My mum has been doing yoga #everydamnday since long before Rachel Brathen coined the hashtag. I grew up watching her potty train my sister by waiting outside the bathroom in what I now know to be plough pose, brushing her teeth in malasana and running off to yoga class at any chance she got in her Sugoi running tights and a t-shirt, pre-lululemon Wunder Under days. So, it was almost as if by osmosis that my journey with yoga begin.
Fast forward fifteen odd years and my practice had become patchy at best (and non-existent at worst). Every time I rolled out my mat, everything I loved about yoga came flooding back. It was just a question of actually getting myself to said mat. Seeing my mum, in amazing shape, totally flexible and, best of all, bright spirited and young at heart (all at age 64) was the catalyst I needed to kickstart my practice again. When I came across the introductory offer at one of my local studios (30 days unlimited for 40£ *prayer hands emoji*), it seemed like the perfect opportunity to challenge myself to do a class every day for 30 consecutive days. So I embarked on 30 days of ujjayi breathing, 30 days and a million downward dogs, 30 days of hugging into the midline and active hands and feet and 30 days of namaste.
Here is what I learned.
Don’t let the mental make you forget the physical; fuel and hydrate accordingly.
Until recently, I always leant towards more restorative, ‘yin’ yoga practices because I always wanted the emphasis to be on the breath and mindfulness and found this extremely challenging if I felt like I was doing a workout at the same time. Starting to take on more dynamic ‘vinyasa’ classes meant that I was sweating it out on the mat. Almost every day. And the more I practiced and improved, the MORE I sweat. In the first week, the physical toll on my body was more than I bargained for and, I’ll be honest, I ended up eating a lot of sugar to compensate. On top of that, I was parched, even drinking 2 or 3 litres of water a day. My advice? Fuel for yoga like you would any other workout AND boost your hydration by drinking coconut water, throwing a Nuun hydration tablet in your bottle or even just a sprinkling of pink Himalayan sea salt for natural electrolytes.
And if you’re a serious sweaty betty like me (I sweat a lot, ok?), maybe invest in a yoga towel or some liquid chalk to stop yourself slipping out of downward dog.
If nothing else, a few minutes of Savasana is so beneficial.
Even on my most tired days, dragging myself to class was worth it for the deep relaxation at the end. I would sometimes leave the studio feeling almost drunk I was so relaxed, especially if the teacher included a little ‘yoga nidra’ action at the end (if you’re unfamiliar with ‘yoga nidra,’ it’s kind of life-changing and definitely worth checking out; more on this coming up on INSPIRE). Getting five minutes a day to just lay and completely switch off meant I left even the hardest classes feeling both peaceful and energised.
Yoga is a practice. So, practice!
One of my favourite classes from the 30 days was Wednesday Night Yoga at Triyoga Soho. The vibe of this class was playful and fun while still challenging. This is because after opening pranayama and a warm up, the teacher had us practicing poses at our own edge. We would spend more time than usual on each pose sequence (transitioning in, the pose itself and transitioning out) and then practice. Arm balances, inversions and more challenging yang postures all require extra energy to nail so instead of just doing sun salutations, try practicing a single pose you find particularly challenging. Who knows, maybe you’ll get it this time?
Slow your flow.
I am a culprit of flying through poses I don’t like or find challenging. Or even poses I feel like I’ve got down. But that’s not what yoga is about. Yoga is matching breath to movement. So if it takes you six seconds to exhale, it should take you just as long to lower into Chaturanga. That blew my mind. And if you’re thinking, flowing is strenuous, I breathe fast (as I was), then notice when your breath is picking up and take a break. It’s not a race. No one is going to judge you for taking a child’s pose (and if they do, you won’t be able to see then AND you’ll be too comfy to notice).
Leave everything on the mat, including your practice.
A yoga class is the opportunity to settle into your body and really experience your emotions…and then let them go! So, if you’ve had a bad day or just a bad class, leave it behind when you roll up your mat and emerge lighter in mind and heart.
If you’ve spent any time with me over the last 30 days, I’m sorry for all the yoga chat. It’s consumed my life and my mind, in the most positive way possible. Condensing my learning into one post is a challenge in itself but that’s a snapshot. Finishing the 30 days did not feel like running through the finish line of a race because I don’t want to stop. And I think that’s been the biggest takeaway: the more you do yoga, the more you want to do it.