What’s a yogi?
Womankind magazine is a brilliant, insightful magazine that holds positivity, culture and worldliness at its core, but one of my favourite aspects of the magazine is that for every issue they set a challenge. This challenge is posted on their website, and readers are encouraged to start the challenge and keep a daily diary of their experiences with it. In the subsequent print edition, you’ll find a selection of the diary entries that were sent in from readers who completed/attempted the challenge.
I love reading these and getting little snippets from people’s lives and how different each experience of the same challenge is. Since reading them, I thought I’d like to have a go. So I checked on the website to see what the next challenge would be: Yoga.
I didn’t go into it with the intention to send anything in, just to do it for myself and post it here (after the publication of the issue, of course). Besides, I checked a day late, and anyone doing the challenge would have already been a day into it. Nevertheless, I started the challenge straight after reading it, and kept a daily diary.
I’ve never done yoga before, but have heard a lot of people say how good it feels, and for someone with stiff-ish joints, it seems like something simple and calming that could help. I do an internet search for ‘yoga poses for beginners’ and end up on the site ‘Do You Yoga‘ where they have put together the top 10 yoga poses for beginners. I vow that during this challenge I will do the top 5. One a day, for 5 minutes. The first is Mountain Pose, and from the example photo, looks just like standing straight. I read the description and immediately want to do it. I don’t have a yoga mat, but I do have a bathroom mat. I read the ‘how to do it’ section again, and then do it. I concentrate hard on working the pose up through my body. I naturally close my eyes as I start to breathe deeply and hold the pose. My first time was the most uncomfortable one. When I took deep breaths, my chest would ‘pop’ slightly with each breath in, and other joints felt like they were being used against their will. I felt like an old house caught expanding on a sunny day. I repeated the pose a further 2 times, and the popping had stopped. I could breathe deeper, and I shook tension out of my body. It’s a really easy but effective pose, and to do it for 5 minutes in my day is not a huge ask.
Since my first attempt at the Mountain Pose yesterday, I’ve found my back ache has decreased significantly. I had to do some strenuous activity which would normally have left me aching and in pain, but because of the yoga, I had no problems. It was this which convinced me that sticking with this challenge would have a positive effect. Today I started my yoga session with 2 Mountain Poses, then I tried the Downward Facing Dog. My first attempt was slightly wrong, as I kept my head up and wasn’t stretching the top half of my body enough, but the second attempt was more successful, and I managed to hold the pose. I had been worried about being able to get into the poses easily, because I have little faith in my physicality, but immediately after finishing today’s session, I felt better about the capabilities of my body. I’ve not given it chance to stretch out to its full potential before, but now that I’m doing it, I can feel my bosy saying thank you. Mentally, I’m feeling positive about doing something active that I can do easily at home.
I didn’t manage to do any yoga today. I had to be up early for work, and by the time I got home and ate dinner, I just wanted to relax. I thought that I might do the third pose (Plank) before bed, but I found it very hard to stay awake. I’d already had a nap at around 20:45, and decided to just go to sleep rather than force myself to do the yoga pose. It would be better to do it and feel it, than to do it for the sake of doing it. My body was tired and worn out from working, and all it was asking me to do was sleep. I’ve decided instead that I’ll do 2 yoga poses on day four.
While waiting to run a bath, I decided to dedicate my 5 minutes to yoga. In that time I did 3 different poses: Plank, Triangle, and the trusty Mountain Pose which I like to do either at the beginning or end of a session because it makes my body feel so good. The advice on the website I’m using for the yoga poses suggests that Plank should be held for 8-10 breaths, which is a significant leap for me, from the 5-8 breaths that the other ones require. I found that I struggled being in the Plank position, and it was more difficult for me to breathe deeply. I think it had more to do with my physical body not being used to the position, but breathing that amount of times became uncomfortable, and I couldn’t hold the position for long enough. I pretty much collapsed on the floor back to all fours. I didn’t try it again, and instead moved to Triangle, which seemed an easier position on my body after the failed Plank. I managed Triangle with ease, albeit with my arm less vertical than the example on the website. Surprisingly I didn’t struggle with getting my legs into position, but looking up at my arm was a bit disorientating because of my vertigo, so although I held it for the 5-8 breaths, I did so with a small amount of imbalance. At this point, my 5 minutes were up, but I took an extra minute for the Mountain Pose and then ran my bath. My body is getting more used to this form of exercise, and I still have less back ache than I did before doing yoga, but I think I need to practice the more physically straining poses (like Downward Facing Dog and Plank) a bit more so they don’t seem daunting, and so I can hold them for long enough.
Between day four and five I have skipped a yoga session. So I didn’t do any yesterday simply because I was too busy and couldn’t find a decent slot. If I’d have wanted to, I could have done it in the morning, but if I’m being honest I wasn’t 100% feeling up to it, so I didn’t. Today (Tuesday) however, I’ve done my fifth session. The new pose was Tree. This is another standing pose, but it’s also one involving balance, as you have to stand on one leg, with the foot of your other leg resting against the thigh of the standing leg. With my balance problems I found it tricky to stand still, and at first to even get my foot up high enough on my inner thigh. One I had the pose, I managed to hold it for 8 breaths, then swapped legs. I was worse on my left side at holding the balance, and couldn’t hold it for as long. Tree is going to take some practice, but it’s a good one for seeing how my balance is doing, and might go some way to helping me improve it. I finished with a Mountain Pose again, but this time it was similar to my first time in that I had the ‘chest popping’ feeling again. So maybe my body is telling me that consistency is key, and that I should keep up this little daily routine of yoga. There are 5 more poses on the list I’ve been using, so they are the ones I will try. I’ve also been exploring options for yoga classes in my area, as it’s something I feel would suit me when I have practiced as much as I feel I need at home.
Find details of the Womankind Yoga Challenge here.