Have you ever felt so blue, so uninspired, so empty that you could barely function? I sure have. COVID-19 truly took a toll on my mental health, and there was a time where I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t think straight, and simply felt that there was nothing in life to look forward to. I felt that there was only everything to dread; each day was simply a new burden to add to the mountain of worries I was already carrying on my back.
During the early days of the lockdown, my days were marked with anxiety — my mind swirling with negative thoughts, my back and shoulders filled with knots, my stomach crazy with nervous energy. Eventually, I realised I had to do something about it before all that negativity took over me.
Yoga as a remedy during trying times
Over the years, I looked to yoga for a lot of my need. In fact, a YouTube video entitled Yoga for Anxiety and Stress has been one I’ve turned to time and again. And when my friend recommended a 30-day yoga challenge, it felt like that the perfect remedy for my pandemic-induced woes had fallen from the sky.
A 30-day yoga journey sounded like just what I needed to get through this difficult time. It would provide me a goal, something to look forward to — and of course, some much-needed endorphins. I’d be able to reap all of its benefits on my physical and mental health, too. So, I quickly hopped on my mat and got started — and I haven’t looked back since.
Thinking of taking on this challenge? Keep reading as I share my experience, and how integrating yoga into my daily routine has changed me for the better, especially during this pandemic.
The 30-day yoga challenge: How to get started
I was so pleased to find that this 30-day yoga journey was hosted by my all-time favourite yoga channel on YouTube, Yoga with Adriene. Entitled 30 Days of Yoga, this free playlist consists of a different video for every day of the month — so no two days are ever the same.
Alternatively, the channel has several 30-day yoga challenges for you to choose from, so you can definitely find one that fits your needs! 30 Days of Yoga, in particular, is a great choice for beginners. Plus, the channel also has several videos on the foundations of yoga to aid your practise — so you can spend some extra time getting acquainted with the basics, from your downward facing dog to your savasana or corpse pose (a resting pose that requires you to lie down flat on your back and relax — my personal favourite).
Note that you can certainly work at your own pace, so there’s no pressure to complete the challenge over exactly 30 days. Feel free to take your time, even if it means having to take a few rest days.
What you’ll need
If you’re new to yoga, know that contrary to popular belief, you don’t need the fanciest yoga mat, the most stylish workout clothes, or the most expensive equipment. All you’ll need is a yoga mat (if you don’t have one, a flat surface will do — just make sure it’s clean and have a towel handy!) and some comfy clothes you can easily move in.
You might notice that a lot of yogis usually have yoga blocks handy. But fret not, because even a sturdy book will do! Basically, this will bring the ground up to you when you need a little help — whether it’s to open up tight hips when seated, or when you’re trying to rest your fingertips on the ground. Additionally, a towel or a blanket can also be nice to rest your sit bones on. This can also help if your elbows or knees are on the sensitive side!
Learnings and takeaways from completing 30 days of yoga
Unsurprisingly, there were days when practising for the day simply felt like something waiting to be checked off my to-do list. On others (most days, thankfully), it’s what got me out of bed or inspired me to get work done. Regardless, every day felt like an achievement — each day, I was one step closer to accomplishing a goal. Eventually, I even came up with more little goals along the way. Just knowing that I was working towards something made my days feel brighter.
There were so many things I gleaned from this month’s journey, as it’s impacted so many facets of my life. Allow me to share some of my greatest takeaways with you:
Your personal yoga journey is called a ‘practise’ for a reason
I’ve always wondered why this seemed to be the lingo for yogis. On my 30 day yoga journey, I finally understood. Every individual has a different starting point, a different level of progress. We’re all working on something different every day, always working towards becoming the best versions of ourselves. So we don’t do yoga — we practise it. Isn’t that beautiful?
Yoga is for everyone, even if you might not think so
It’s easy to be intimidated by yoga, with its fancy Sanskrit terms and complicated poses. Some will immediately say they’re not flexible enough, not strong enough. But this is the furthest thing from true — there are always options for everyone.
So no, you don’t have to be able to touch your toes from day one. You can bend your knees as generously as you need to; you can always come back to your favourite resting pose when you’re tired.
Listen to your body & find what feels good
In line with my previous point, each and every body is different. This being said, don’t pressure yourself to get into the most complicated versions of every pose — especially if it doesn’t feel right. Pay attention to how you’re feeling and find what feels good for you. After all, you’re the one who’ll be reaping the benefits of your practise!
Any and all progress is worth celebrating
There were so many baby steps that I proudly considered progress during my 30-day yoga journey. Slowly, getting out of bed got easier. At night, I would no longer dread the dawn of another sombre day; instead, I looked forward to tomorrow’s learnings — about yoga and about myself. That, ultimately, was what I am most grateful for.
During a 30-day yoga challenge, simply getting there and rolling your mat for the day is something worth celebrating. Along the way, you’ll notice more things — maybe your feet are finally inching closer to the ground during your downward dog. Maybe you’re getting better at syncing your breath with your movement. Or, maybe you’ve improved on practicing mindfulness and living in the moment during your practise.
Be kind to yourself & do away with self-destructive thoughts
Whenever we come to the mat, we try to make it a point to leave our to-do lists, our worries, and other thoughts behind. In the middle of our practise, new thoughts come our way, too. A lot of them are usually along the lines of “This is so hard”, or “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do this”. Those are exactly the thoughts we should be doing away with.
The key isn’t repressing them. One of the things I learned was that we should acknowledge our thoughts, then let them go. But we should never let them get in the way of self-improvement. Instead, we should approach challenges with a positive attitude — because just trying something scary and new is definitely worth being proud of!
Don’t be afraid to try something new
During the 30-day yoga challenge, I decided to take up learning the famous crow pose (pictured above). With not much core or upper body strength, I thought, “Who do I think I am trying this?”
The first time, I couldn’t even hold my body up for a second! But as I cherished each and every moment of my practise, and gave myself credit for even the smallest improvement, I eventually ended my 30th day with my longest crow pose hold ever. (A whopping six seconds, which isn’t much, but I’m more than happy about it! I started from zero, after all!)
So yes, it wasn’t just about the physical benefits — what I loved best about my 30-day yoga journey was finding mental and emotional nourishment and being reminded to take care of myself. I am immensely proud of myself for climbing out of that dark hole I found myself in, and I’m more than happy to try and spread this light with everyone in my path.
Whether or not you happen to be interested in taking up 30 Days of Yoga, I hope you find the perfect way to give yourself the love you deserve during this difficult time. As for me, I’m starting on another 30-day yoga challenge. Wish me luck!