Monthly Archives: May 2014

Reflections on a 30-Day Yoga Challenge

Well, I just finished a 30-day yoga challenge and boy am I sore! But man, does it feel good. I’ve been practicing yoga for about 12 years now, but not consistently… and a few of those years saw VERY few sun salutations. Especially while living in Tahoe, where I would much rather shred the freshy gnar gnar then get my stretch on. Adrenaline rushes beat inner peace by a long shot in those days.

Now that I’m living in San Francisco and have greater aspirations for my body and soul, I’ve picked it up again and have been trying to practice at least a couple times a week. Then, about 3 months ago, I finally pushed over my plateau and felt l was finally progressing. This gave me inspiration to attempt a 30-day yoga challenge in order to see how much further progress I could make.

For my yoga challenge, I used You Tube videos (free!) and did a different one daily. I’m not a fan of repeating the same workout over and over, but if that’s more your style, then by all means. That said, I LOVE You Tube videos for exercise purposes. Cardio, HIIT, strength training, yoga, pilates… you name it, I’ll do it. There’s less time wasted because you don’t have to go anywhere AND you can work out in your sports bra and booty shorts. Some of you may feel comfortable doing this at a gym, but certainly not me. I must admit though, sometimes I don’t work as hard because there isn’t anyone watching me. If this sounds like a problem you might have, then this might not be the best plan for you.

I don’t want to make it sound like I was doing intense, hour + long classes every day, because that definitely wasn’t the case. My practice changed daily depending on my immediate circumstances, i.e., energy level, mood, and muscle soreness. Some days I did challenging power/vinyasa classes and other days were spent doing primarily stretches and relaxation poses. However, I always meditated for at least 5 minutes while in shavasana at the end of my practice. This daily meditation seemed to help me cope with life’s stressors a little easier… I really hope to continue with this helpful ritual!

The first week was awesome! I overcame my plateau quickly and felt like I was progressing exponentially. It was a very rewarding feeling and something I didn’t anticipate happening so rapidly. Unfortunately, the 2nd and 3rd week were a little uneventful, but the last week or so saw further improvement, so I can’t complain! I’m not really surprised by this though. My body was tired after exercising daily and needed time to build up endurance and strength, which it did. Yay to strong muscles!

Successes

  • Getting over my yoga plateau.
  • Only missed one day- I made it up the next day, and don’t feel bad about it.
  • Gained strength, flexibility, and endurance. It’s pretty amazing how much stronger and limber I feel after only a month. I can now do chaturanga pose like it’s going out of style and my binds are actually binds now, not just my arms wrapped around my body. Well, I suppose it depends on the bind 🙂 It’s super motivating to see such quick progress… try it for yourself and see if you have the same results!
  • Greater awareness of body position, both during my practice and in day-to-day life.
  • A constant need for movement and a strong desire to explore my body and it’s abilities.
  • Most importantly, I’ve developed a lifelong love for the activity and feel confident I’ll continue practicing regularly from here on out. I honestly couldn’t imagine otherwise.

Challenges

  • Practicing every day got a little monotonous, despite my frequent video switch-ups.
  • My left wrist sustained a mild injury, which I have continued to work through. I know, that’s obviously a really smart move.
  • My body was feeling pretty darn tired by the middle of the month and is likely responsible for my lag during the 2nd and 3rd weeks. Fortunately, I recovered by taking it easy a few days in a row and was able to finish up strong (literally and figuratively).
  • In addition to my daily yoga practice, I was also continuing to run, do HIIT and strength train (not all on the same day), so this extra activity was definitely responsible for my burn out as well. Perhaps I should have strictly focused on yoga, but that would have been too boring. Like I said before, I prefer changing my exercise routine, well, constantly.
  • Weekends! I’ve never been an enthusiastic supporter of weekend exercise (unless it involves snow and/or nature), and that fact has certainly not changed. Man, were some of those days tough! Gotta keep your eye on the prize though. Ugh, I think I just puked in my mouth a little.

What does the future hold, you ask? Well, now that I feel somewhat proficient at basic yoga poses (finally!), I intend to gain a better understanding behind WHY I’m actually practicing yoga. In hind sight, I’m pretty disappointed in myself for not pursuing this sooner… why do yoga if you don’t know why you’re doing it?

Also, trying partner yoga looks like a great way to spend quality time with my boyfriend, or should I say, FIANCE!!! Yes, its true, Greg proposed last Tuesday and we couldn’t be happier… I foresee a wedding blog in my future, which is obviously very original. But I digress. Check out this demonstration and tell me this doesn’t look fun, creative, amorous, athletic, and unifying all at once. I haven’t been this excited about a pop culture fad since I first heard about flash mobs.

Obviously, I want to learn some advanced moves as well. So far I’ve got crow pose down pretty solidly, and my head stands are decent, but I’ve got a loooooooong way to go. The great thing about yoga is that you get a little better each day. It may not seem like it from day to day, but when you do a 30-day challenge, you start to see improvements a bit quicker and it seems somewhat quantifiable.

Oh, and I should probably start going to actual, real life classes. Wearing clothes while practicing yoga is something I’ll have to get used too again.

My “aha” Moments and Thoughts

  •  Daily practice leads to gradual, noticeable improvement.
  • Slowly but surely, grasshopper.
  • Mind over matter. Or at least, that was the intention. My practice was highly dependent on my mood and energy levels. There aspects basically determined how things were going to go; either swimmingly or stinkingly. Yeah, I just made that word up.
  • I now have an uncontrollable urge to do sun salutations, sometimes at inappropriate times.
  • Practice makes perfect. On that note, it looks like I’ve perfected the art of writing obvious cliches. All joking aside, my daily practice helped me gain greater awareness of my body, self-expression, strength, confidence, and flexibility. And this is only the beginning!
  • I truly appreciate the creative expression, energy, and flow that yoga has brought to my life.
  • No matter how inflexible you are… you can become flexible. I know it may seem crazy to think that you could someday do a front bend and lay comfortably over your legs for several minutes, but you can. With daily stretching, your muscles feel as though they’re elongating and you can feel yourself inching towards the ultimate goal.

There’s no doubt about it- regular yoga practice has made me a believer. I simply FEEL BETTER after a yoga session, both physically and psychologically. And it seems as though these feelings are lasting longer and longer after each session. I’m grateful I finally got around to making yoga a part of my life. I’d highly recommend it to all of you.

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