This post was originally written after I completed 60 consecutive days of yoga. It has been updated to reflect my thoughts now that I’ve practiced 365 days in a row.
Ever wondered about the impact that yoga can have on your mind, body, and spirit with regular practice? I’ve incorporated yoga into my routine for the last 365 days and I’m sharing what I learned.
I have never been someone who maintains a fitness routine. I’ve always started and stopped, started and stopped, until I would get frustrated with whatever I was doing and give it up altogether. A lot of this has to do with my chronic illness. Because my “good days” are so inconsistent and flare-ups happen so frequently, sticking with a workout regime has always felt impossible. In the past, I’ve picked up yoga here and there, but I’ve never stuck with it for any length of time. Until now!
It can be easy to say, “I’ll wait until the beginning of the year (or even month, or week) to work on that particular habit,” but it’s harder to choose to start something at random and stick with it long-term. I don’t utilize New Year resolutions and I’ve never really been one to set goals for myself outside of work or reading. Some time in the middle of January 2022, I found myself craving a good stretch. I turned to Yoga With Adriene, the only yoga channel I’ve ever really found that suits my style. She had begun a 30-day program at the beginning of the year and I decided to start it from the beginning – in the middle of the month! I thought that I’d push myself to show up every day and see what happens, not giving myself a chance to care that it wasn’t the start of a year/month/week. Now a full year later, I’m still practicing every day with no sign of stopping any time soon.
What does 365 consecutive days of yoga do for your mind, body, and spirit? It might sound totally cliché, but yoga really has changed my life! Here are six ways my life has improved by practicing yoga on a daily basis.
I’ve become stronger. In the first few days of practicing, I was struggling with simple poses and had zero core strength. Now, I’m able to lift myself into positions that I never thought were possible! Not only that, but my mind has become stronger as well. I don’t find myself being as negatively impacted by stressful things during my workday or personal life. Instead, I’m taking the opportunity to work on practicing strength in more ways than one. I’ve learned to view my chronic illness in a new light. Rather than letting it control the way my day goes, I can look at it and acknowledge the discomfort, but still find positive things to focus on instead.
I’ve become more flexible. Okay, so this one has a lot to do with the body. My mom always used to tell me I was “born without rubber bands.” I have never been flexible and I wondered how yoga would help me in that area. The first day I successfully wrapped my arms around my ankles in Uttanasana (standing forward fold), I was so excited. I can tell that it’s actually making an impact on my body as well because I’m not having nearly as much joint pain! Of course, this flexibility has permeated my life in other ways. In the past, I’ve found it very challenging to let go of my expectations – whether big or small. Yoga has stretched my mind and allowed me to process these things in a more practical way.
I’ve learned how to cry. Does that sound strange? Maybe, but it’s true. Crying and I have always had a bizarre relationship. On the one hand, I cry during hard things because that’s just the most natural thing for me. On the other hand, I felt like crying wasn’t allowed and that I should always “be tough.” I can’t count how many times I’ve cried during yoga. This isn’t always even because I’m sad or stressed. Sometimes it’s just because it’s a release! I consider my time on the mat to be a therapy of sorts. When I’m there, anything is acceptable: crying, sighing, laughing (and yes, even passing gas, because y’all, working those internal organs is amazing for someone with a gut disease). Now, I realize that crying can be so good for you, especially if you learn how to come back to the present after letting loose in that way. This really brings a brighter view to my day!
I continue to practice off the mat. Yoga brings a sense of awareness that no other style of fitness has ever brought. When I’m reading in bed during the evenings, I begin using Pranayama (yogic breathing) techniques – sometimes without fully acknowledging that I’m doing it – which has helped my stomach pain and begun to calm me during moments of high anxiety. When I’m sitting at my desk all day long, I’ve begun to be attentive to whether or not my head is aligned with my heart and pelvis. I often notice in the car that I will roll my shoulders up towards my ears and then away, bringing a subtle heart-opener to play. If I drop something and need to pick it up, I bend from the hips rather than the spine and forward fold. You get the gist – I’m practicing without even practicing.
I look forward to yoga. I’ve always dreaded other kinds of workouts. You will never see me signing up for HIIT routines, marathons, or even weight training. But yoga? Yoga is something I genuinely wake up excited about. I absolutely love greeting the morning with a good stretch and deep breathing. Other times, I’ll save it until the end of my workday. It’s stress relief for me, so the moment my laptop closes, the mat comes out and I’m ready to go. If I don’t have time for it then, I’ll wait until right before I begin winding down for bed (ex: yoga, skincare routine, tea, book, sleep). Some days, I push myself to work on strength, other days it’s flexibility, and sometimes I focus on breathing or mental clarity. All I know is that it’s something I can tailor to my body and my life, and it brings me constant joy!
I’ve noticed a change in my body – and my relationship with my body. Of course, a lot of us get into “working out” for the sake of seeing a noticeable difference in our physique. As someone with a past in disordered eating and body dysmorphia, fitness as a whole has always brought along concerning trains of thought. However, with yoga, while I am seeing baby abs begin to form and my arms are starting to tone, that’s not my primary focus any longer. Instead, I’ve seen so many other positive things in play that I’ve stopped craving the appearance changes, and instead, I’m celebrating the new things my body is capable of: digesting food better (something I obviously struggle with because of gastroparesis), the ability to self-heal when I get a back spasm or migraine, soothing breath that calms me even during hard moments, and the fact that my body does support me on a daily basis! Yoga has completely changed my life in so many wonderful ways.