In the past I had tried a little yoga on ‘non-workout’ days. I used some YouTube videos and a book which guides you through some yoga poses. At this time I still thought of yoga very much as ‘just stretching’ and not something that pushed your body. I hadn’t really engaged with the mindful side of yoga either.
A few months later I thought I’d give yoga another go. I tried another YouTube platform that had been recommended to be, but that didn’t really suit me either.
I thought I’d go for a 30-day yoga challenge. Something to keep me committed and see any progress.
From day 1 I could feel a difference. I felt so rejuvenated. By day 2 I could already feel the mental health benefits. I was calm, mindful and my body felt like it was thanking me for moving in a way it was built to.
It didn’t take long for me to see progression, another thing that I think really helps keep people hooked, like seeing the weight you lift go up in strength training. I was able to control my body in a more mindful way and I felt so peaceful after every practice.
I have been using the Calm app for some time and mindfulness has become a routine for me. This said I find I am most mindful when practicing yoga. There’s a real sense of calm and being present in the moment – focussing only on my body and how it is feeling, moving and interacting with the environment. I think of yoga as an active form of mindfulness. I experience the joy of movement but in a way that calms my body and I’m at peace with it, rather than putting it through its paces with high impact training. It’s mindfulness through movement.
Anyone who has followed me on Instagram will know I exercise outside as much as possible, it’s getting a bit darker in the mornings and cooler but I’m still at it at the moment. I’ve had some awesome moments holding poses and postures whilst swallows fly above with gorgeous cloud formations whilst I am focussing on my breathing and my movement – that for me is peace.
I still enjoy having a few of HIT sessions a week. Adding in yoga has given me more body awareness and strength. I feel yoga enables you to engage your muscles in a way that feels natural and lacks the high impact of HIT.
Also, HIT training raises cortisol. If you’re living a life with minimal exertion and stress doing many HIT sessions a week might be great for you. However, if you’re a busy bee this isn’t the best form of exercise to do every time you workout. Adding in yoga helped me find a balance I needed, I now don’t feel a workout doesn’t ‘count’ if I haven’t been jumping up and down doing plyometrics or lifting weights. Yoga has taught me the importance of listening to your body.
So, my advice? Find a platform that works for you. This could be in a local yoga studio, a class at a gym, or at home with YouTube – there are many different styles of yoga and teaching, so explore!
For reference, the 30 day programme that got me hooked was Tim Senesi’s Body Mind Spirit 30 day yoga challenge. Since then I’ve really enjoyed Shona Vertue’s YouTube channel and she has some great workouts incorporating HIT, targeted muscle work and yoga – I feel so great after one of her workouts!
What is also important for full enjoyment is to find the style of yoga which best suits you. Here are a few of the common types of yoga:
Ultimately this is the physical practice of yoga. It tends to be a slower moving form of yoga, holding each pose for several breaths. Hatha yoga classes tend to be on the gentler side of the options available in yoga studios/gyms.
This is a more dynamic practice, where poses flow from one to another linked with the breath. Because of this faster pace it tends to be slightly more exertional form of yoga than Hatha.
This is a form of Hatha Yoga, it’s high-precision where each pose is held for a while, focussing on alignment of the posture and breath control. Yoga props such as blocks and straps are often used to help perform the postures correctly and make this form of yoga more accessible.
This form of yoga involves a specific sequence of postures that you work through in a precise order. You synchronise your breath to the movement with the aim of generating internal heat. This might not be the best form of yoga if you like variety in your practice.
Bikram yoga is performed in a heated room. Formal Bikram sessions are 90-minutes long where you practice the same series of poses and breathing exercises. ‘Hot Yoga’ is less formal, where the posture sequence is less defined.
In Yin yoga you hold each pose for several minutes in a slower moving, meditative practice. It is aimed at restoring length and elasticity to the deep fascia, as well as a sense of calm and balance.
This is another form of slower yoga, where poses can be held for many minutes. It is similar to yin yoga, but there is a greater focus on relaxing compared to increased flexibility.
If you can, try a few different styles, at different yoga studios/gyms or online, and see which resonates with you the most.
All in all I am a converted yogi! I love it! It has made me so much more body aware, and I feel so strong and subtle simultaneously. It also brings me peace. My mindfulness journey started on an app, but now I can honestly say I feel most mindful when practicing yoga.
Give it a go and see if it’s for you!