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“I Started a Regular Yoga Practice—Here’s What I Learned So Far”

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

I’ve always loved yoga as a form of exercise. It provides the perfect balance of relaxation and the opportunity to build physical strength. Whether I am feeling anxious and stressed out or looking to break a sweat, I constantly have turned to yoga, and I almost always utilize the free videos provided by yoga instructor Adriene Mishler via her YouTube channel Yoga With Adriene. The videos range in length from quick sessions under 10 minutes to hour long sessions, and they also cater to all experience levels, from a beginner to a regular yogi. I especially love her videos that are curated for specific things, such as Yoga for Neck and Shoulder Relief or Yoga for When You Are Feeling Scared

Every few months, Adriene creates a 30-day yoga journey, where she releases a new video each day. All of the videos in the program are designed to be accessible to all skill levels, and she provides modifications as well. I’ve done several of her journeys, such as one of her most recent ones, BREATH, and I have had a different experience with each one. With some journeys I’ve been able to move through all 30 days, while for others, I’ve struggled to stay on track and complete every day. At the times when I fell behind, I often gave up and ended my journey there. 

So when Adriene announced her newest 30-day journey, MOVE, I was admittedly a bit hesitant to join in on it. I wondered if I would be able to keep up with it and complete each day, or if I was in enough physical shape to take it on. However, what was interesting about this specific journey was how Adriene emphasized how practicing movement is not only beneficial for the physical body, but for the nervous system, the mind, and our connection to ourselves. She challenged those who wanted to join to choose to be disciplined, to arrive at the yoga mat each day and carve out that time for themselves, time which we all deserve. 

I realized then that I was discouraging myself before I even gave the journey a chance! It offered exactly what I wanted, and honestly needed: an opportunity to improve my physical and mental health, and my relationship with myself. Thus, I embarked on MOVE – a 30-day yoga journey; we have just passed the halfway mark as I write this, and I have learned so much about both yoga and myself so far. Below I share some of these insights so you can see how starting a regular yoga practice might benefit you too! 

Not every day will be easy—both on and off the mat.

Based on past journeys I’ve begun—and failed to finish—I knew going into MOVE that there was a possibility of missing days. Often when I try something like this and miss a day or two, I believe I’ve failed and screwed up any hope of completing it. After working on my mental health for a long while, I see now that a few days does not set me off track; I push myself off track by seeing those days as failing and giving up on continuing. 

So, with this journey, I was determined not only to practice every single day, but to also show myself compassion if I do miss a day. Inevitably, there was a day I was sick and did not feel up to doing yoga, so I missed that day’s practice. But instead of letting that one day trigger a downward spiral of my fear of failure, I turned it into an opportunity to trust myself: I promised myself that if I felt better the next day, that I would do both that day’s practice and the practice I missed. I am proud to say that I kept that promise! 

However, while I agree with Adriene that the hardest part is showing up to the mat, I also faced difficulty during some of the practices. There were some poses I nailed, and even entire practices I could do with ease, but there were also practices where I felt unmotivated and weak, or poses that I just couldn’t get down. At first, these moments really frustrated me. One time in particular, as if reading my mind, Adriene said to notice if any thoughts are coming up and if there is a common theme in them. My thoughts in that moment were centered on self-criticism, so as per her direction, I actively tried to guide my mind to a more compassionate place. Throughout practices after that, I was able to recognize when my thoughts began to drift towards negativity, and gently redirect myself back to the present and the positive. 

As Adriene often says: how you move matters. 

As I have been practicing for several weeks now to guide my mind to the present moment and positivity on the mat, this has begun to translate to more self-compassion for myself off the mat. I have begun to notice that when I do something such as make a mistake, which triggers critical thoughts to come up, I can more easily and quickly redirect my focus to a mindset of more patience, acceptance, or compassion. While it’s one thing to hear from Adriene how movement can be beneficial for both the mind and body, it’s another to actually see the benefits in your daily life. 

While I physically feel stronger and more flexible, I also feel stronger and more flexible mentally as well. I am less harsh to myself, and I can more easily notice and redirect my mind when I am being critical  I feel a greater appreciation for myself and the movement it allows me to perform, and this appreciation and respect allows me to have more grace and patience when plans go awry or things are constantly changing (looking at you pandemic). By moving with intention and from a place of love on the mat, I have naturally taken to moving similarly off the mat as well, which is something I am excited to see more of as we move through the second half of the journey. 

Daily movement is an invitation to move closer to yourself.

Beyond learning more about the practice of yoga itself, by committing to a daily and regular practice of yoga, I have gotten closer to myself and to understanding both my brain and body, too. For those working on self-love, understanding yourself better is a beautiful way to honor your needs and learn how to work with yourself, rather than against yourself. This then provides a strong foundation for working to a point of loving yourself. For instance, while practicing these past few weeks, I’ve learned that I can hold poses for longer than I think I can, what breathing techniques work well for me to truly relax, and I’ve found a mantra (courtesy of Adriene) that resonates with me: “my breath is my anchor, my anchor is my breath.” 

In addition to self-love, a daily practice of movement can also help with self-trust, something that I have been working on in the past year. By making a commitment to carve out time for yourself for the next 30 days, you are building trust by trusting yourself to show up each day and fulfill that commitment. This time you dedicate to yourself and practicing yoga is also a way to create a safe space for you to be yourself. While not everyone has access to a quiet or secluded area to practice in, for the time you are on the mat, you are designating all of your time and energy back into yourself by focusing on your breath, your movement, and the sensations you experience during the session. It’s a great way to reconnect with yourself in new and different ways! 

When in doubt, just FWFG!

If you’re considering starting to build a regular practice of movement, whether yoga, meditation, or exercising, I strongly encourage you to try! There are countless ways it could benefit your body, your mind, and the connection between the two. Showing up for yourself daily and dedicating time and energy to your well-being can have profound effects on love, trust, and exploration of self. There are many resources available to you, such as YouTube channels and videos, that can help you create a practice that works for you and your schedule. If you’re inspired by this article to try yoga in particular, then I invite you to join us for MOVE! In the wise words of Adriene, just “Find What Feels Good (FWFG)!”

Allyson is currently pursuing a Bachelor's degree at SUNY Oswego, and is a double major in English and Broadcasting with a minor in Spanish. She is the CC of her college's chapter of Her Campus, as well as the Secretary of the Women's Club Ice Hockey team. She hopes to one day become an author of fiction novels and collections of poetry. When she is not writing or on the ice she enjoys spending her time reading, hiking, and watching anime.
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