6 Months of Daily Yoga

In august 2015 I started committing to a daily yoga practice. In this blog post I’ll tell you why I started doing this and if it has benefited me.

It all began when I started working as a mobile tester. I began to notice pain in my shoulders and neck muscles. This pain came on gradually and after a year it was getting too much. At one point, I could barely walk with a backpack on, the pain would strain down to my arm. I also couldn’t sleep sideways anymore, my shoulders just cramped. That was kind of insane and worrying, since I was training for a hiking holiday in Scotland. Also, I was only 28 years old at that point. Did I want a body that felt like an 80 year old?? Thanks, but no thanks.

I went to see a physical therapist and he helped me with tissue massages (painful as hell) and giving me exercises for strength and flexibility. It brought relief, but I felt this approach was too reactive. I don’t like going to the gym, but I do like getting stronger. All in all, I didn’t do the recommended exercises enough. The advice was to do them everyday, but in reality I did them twice a week.

I bought a different backpack with lots of hip support and managed to do the Scotland walking trail just fine. During that time, I also had a lot less pain, since I was moving my ass all day, in stead of sitting at a desk. When I started working again, I sort of felt things getting worse again.

If you looked at my posture during that time, it would have looked like the chicken neck posture. That ain’t pretty. Quasimodo in the making…A tip from my physical therapist is to hold your mobile phone in front of your face, so you don’t have to strain your neck and shoulders too much. I started doing that to relieve the pain. It did help, but it didn’t improve my posture.

That’s when I started thinking about doing yoga again. I did yoga on and off for a couple of years when I was studying, but only once a week. I liked it, it gave my mind some peace and quiet and it was also pretty challenging. When it comes to sport, I’ve always been more of a fan of the explosive kind of sports that rely on strength and speed. I’m good at sprinting, high jumping, that sort of thing. Yoga was therefore also pretty frustrating, since I’m about as flexible as a ruler.

With the mantra of “you’re as old as the flexibility of your spine” I started a 30 day yoga challenge. The one I followed was “30 days of yoga” by Yoga with Adriene. She’s a great teacher, very cheerful and down to earth about yoga. I wanted to complete this challenge and then evaluate what it did to my body and mind.

Well, at the beginning of the challenge, most of the yoga postures were very hard to do. Just sitting in sukhasana (cross legged position) was tough. People with little flexibility in the hips and lower back tend to slouch forward in this pose and their knees tend to fly upwards. Well, that was me to a T.

sukhasana

After a few days I noticed the following trend: the poses that relied on leanness in the hips and back were hard, poses that relied on strength in the legs, like lunges and warrior poses, were easier. But, what do you know, after 15 days I saw my knees sink lower in Sukhasana, I could do a happy baby pose without looking like a complete retard, I could put my feet almost to the ground in Downward Facing Dog (Adho mukha svanasana). In short: there was progress.

downward_facing_dog

In real life, there was also progress. The yoga practice had made me more aware during daily office life as well. I made an effort to sit up straight, move my shoulders and spine a lot and as a result, the pain in my shoulders en upper back decreased. My posture got better, bye Quasimodo!

You can’t imagine how happy I was to have found a sport (is yoga a sport?) that I could do with pleasure every day. It was always a drag for me to keep doing a sport regularly and suddenly that negative feeling was gone. I think that can only happen when the intrinsic motivation is right. Apparently, yoga is ‘it’ for me. Needless to say, after the 30 day challenge, I kept going, up to this day!

Of course, there are days when I can’t make the time for yoga, life happens. But in general, my rule of ‘do yoga everyday’ still stands. Is it awesome everyday? No. There are days when I’m thrilled and totally in the zone and there are days when I get angry. Hip opening postures are still very challenging for me. Yesterday we had to do a seated wide legged forward fold and I see Adriene do it like it’s easy and I can only open my legs a fraction of what she is able to do. I got so angry at my body at that moment! A lifetime of stiffness isn’t fixed in 6 months, but I’m determined. I even feel like I want to become a yoga teacher at some point.

I really see the yoga thing as something bigger, a way of life even. I also started doing meditation, which is even harder than yoga. I just like the lessons yoga has taught me in life, I feel more calm and kinder. I can really recommend Adriene as an online teacher; she’s doesn’t make yoga a spiritual thing (which can be a reaction from people when you tell them you do yoga “oh no, that’s way too spiritual for me”). She is somehow able to connect the physical side of yoga with a mindful side without resorting to ‘vague talk’. She’s legit.

To conclude: I think yoga is a very great tool to improve your life. I see it as a necessity for my body to survive the office work. We weren’t made for office work, to sit on our asses all day, so do something to prevent your body from locking up! I’m not saying you have to do yoga, but do some form of exercise that feels good to you. Working on your body will also bring benefits for you mind. You might not have any physical complaints now, but you want to be healthy when you’re older, right? Then the time to start working for that is now.

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