If any of you have spent any time browsing YouTube for workout videos, you’ve probably come across Yoga With Adriene. With more than 4.5 million subscribers, Adriene’s channel is nothing if not successful; throughout the year she uploads free yoga practice videos suitable for anyone, from beginners to those who’ve been doing yoga for years.
I myself first stumbled upon her videos back in my first year of university, so around two years ago now. I’ll admit – I’ve not been consistent in my practice. University living generally doesn’t come with a lot of floor space, so I’d take my opportunities where I could. This year though, I have just enough floor space for me and my yoga mat to fit in my bedroom, so I thought I’d take advantage.
Adriene’s 30 Day Yoga Journey (not challenge) is something of an annual event; every January she releases a video per day, all aimed towards finding what feels best for you and your body.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m hypermobile – I’ve probably spent about half of my life injured at this point in some way or another, so fitness has always been a bit of an uphill battle. I’ve seen various physiotherapists who have liked to inform me that my hamstrings in particular are very short for someone my height, so that’s fun. So what I’ve always wanted to know was, if I were to follow a regular yoga routine (which, of course, involves a lot of stretching and muscle control), would any of this improve?
Day 1: Discern
The hardest thing about doing anything like this is getting started. Day one happened to take place on the same day I was travelling back to university after Christmas, which involved a lot of luggage, a car, a train, the tube, another train, and a taxi over the course of about six hours. Then came the unpacking, the food shopping, and the general tidying. So it’s safe to say I wasn’t feeling it when, at about half ten at night, I decided to lay out my yoga mat.
The good news? When the 50-minute session was finally over, I felt a great sense of triumph.
Days 2 & 3: Foundation & Observe
I decided I’d try doing the sessions in the morning, before my day had started, and see how that felt. And honestly, it felt good. I struggle with dark winter mornings, but Adriene’s videos are always soothing to the soul. It was nice to wake up, crawl onto the yoga mat, and just gently wake up my body.
Day 4: Feel
When day four rolled around, I thought I’d save it for the evening again – only a 20 minute practice this time, it was a floor session focusing on the shoulders, spine, and – wait for it – the hamstrings. And yep, mine are still very tight! But the session went well, it relaxed my spine somewhat (another thing that’s been very tense lately), and again, I felt better afterwards. Could this be the key to a happier body?
Day 6: Core
Day 6 was a day I coincidentally found out what has been going on with my ribs recently, and it turned out to be inflamed cartilage. But I figured that as Adriene’s yoga practices haven’t made my ribs feel painful at any time, it should be fine to continue. Plus I’d heard that yoga can help with inflammation, which is definitely something my body could do with!
Days 8 & 9: Meditate & Divine
I ended up doing days eight and nine on the same day – day nine. I spent actual day eight in a lot of pain with my ribs, which probably wouldn’t have been too much of an issue as the Meditate session was very gentle, but I felt like I’d be better off with my hot water bottle and working on my deadline. As Adriene says, it’s about finding what feels good.
I woke up feeling much better on day nine, so did day eight’s practice in the morning, and day nine’s in the evening. The day nine practice was definitely more strength-based, but I noticed my heels in downward dog were suddenly a lot closer to the ground (though not quite there yet), and my arms were shaking less on the planks. I even managed all the push ups! Bent knees, but still…
Day 15: Reveal
It’s been a while since I checked in, so I thought the half-way point would be a good place to do so. Today’s practise, ‘reveal’, was a short 17 minute practice in which Adriene remarked that if you keep consistent with yoga, its magic will reveal itself to you. And weirdly enough, I have noticed changes – in the way I hold myself, in the way I move, even in the way I breathe. Every now and again during the day I’ll find myself just taking a few deep breaths, or adjusting my posture to one better for my body. All without conscious effort.
Day 18: Love
In the interests of honesty, I have no idea what happened with this practice – I don’t think it was the practice itself, but my body just was not feeling it. Maybe because I didn’t eat much the day before? Who knows. I struggled through the video just to say I’d done it. But I’m over half-way now, so I’m not giving up.
Day 20: Lead
Two days later and my day eighteen hiccup turned out to be just that – a hiccup. Today’s practice came with the pleasing revelation that I can, for the first time in my life (I’m 21), bend over and touch my toes! Normally, the furthest I get is just past my knees, or maybe somewhere around mid-calf. Not anymore…
Day 30: Liberate
My main thought at this point was something along the lines of “I’ve done it!”. 30 days of yoga, completed in (I’ll be honest) 31 days. That’s not too bad going, right? The final session was unguided, with the option to either follow Adriene or to do your own thing, and it was surprising to me to find that even without her speaking, her guidance still sounded in my head, a friendly voice of support.
So what did I think overall?
Well, the biggest things to note are probably the physical changes in my body. My wrists (previously notoriously weak) are much stronger. My hamstrings are looser. I can touch my toes, and I can do some push ups. My thighs are stronger. I don’t want to blanket state that my balance (also notoriously terrible) is loads better, because that does differ day to day, but I would say there is more control there now.
Mentally, I’d say it’s refreshing. This month hasn’t been hugely stressful anyway, but it has been an enjoyable space to wander off by myself and bring my attention back to the basics. It’s funny, because I let some friends know I was doing the month journey and one of them said “oh, I forget you do yoga.” I agreed – I usually forgot too. But now, we’re in February, and Adriene releases monthly calendars of video suggestions day by day, and I’m planning to continue the practice. Maybe not everyday, though I will if I can.
So is it worth the time? I’d say so.