Week 26: 30 Days of Yoga Challenge

Okay, everybody, I have finally done it: I morphed into the stereotype of the treehugging hippie! Although I don’t consider myself hippie, and I only really hug trees on special occasions, I can now shamelessly confirm: I’ve started doing Yoga!

Oh yes, that stuff where you get into the most body-tangling poses that make you look like a snake-person and hopefully brings you enlightenment. After all the Zero Waste-focused posts, I found this a quite nice new approach to un-fucking up this world.

Why did I start doing Yoga? It’s a long story, but let me make it as brief as I can. To be brief, I wanted to get into mediation, but I’m a notoriously un-balanced and restless person, and after a few failed attempts, I found Yoga is like meditation, but you’re too busy trying to hold the pose to get restless!

So, why did I want to get into meditation, then!?

Based on my personal experience, I found people around us and in our wider society have lost more and more a sense of purpose and direction. We’ve become so fast-paced, that a lot of times, we only react to all the things that impact on us. When really, we should live our live consciously and proactively, creating opportunities instead of rushing from one possibility to the other and hoping the opportunity might arise somewhere.

We now think the quicker we get something done, the more we can do, and the more we get done, the more time we have in the end for ourselves. That’s simply untrue. When we get things done, we don’t stop to reflect. We immediately find something else that ‘needs do be done’. Our lives seem to just rush from one to-do list to the next, from one assignment to the next, from one appointment to the next. If we find some spare time, we desperately feel the need to stuff it with something new. Voilà, another commitment is born that ‘needs to be done’.

We need to stop. Now. And breathe.

I could ramble now about the power of just breathing. Yes, I’m not joking, breathing exercise can heal illness! (It’s scientifically proven!) I encourage you to google about the healing powers of breath (and then please don’t forget to return and read the rest of this post!). Or follow one of my resources at the bottom of this article, for the lazy readers 😉

I’m a person who usually takes a long time to form a habit, so I’m not sure how long I will keep up my practice. I’ve committed to a 30-day challenge from a quite popular YouTube channel called Yoga with Adriene. She’s probably not everybody’s cup of tea, but I found her instructions easy to follow which is great for me as absolute beginner.

I actually discovered my unknown fondness of YouTube tutorials, as I can choose to practice at a time that suits me, and pause or rewind any time I fancy. And it’s absolutely free, of course. The downside is that you don’t have a chance to socialise (unless you count conversations with my boyfriend as socialising), and it’s a lot easier to give up as there is no financial commitment. Nonetheless, I’ve done the challenge for 10 days now and I can’t see myself stopping just yet (I’m only at the Day 8 video, though. Which means I skipped twice. You got me 😉 ).

Apart from my goal to find an exercise which doesn’t make me feel like a full-douche (I’ve never been keen to do press-ups and stuff) and potentially satisfy my desire to practice conscious breathing without having to sit still 10 full minutes (Tick. And tick.), what surprised me the most is that it’s actually very hard work! As in, it’s actual, genuine exercise and not just holding a pose. It’s a very holistic way to strengthen all your muscles at the same time, as well as relaxing your body and calming your mind through controlled breathing. It does so many things at the same time, I’m surprised I can actually do it (I’m not great at multitasking).

There is, of course, harder and easier variations of poses, which makes it very suitable for all types of fitness. The YouTube-do-it-at-home-bonus is that nobody will see if you just drop yourself to the ground and decide to take a break for a minute.

I will stop rambling now and would like to encourage you to remember this post next time you want to rush around like a headless chicken and consider going online and doing just 10 minutes of any mindful exercise. Meditation, guided meditation, qi gong or maybe yoga. It might make you feel more relaxed, it might mean nothing to you, or you’re just unsure what the actual point is, but rest assured that you did your body and mind a great favour and gave yourself a chance to stop and breathe.

I will stop now as I actually have to go and do my yoga for today 😉 Namaste!

PS: I’ve done my homework (for a change) and would like to encourage you to further read about the healing effects of breathing and Yogic breathing specifically. Note that this was only a brief online research by me, and I’d love to hear from you if you have any further resources. Here’s two studies and two articles for you:

Study 1: Rhythmic breathing: immunological, biochemical, and physiological effects on health

  • This study finds evidence that breathing exercise can help with depression, anxiety, hypertension, post-traumatic stress disorder, lower cholesterol, and might even contribute to cure cancer.

