New to yoga or just can’t find time to take a class? A popular online 30-day yoga challenge could be the best way to strike a pose at home
My feelings towards yoga have, in recent years, blown hot and cold – be it through boredom induced by doing the same old routine at a group class, lack of guidance when following an at-home video or frustration over not being able to get my feet flush on the earth in Downward Dog. So when a friend told me about YouTube yoga sensation Adriene Mishler and her 30-day challenge, I seized the opportunity to rekindle my fondness for the practice.
Fitting it in
Hurdle number one: how would I find time in my already packed month to roll out my yoga mat EVERY DAY? It’s a dilemma I imagine most people face when scheduling a workout. The truth is, we have to make time – and what’s 30 minutes anyway? So, diary-shuffling aside, I tune into Day One’s practice.
Learning to loosen up
If you’re reading this thinking yoga is strictly for the super-bendy, take heart: there was a time when my posture was so rigid I was likened to an ironing board. More than once. I still have tight hamstrings and my hips could do with being ‘opened’ further (to use the lingo). But, like anything, flexibility and balance need to be worked on – something Adriene recognises in each of her videos. She often throws in anecdotes as encouragement: ‘It took me so long to be able to so this,’ she’ll say; ‘This posture was a real challenge for me for such a long time.’
That’s the great thing about this 30-day series – it’s not at all alienating. It serves all levels, from complete newbies to seasoned pros. Postures are developed slowly and steadily, options are offered to suit your personal stage of practice (hold a plank or half-plank, take a Vinyasa or rest in Child’s Pose…) and guidance is given with the breath – because when you’re twisted up like a pretzel, it can be easy to forget to breathe. ‘Find what feels good,’ is Adriene’s mantra. ‘No yoga robots.’
Progress in my poses
Day Three. I’m counting the minutes until I can Cat-Cow my way into today’s practice. Unlike other at-home yoga videos I’ve tried, Adriene’s instruction is both inclusive and captivating – I feel as though I’m getting more guidance through the TV screen than I’ve had at previous ‘real life’ yoga classes. The attention she gives to correct alignment and posture is an education, but she also encourages ‘playtime’ rather than just going through the motions of a flow. It’s OK if you want to pedal your heels in Downward Dog to loosen your hamstrings, to hold your elbows and swing from side to side in a forward fold, to hold Cobra that little bit longer and – what the heck – give your hips a wiggle.
Adriene persuades you to meet your edge – hold Eagle Pose or Chaturanga (push up) until you feel prana (that heat or tremble of energy), but don’t push yourself further than your body is willing to go. ‘That’s just silly,’ she says. With each day I notice both my flexibility and strength quickly improve. I’m introduced to new poses and am guided to develop the more familiar. But it’s not all about the physical – some of the days focus on more mindful, meditative practice, and they’re perfectly placed throughout the series.
As Day 30 dawns, I feel blue that the challenge is almost complete. Because really, it hasn’t felt like a challenge at all. I’ve loved every minute of it. So what if I still can’t get my heels down the first time I push back into Downward Dog? That’ll come in time, I’m sure. The final flow is… well, why don’t you give it a go and find out for yourself? You won’t be disappointed. In fact, I’m going right back to Day One. Come join me, why don’t you…
My top three yoga poses – some old, some new
I’d seen this done once before by a lithe group yoga instructor, and quickly wrote it off as an ‘AS IF!’ posture. But by Day 7 of this challenge, I was in my first arm balance.
This has long been a favourite of mine. Standing on one leg may not look like hard work, but it’s a top choice for core engagement.
Great for developing balance and stability – and toning those thighs!