Hey guys! This month, I did a 21-day yoga challenge, and I’m excited to share what I’ve learned with all of you. I must admit, I had my reservations with this challenge, mostly because I had some preconceived notions about yoga, and I was convinced it wasn’t for me.
For this challenge, I did 10 to 15 minutes of yoga every day (mostly in the morning). Since I’m new to yoga, and I’m not familiar with many of the poses, I decided to follow YouTube videos as a guide. As I browsed through YouTube, I came across the 30-day morning yoga challenge by Yoga with Kassandra. This series of 10-minute morning yoga videos are beginner-friendly, and they’re great for starting your own yoga challenge at home!
After 21 days, I’m pleasantly surprised by how inclusive the practice of yoga truly is. In this blog post, I’ll be sharing my experiences with yoga as a beginner and busting some popular misconceptions about the practice. So let’s rewind back to the start.
Before I started the challenge, I wanted to speak with an expert to gain more insight into the practice of yoga. I approached well-being and yoga empowerment coach, Josialyn Martin for advice, and she so kindly answered my questions. Below is our interview transcript.
Interview with Yoga Coach, Josialyn Martin
V: Based on your experience, what are some of the benefits of yoga?
JM: There is so much to yoga than what we actually see. I’ll try to elaborate as much as I can.
Besides the physical benefits such as flexibility, strength, reduced pain, and muscle definition. I have learned to be flexible internally. I have seen a lot of changes mentally and emotionally. I have become less impatient, more mindful of my thoughts, actions, gained clarity, learned to be present, motivated, and live with intention.
Yoga comes in a set: the asana practice (physical posture), pranayama (breath work), and meditation.
Yoga has helped me tap into a flow state, a state where our brain slows down and moves into alpha state. This state is when we experience calmness, creativity, problem solving, healing, and manifestation as we unlock our greatest potential.
The most interesting part is that these changes in our brain can be controlled with just our breath, mind, and body. And it is 100% backed by science.
V: Do you consider yoga to be a physical, mental, or spiritual exercise?
JM: Yoga can be applied to every area of my life, so yes I consider it to be all of the above :)
V: What yoga poses/routines would you recommend for beginners?
JM: I actually enjoy Hatha yoga. So I would recommend Hatha yoga for beginners. However, it really depends on the individual. The beautiful thing about yoga is that it is so diverse that it has something for each individual. What I mean by this is that there are many types of yoga: Yin, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Bikram, and Hatha Yoga to name a few. You just need to find a class and teacher that you vibe with.
V: Is there an ideal time of day to practice yoga? Are there certain yoga poses that are best performed in the morning/evening?
JM: I wouldn’t say that there is a specific time to practice but yes, there are poses that are energetic and some are sleep inducing. For example: Surya Namaskar (sun salutation) and Chandra Namaskar (moon salutation).
V: If you could give one piece of advice to someone who’s new to yoga, what would it be?
JM: My biggest advice would be to let go of any expectations when you join a class. And know that everything takes time. Your 1st class will not be the same as your 20th class. So be patient, you will find something that you enjoy :)
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I would like to take this opportunity to thank Josialyn for taking the time to answer my questions and inspiring me to try yoga. Do follow her on Instagram (@josialynmartin) for awesome yoga lifestyle content.
Benefits of yoga
Josialyn is absolutely right! The benefits of yoga are indeed backed by science! According to John Hopkins Medicine, yoga offers various benefits:
Improves strength, balance, and flexibility
Okay, I can attest to this, partly at least. I probably have to practice yoga for a longer time to benefit from better balance and flexibility. But I can certainly say that yoga is quite a workout! Different poses target different muscles, and you leverage your body weight for poses such as downward-facing dog, plank, and cobra pose.
When I first started this challenge, my shoulders would ache after my practice (mostly because I rarely target and work those muscles). Over time, however, the aches subsided, and I was able practice with more ease, which I think is a sign that my shoulder muscles are slowly but surely strengthening.
Benefits heart health
Yoga can help to reduce stress and excess weight, both risk factors for heart disease. Even just 10 to 15 minutes of yoga in the morning gets me sweating and feeling more relaxed.
Increases your energy and improves your mood
Yes! This is something I can attest to even after just 21 days of practice. I’m usually not in a great mood in the morning. I often feel quite lethargic and unmotivated. Is it obvious that I’m not a morning person?
Since I started doing morning yoga, however, I can see a change in my energy. I guess it’s a combination of things here. I’m moving my body, focusing my (often wandering) attention on my breath and my intention for the day. As a result, I end up feeling more energized and pumped to start the day.
What I experienced from my practice
I noticed two primary changes after doing yoga:
Yoga helps to ease the stiffness and aches I often experience in the morning. It gives me a chance to stretch my muscles, move my body, and sweat it out first thing in the morning. As a result, my body feels relaxed and more comfortable.
I feel more focused and intentional. Instead of rushing from one thing to the next, I take my time to have breakfast, have a refreshing shower, and start my workday. Yoga provides a feeling of peace very similar to what I experience after meditation. Perhaps there’s a little magic attached to pausing and focusing inwards, even for a short period of time.
What I learned from this 21-day yoga challenge
This challenge has taught me a number of lessons, including:
Yoga truly is for every body.
I used to think that I had to be flexible to do yoga. Trust me, I’m probably the least flexible person you’ll come across, yet I enjoy my practice. Sure, some poses are more difficult than others, but as with most things in life, it gets better with time and practice.
“Be kind to yourself. You’re new to this and everyone’s body is different. Do what feels good for you,” has become my mantra over these 21 days.
There is power in moving your body and focusing on your breath.
I don’t know exactly why but here’s my theory – as a chronic overthinker and worrier, I know anxiety is not just in the mind. It can be physical too: biting your nails, sudden upset stomachs, rising heart rate.
With yoga, your body is focusing on doing the various poses while your mind is focusing on the breath. You are focused inwards and with body and mind occupied, you find moments of true peace. Away from noise, anxiety, self-doubt, and negativity. And that kind of peace tends to have spillover effects on the rest of your day.
I think this is key when you’re trying to build any new habit. In this challenge, I started with 10 to 15 minutes of yoga every day. I knew that too long a session, especially when I’m just starting out, would discourage me, and I’d fall off the bandwagon.
Ten minutes isn’t too long and knowing that makes it easier for me to get on the mat every morning. Over time, you can gradually increase your duration.
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If you’ve been thinking of trying yoga, I hope this post inspires you to go for it! There’s no right or wrong here; start with however long you feel comfortable with and do what your body allows. Don’t beat yourself up for not being able to replicate poses to a tee. We’ll get there in our own time. For now, be kind to your body and focus on your breath. Remember, there’s a little magic there!
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