For years I have said to myself ‘I must try yoga’. I knew the health benefits but I still resisted until a couple of months ago.
I’m not the most flexible person in the world and I knew that as I get older the occasional twinges and aches in my back could develop into something more serious. It was time for action.
On another level I was also craving an element of routine and discipline in my life.
I am self employed and while that allows a lot of flexibility it can often leave me feeling boundaryless.
As we nudged into the bleak, dark winter months, I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to give yoga a try(!)
Dragging myself out of my nice, warm, cosy bed was not easy. My alarm went 90 minutes before sunrise to make sure I could fit in the practice before the routine of the day began. (Not as dramatic as it sounds, this was November and the sun was rising around 7.30am but still!)
When I decided to embark on a month long yoga challenge, there was only one person I could turn to. Adriene Michler, You Tube phenomenon and ‘People’s Yogi’.
Adriene has gained cult status in recent years as she helps her followers to ‘find what feels good’ . ‘Yoga with Adriene’, her You Tube channel has over 4 million subscribers and her recent live event in London drew a crowd of 2,400 people.
I have dabbled with Adriene’s videos in the past but I decided to make the commitment and give her 30 day challenge a go.
Advocates of the 30 Day Yoga Challenge describe it as life changing. The cynic in me wants to disagree. But I can’t.
If life changing seems a step too far, then please believe that it is life enhancing.
The key learning points for me were:
1. Transformation Takes Time
Intuitively I knew this already. But to take part in the challenge and see the effects for myself was powerful.
I was no yogi when I started the challenge. 30 days later I am still no yogi!
Yet, I am more flexible. I can feel strength build in my body day by day. I can feel my muscles (slowly, very slowly) start to unravel after years of hunching over a laptop.
I can 100% feel the physical benefit of the daily practice.
As the saying goes ‘the hardest part of the journey is taking the first step’.
Getting out of bed on that first morning was painful. Not being able to achieve some of the more challenging poses in the early weeks was dispiriting.
But with perseverance and showing up on the yoga mat every single day I made progress.
Slowly but surely I am inching forward. I am building my strength and building my commitment.
2. What True Self Care Looks Like
The brilliant Brianna Wiest wrote the definitive article on self care a few years ago. Wiest declared that self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.
Getting myself onto that mat every morning was the biggest act of self care I could give myself in that bleak November month.
It wasn’t easy. When the alarm went off I would much rather have turned over and gone back to sleep. But I knew that if I could get myself onto the mat I would benefit.
As Tami Forman pointed out in Forbes, true self care is not an indulgence, it’s a discipline.
I knew that I had build the discipline of yoga to soothe my creaking limbs and relax my aching muscles.
But I also knew that I needed that discipline for me. To prove to myself that I could have it. If I decided to make it a priority.
Each day Adriene tells her viewers to ‘Find What Feels Good’ and encourages us to ‘ask yourself what you need today?’.
I now hear her throughout the day. What is going to feel good? What do I need right now?
And sometimes the answers aren’t what I would expect.
Sometimes the voice in my head responds that I NEED to have the difficult conversation that I have been putting off.
Or I NEED to spend time looking at my finances and filling in my tax return.
Or I NEED to get serious about my business planning for the next 12 months.
What feels good isn’t necessarily what is convenient or easy. It’s the thing that is going to make a fundamental difference to my life.
3. Our Actions Have a Domino Effect
The domino effect of taking part in 30 Days of Yoga with Adriene the life changing aspect of the challenge.
The daily yoga practice has a positive physical impact. But taking part in the challenge helped me make better choices in other aspects of my life.
Have a glass of wine in the evening? No thanks, I would rather have a clear head in the morning?
Watch another episode of The Kominsky Method on Netflix? No thanks I need to get to bed so that I can get up when my 6am alarm goes off. (BTW if you are going to binge watch anything on Netflix then make it The Kominsky Method, best comedy on TV in years)
I didn’t commit the challenge to drink less alcohol and get more sleep but those were the unexpected and welcome by-products.
4. Completion is Satisfying
I can be very task focused and I have a reputation for being able to get things done. But I’m also human and not everything that I start gets finished.
I noticed that the Day 1 video for Adriene’s 30 Day Challenge had 17 million views on You Tube. The video for Day 30 had 745,000 views. Quite a difference.
There are all manner of unknowns that make it impossible to arrive at an exact figure. But based on those numbers roughly only 4% of participants finish the challenge.
I have to say I was feeling pretty pleased with myself on Day 30.
I was one of those 4%.
And not only that, I had enjoyed it so much and got so much benefit that I decided to carry on.
At the time of writing I’m on day 66.
It’s now early Janaury and it is no easier to get out of bed in the morning but I know that it will be worth it.
I’ve also got to thinking about all the half finished projects in my life and lurking on my laptop.
Wouldn’t the feeling of satisfaction be amazing if I got to the finish line with them as well? I’ve started to write a list of all the things that I need to finish before I start anything new.
5. Life is Supposed to be Fun
Adriene is quirky, some might even say goofy. Everything that she does is light hearted and fun. I find her words echo in my head throughout the course of the day. ‘Find what feels good’.
And if it doesn’t feel good?
I’m a grown up. I’ve got choices. I can decide to do things differently. I can decide to find the laughter, the light and the fun.
Adriene’s mission is a lofty one. She wants to get the tools of yoga into homes and schools around the world.
She is an unlikely candidate to lead a global revolution. Given her success so far and her perfect balance of charismatic leader and down to earth, girl next door charm, she might, just might be able to pull it off.
I for one am a convert and am happy to shout it from the rooftops.