Proof yoga works: I had not run for almost three months. Hell, I’d barely been hiking. No cardio. All I’ve been doing for the last three months is yoga every single day. Yesterday, I attended a 5K, hoping to be able to run half. I ran the entire thing with no muscle soreness, no compression, and no cramping. I felt amazing. Boom!
I don’t talk a whole lot about yoga on here, other than stating I practice it, because I don’t feel qualified. I sure can point you to someone who is not only qualified, but gentle, kind, funny, and inspiring – Miss Adriene Mischler. She runs an AWESOME Youtube channel called Yoga With Adriene (YWA), which I’ve mentioned many a time on this blog. Today I want to talk a little more about yoga, the channel, and share my personal experience.
You can read thousands of books and articles on, “what is yoga?” and still walk away knowing very little. I can tell you what yoga is to me though. Yoga is a practice. My practice involves meditation, reflection, self-care, and a physical “asana” practice which is the stretching and movement most of us in the Western world call yoga. As you can see though, that’s only one-forth of the equation. The good news is, for almost everyone, a yoga practice begins with the asana, and then leads into the more intellectual and spiritual aspects. So if you’ve never tried yoga, don’t sweat all the heady stuff! It’s normal to begin with the stretching and let the other aspects develop naturally.
Why practice yoga?
It’s easy. Yoga doesn’t have to be some intense “workout.” It can be gentle stretching or just rolling around on the floor like you did when you were a kid. Yoga brings out the happiness in our lives by inviting us to pay attention to the little things.
It’s good for you. The gentlest of stretches, like neck and shoulder rolls, practiced a couple times a week can open up these parts of the body in ways you never imagined. There have been countless studies on the effectiveness of yoga on increasing mental and physical health.
It’s accessible. Guess what! Yoga is FREE! You don’t need a mat, fancy clothes, or props. Those are nice additions down the road if you decide to stick with the practice. You can practice yoga anywhere – I practice in our living room, bedroom, back porch, at the park, and at work. But how will you know what to do, or if you’re doing it right? Here’s where YWA comes in.
YWA is a free online library of yoga videos, including everything from specific pose how-to videos, to full hour long practices, to vlogs about healthy living (there is also a $10/ month subscription service through VHX, but there is TONS of free content on Youtube). Here is the Youtube link (the one provided above is to the main site). YWA is a very active community, with all kinds of discussion in the video comments, as well as in a private Facebook group for those who pay. Adriene herself is involved in all of the discussion. It sounds kinda crazy at first, right? An online yoga community? Trust me though – YWA is different from any other fitness video I’ve ever “done” over the internet/ TV.
If you’ve never practiced yoga before, I would recommend trying some videos from the Foundations of Yoga playlist. These are short (under 10 minute) detailed videos on how to master one pose. Many of these do not require a mat. If you are curious about the benefits of yoga, I would recommend trying one of these videos three days a week for a month and see if you notice a difference. As Adriene says, “A little bit of yoga goes a long way.”
If you have tried yoga enough to be comfortable with some of the poses, or if you want a faster start to the practice, I would recommend trying the 30 Days of Yoga challenge from January of last year. These videos do require a mat, and are 15-30 minutes each. These videos explore “flow” style yoga, which adds an element of gentle cardio to the stretching. I did the 30 day challenge last year, but spread it over 60 days, because hey! I was pretty busy. No shame in that! If you are interested, here’s a video introducing the series.
If you are a veteran yogi, head off to Yoga Camp! This year, Adriene has created another 30 day yoga challenge that focused deeper than last year’s. Yoga Camp pushes past the asana practice to some of the other things I talked about before, like self-care, positive body talk, and alignment of mind, body, and spirit. Here’s the intro video. Every day there are videos that comprise the asana practice, but there are also daily mantras that you are asked to practice – whatever that means to you! I have been practicing my mantras through meditation and journaling. I should mention both of the 30 day series include a daily email you can sign up for that accompanies each video, and talks more about the intellectual/ spiritual practice.
I hit the halfway mark of Yoga Camp yesterday, and the daily email asked me to “write a letter home” about my experience. Here goes nothing.
Before Camp, I was guilty of neglecting every aspect of my yoga practice except the asana. Sometimes it’s easiest to just muscle your body into the poses without putting in any of the mental energy that makes yoga so special. Before Camp, an accurate description of my practice would be: Disheartened and discouraged. Unmotivated to get on my mat. Zombie-ing through my asana practice and forgetting about it the moment I rolled up my mat. Sick of meditating. Lots of negative self-talk. In short, I was in a rut – it happens to all of us!
The first ten days of camp were difficult. I found myself unable to authentically relate to the mantras, which are full of positivity and empowerment. I believed I didn’t deserve any of that positivity in my life, that I was doomed to be a sub-par yogi. The mantras were another layer of things to do that I couldn’t find mental space for. Deep down, I knew I needed the experience of camp so badly – the opportunity to open myself to self-love, accept my imperfections, and actually try to work on finding happiness in my life.
I decided I wanted to get something out of Camp, so I finally quit worrying about practicing the mantras perfectly and just showed up on my mat every day. That became my mantra – I choose to show up on my mat every day. While I was on my mat, I listened carefully to what Adriene was saying, and found one small way to work the daily mantra into my life. For example, today’s mantra was, “I enjoy.” I’ve been feeling bogged down my office politics lately, and work’s been a little miserable. So today, I chose to enjoy my time out in the field. Instead of putting my head down and powering through data collection, I took time to admire the ferns and the moss. Another mantra was, “I am present.” I practiced right before dinner, so when I sat down to eat I gave myself one, big, juicy bite of food were I was fully present – mind not lost in thoughts, focusing on the flavors, textures, and sensations (surprisingly, that presence lasted through the entire meal!)
I can’t even begin to say how grateful I am for the Yoga Camp experience. It has come at a time in my life where I really needed it. It hasn’t been easy (although I have found the physical practice less vigorous than her other videos, but hey – I’m not complaining!). There have been days I wanted to skip my practice, and I did on one day. Who the hell cares though! I came back the next day and felt even better.
I can’t recommend YWA enough to non-yogis and yogis alike. This channel has completely changed my perception of yoga and made me healthier in both mind and body. I practice a video from the channel 3-4 days a week, and do my own thing on the other days. I never would have had the confidence to freestyle if it weren’t for Adriene. In addition to the free videos, there are some other pay-series that I’ve tried including REBOOT and RISE. Here’s a link to those.
Happy yoga everyone! I really really encourage to just try one pose a couple days a week. It’s very little commitment – yoga’s not for everyone, but you won’t know until you try 🙂