused very much on stretches and mindfulness. It was perfect for me as it helped me unwind and forget about stresses of studies, social life, money – anything that was troubling me. Following an instructor on YouTube means you’re always at a distance but it feels like Adriene is talking and motivating you – as an individual, but within a supportive group who may be following along from anywhere in the world. With difficult movements or poses, she’ll say things like ‘trust me’, ‘I got your back’ or ‘you can do this’. If you’re wobbling around or struggling to hold something, that little reaffirming, motivating line can help you hold on for one more breath, or have more confidence in yourself. Some sessions feel like mini workouts (like the core session!) so there’s a focus on strength and fitness. She also speaks about how to use what you’re learning off the mat, as well as on it. Remembering to love yourself and be kind to yourself – whether that’s when you’re trying a new pose and having to take baby steps to get it right, or trying something new in your daily life and need to cut yourself some slack if you’re not instantly a pro.

4. Saying namaste is really therapeutic.
When I first had to put my hands together at the end of the practice and whisper namaste, I felt a bit self conscious. Which is stupid because I was in my bedroom, ON MY OWN. But after almost a week of doing this, there’s something humbling about bowing your head at the end of the session, breathing in deeply and whispering namaste. It reminds me to be thankful.

5. Yoga makes me happy.
It’s really hard to explain exactly why because I think there’s a whole combination of factors here. But for someone whose brain runs a million miles an hour, overthinks everything and is often way too critical of herself, yoga helps bring me back. It reminds me to be kinder, to listen to my body and my mind, to breathe, focus and it gives me a chance to truly unwind. I’ve tried mindfulness and the Headspace app but I’m rubbish at committing to it every day. I think yoga helps me to combine movement and mindfulness – perfect if your mind wanders to other things you should be doing. When I’ve done a practice – whether it’s 20 minutes or an hour – I have more faith in myself, I feel balanced, relaxed and happy.

I’m only 5/30 days in so we’ll see how I feel after the full month but I think this is a habit I won’t be giving up.

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