Study 2: Physiological and Therapeutic Effects of Pranayama and Yogic Breathing In Health and Disease: A Focused Update

  • I cannot find the whole article online, but in the abstract it reads: “… From the reviewed evidence, it is recommended that Pranayama [i.e. Yoga breathing] is effective in treatment of most disease conditions and could thus be a viable and affordable treatment option for both patients with diseases and for normal individuals towards health promotion and fitness. However, future large scale population-based pragmatic clinical trials are needed to provide strong recommendations on its effectiveness.”

Article 1: Meditating Away Pain

  • Talking about pain relief through meditation and citing various studies

Article 2: Yogic Breathing: The Physiology of Pranayama

  • A Huffington Post analysis on the effects of Yoga, also citing a few studies.
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13 thoughts on “Week 26: 30 Days of Yoga Challenge

  1. Rach says:

    I can vouch for the fact that we all need to slow down a bit! I’ve always wanted to try yoga but always found it a bit daunting to get started. Lately I have been trying to get into meditation, and while I haven’t made the habit stick yet I do find it’s a good way to stop and step back from the rush of getting things done.

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    • Annika says:

      Agreed! We should all keep in mind how much of an impact on our body stress and anxiety can have. My boyfriend got physically ill because of stress, which was a lesson for me, too. I still take on too much for myself, but at least I try to balance it now rather than juggle! If you want to get into meditation, ‘Headspaces’ (also on YouTube) is supposed to be a good starting point.

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      • Rach says:

        Thanks for the suggestion.
        Yeah I’m also very aware of the negative impacts of stress on health, including long term illness – although I have come across research showing that stress is more likely to cause negative physical effects if you believe that stress is negative, whereas viewing stress as a helpful tool or indicator makes it less likely to cause health problems. Seems a bit of a catch 22!

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      • Annika says:

        True, but positive stress can very quickly change to negative, which I experience all of the time. One day I feel like there is so much opportunity in the things I do, the next day I wonder how I will be able to cope. It’s that problem with learning to balance instead of trying to juggle. A lot of that is also in the mind (as with almost everything), and learning to appreciate the positive side of the situation is equally crucial for happiness as learning to chill out from time to time. I think it all depends on learning to take a break and observe your situation rather than jumping from one to-do to the next, and being able to see when it gets too much. But who am I to give advice here; I’m the most headless chicken in the whole flock at times!! 😉

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      • Rach says:

        Sounds like good advice to me – We need to learn to make use of the energy provided by (good) stress but remember to take restful breaks instead of letting it turn into bad stress!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Annika says:

      Thanks! I think even a mindful minute every now and again can be a great improvement to prevent stress and worry. Let me know if you pick it up again 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. emeraldfootprint says:

    I completely agree with your thoughts about how face paced everything is. I’ve found yoga great for calming me and I use a subscription online yoga app so I can practice whenever I like. I haven’t managed to do a 30 day challenge yet but it’s definitely on my list. Good luck with it!
    I think yoga complements the zerowaste life very well but I’ve been trying to come up with the right word to describe zerowaste and the mix of complementary lifestyle approaches. Some people might say slow living, what do you think?

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    • Annika says:

      I’ve heard the term simple living a lot, obviously mainly with minimalism, but I think it still fits. Of course, a lot of times zero waste can be less than simple, but isn’t it our ultimate goal? (And, of course, to leave as little trace as possible on this planet when we go). Having said that, I’m a person who likes to reject labels where I can. It’s too easy to reduce people to a stereotype when you can stick a label on them and file them away in your mind. Saying you do slow living souns befitting, but to everybody it means something slighty different, so I like to be careful with that. I think it’s weird and awesome how everyone’s lifestyle is so different, even though (and especially when!) they define themselves with the same words 😉

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  3. allroundbetterme says:

    I started that 30 day challenge once… Made it to day 4… Then missed a couple days and tried to restart… But only made it a few more before I abandoned it again… Maybe it’s time to revisit it. I think summer busy-ness was my issue… Good luck!

    Like

    • Annika says:

      Thanks! It helps me a lot that I do it late in the evening. Instead of hanging on Facebook or YouTube until I’m too tired, when it comes to say 10pm, I’m like ok let’s just do this. However I might feel just then, I just do it. It’s good to have a set time, it could just as well be morning (but then I’d probably not get out of bed in time! ) 😀 Good luck to you, and if you skip a few days, that’s no failure at all, that’s life, just keep going!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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