For the last four years I have started each January by doing a 30 Day Yoga challenge. There’s just something about the start of the new year that gets me motivated to try new things and incorporate movement into my everyday routine.
While I have been no stranger to the art and practice of yoga, my relationship with my own daily practice has blossomed this year like never before. I rediscovered a love for yoga in January and, as cliche as it might sound, I’d say that it has changed my life in so many ways for the better.
Nice to Meet You, Yoga!
I first dipped my toes into the world of yoga when I was about 18 years-old. I had just finished my first year of college and was feeling weighed down by some unhealthy habits that I picked up while living on campus. I was feeling frustrated in my own body and was not happy with the way I felt — overweight, sluggish, and stuck. I knew I needed to make some changes in my diet and my relationship with exercise.
So, that summer I started doing at-home pilates regularly and I threw in a couple of yoga poses here and there. I had recently switched to a vegetarian diet and was enjoying those changes in my food choices as well.
At that point in my life, I was still trying to discover who I was (who am I kidding, I still am!) and I liked the whole idea and vibe of living a more down-to-earth hippie/hipster lifestyle.
I think in a sense I was trying to fit myself into this stereotypical white washed version of a more healthful lifestyle. In my head I wanted to be like these happy, care-free people I saw online or around campus that seemed to be into healthy eating and doing yoga outside on a regular basis.
While I did find that I genuinely enjoyed yoga and being vegetarian, I think I was really trying to jump into something that made me stand out a little bit. Growing up with four other siblings, this is something I constantly found myself striving for, something that only I was good at or interested in, something to call my very own.
Anyway, that was 2012. My interest in yoga didn’t go any further than getting a yoga mat and doing a few stretches on it. It wasn’t until 2016 that I really picked up my yoga mat again.
It’s Not About the Shape
By the beginning of 2016 I had finished college and earned my undergraduate degree, I was working my first part-time job in my field of journalism for a local magazine as the editorial assistant for a short stint of a couple months, and I was also deep into planning my wedding which would be taking place at the end of May.
Since I was done with school and had more free time on my hands, I really wanted to put some healthy exercise habits into place so that I could be strong, fit, and healthy by the time my wedding rolled around.
In March I came across a week long yoga challenge that my local yoga studio was holding. The challenge consisted of posting a picture of yourself doing the yoga pose of the day on your instagram account and tagging all of the sponsors for the challenge. The winner would win a couple of passes for free yoga classes at the studio and a gift card to a local taco food truck.
I thought this sounded like fun and knew it would help me jump back into yoga.
I ended up winning that Instagram contest and that further motivated me to continue practicing yoga.
I found myself looking forward to doing the daily yoga poses and finding just the right location to take a photo. I was surprised at how well my body was able to fold into these shapes. Granted, these were easy poses for beginners, but I was feeling motivated to try and stretch myself into more challenging shapes. I remember the first time I did a tripod egg inversion, I got such a rush of excitement.
The two months leading up to my wedding day I practiced yoga frequently in my bedroom in my grandmother’s basement where I lived at the time. I didn’t have a fancy space set up and I really wasn’t doing any flows or yoga videos. What yoga looked like for me then was rolling out my mat in a little corner of my room, in front of my cheap floor length mirror, and twisting my body into certain shapes that I wanted to get “good at doing”. The tv would be on the in the background as I practiced posing in these shapes. There was no mindfulness involved and I really wasn’t feeling more connected to my body.
Fast forward a few months to after my wedding and moving to a new city with my husband. I didn’t really do anything yoga related until the month of August.
I came across an instagram account called “DoYouYoga” where they would post monthly yoga challenges. These challenges were very similar to that first one I did back in March, where you have a certain pose for the day and you post a picture of yourself in that pose.
I quickly jumped into a few of these challenges toward the end of 2016 and really enjoyed participating. While I liked the challenge of trying to get my body into certain postures, it sometimes felt forced, like my body wasn’t really ready for it. There was no gradually stretching my body, building strength, or learning the foundations of the pose. I wanted to rush into being a yogi, without actually taking the time put the work in and cultivate my own daily practice.
My First Yoga Class
In 2017 I started to get more comfortable and familiar with our city and knew that I wanted to go to my first yoga class at my local yoga studio. I kept putting it off because going new places by myself always makes me nervous, but I didn’t really have any close friends at the time to ask to accompany me. But I had a feeling that it would be a freeing experience to go to my very first class solo.
This was kind of the extent of my experience with yoga for a couple years. In all honesty, I loved the idea of being a yogi and carving out daily time for it. But my relationship with yoga never went deeper than the photos I posted on Instagram.
I went on to take a few yoga classes that spring/summer. There was one time I went with a friend who invited me to a yoga class that was held at the rock climbing gym she was a part of. We went on the evening of that Summer Solstice and it was a beautiful evening. While I enjoyed flying solo to most of the classes I took, it felt great to have a friend who was also interested in yoga and willing to go with me.
It became clear to me after those classes that there was something much deeper to be found in yoga than simply contorting my body into cool postures. These regular goers of the yoga studio seemed to have a deeper knowing about them, a wise intelligence, and they seemed to be at peace and so connected to their bodies. I knew that I hadn’t found that side of yoga yet, and didn’t know if I had the time or dedication within me to go looking for it then.
Find What Feels Good
Throughout the remainder of 2017 I did a few more yoga challenges. But it wasn’t until January of 2018 that I discovered the Yoga With Adriene community. At that point I think I had heard of Adriene Mishler and had probably even done a couple of her yoga videos when I searched for yoga videos on YouTube, but I had never heard of her 30 Day Yoga Journeys that she does every January.
So, in January of 2018 I decided to join in on the True 30 Day Yoga Journey with Adriene and thousands of others around the world. It felt like a big commitment, especially because I had just found out I was pregnant a couple of weeks prior, but I was determined to see it through.
There were definitely some mornings where I had to begrudgingly drag myself out of bed to do my yoga practice before work, and there were some days where the early pregnancy nausea and fatigue had me wanting to nap on the couch instead of getting on the mat and moving my body, but I did the 30 days and was proud of myself for showing up.
I wish I could say that after that month I was hooked and started consistently practicing yoga, but that wasn’t the case at all. For the next couple of years I went on to do those 30 Day Yoga challenges in January, and then simply let my practice fall by the wayside and let my yoga mat sit in the corner collecting dust.
It wasn’t until January of this year, 2021, that I felt a huge shift in my perspective and my desire to search for healing in many areas of my life. One way I have found healing is in how I move and take care of my body. I spent a lot of time at the gym last year, essentially physically and mentally beating myself into shape, and I knew I couldn’t keep doing that to myself.
I plan on writing a separate blog post about my yoga experience this year soon. But I really felt like sharing my beginnings with yoga and how far I’ve come! I know this is a long post, so if you’ve made it this far I just want to say thank you for being here. Namaste!