“I kept doing yoga after a 30-day challenge – here’s why you should try one”

It’s all very well undertaking a fitness challenge (whether that’s working towards doing 20 burpees in a row, or running a half marathon), but if you don’t keep it up afterwards, it’s a bit of waste of time. But when writer Lexi Earl committed to 30 days of yoga, she found it was enough to form a permanent habit. 

In January 2021, I finally completed Yoga with Adriene’s 30 days of yoga challenge. After several years of starting the challenge and then giving up after a few days or weeks, I stayed the course and finished the programme. It felt so satisfying to have committed to and finished something physical.

I gave birth the August before and I thought the pregnancy had gone well – everyone kept saying how well I was carrying her; for the first time in a long time, I felt okay in my body (if superbly uncomfortable). Then I went into labour and they discovered that she was much smaller than expected and had stopped growing some weeks prior – something no one had picked up on. (She is, fortunately, totally fine.)  

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In the weeks and months following her birth, I walked miles through our local woods, but I couldn’t find my way back on to the yoga mat. I’d practised yoga regularly for years, and right through my pregnancy, but I just couldn’t get the practice to stick again. I felt like I didn’t have time for a regular practice. There were more pressing things to do. My body hadn’t healed enough yet – it felt different and unrecognisable to me. I had endless excuses.

I grumped about this to a friend. She pointed out that I did have time: my partner had agreed to put our baby to sleep in the evenings, leaving me with a free half hour or so that I could do with what I pleased. She suggested that we both do Adriene’s 30 days challenge as a way to get going.

That first class was hard. I couldn’t hold a plank anymore. I was sweating and exhausted by the end. But I felt exhilarated, too. The next night we showed up again. And then again. Before I knew it, a week had passed. Then two. Soon I was over halfway and the satisfaction of keeping going was much greater than the desire to stop. By the end of the challenge I planking with the best of them and I started to notice my flexibility improving. Even the abdominal sections were slowly becoming easier.   

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So, I continued to show up on the mat in the evenings. It helped that we were in a lockdown, and it was winter; there wasn’t much else to do except binge the latest offering on Netflix. But I realised that by showing up on the mat, I was showing up for myself. And in the process, I was starting to forgive myself, and my body, for all the complications of the pregnancy, birth and its aftermath.

Other things stayed the same. My body kept its shape and size, but I noticed the strength I was building and that motivated me to keep going. By June, I could hold a crow pose, and lift my foot onto my thigh (and hold it there) for tree pose. These were subtle changes, but hugely important for me. They showed me how my body was capable, and able to adapt and learn.

As summer began, and restrictions lifted I slowed my practice to a few days a week, attending longer live online classes mixed in with shorter videos from Adriene and others I’ve discovered online. Life became full again and I embraced it. My yoga practice became less frequent, but all these months on, the desire to return to the mat is still there.  

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Some days it is enough to simply stretch, lie in a supported child’s pose, or complete a short wind-down video that lasts 10 minutes at most. I don’t measure my progress according to whether I can get my legs into an odd shape, or reach my toes, or twist further. Now, progress is showing up, being present with myself and all the uncomfortableness that can bring.

Yoga has also given me community, a sense of belonging and the understanding that a practice that does not need to be perfect. I’ve joined new classes, befriended my yoga teachers (two have children of similar ages to my own), and joined friends at in-person workshops. And I get up early to participate in a morning practice because I know it is the best time of day for me to do yoga. 

I no longer feel that yoga is only worth it if the class is over an hour and makes me sweat, or challenges me at every vinyasa. Progress isn’t even about practising every day but being able to return to the mat, even after a period of time away. This month, I’m embarking on another 30-day yoga challenge to carry on the good vibes into 2022. 

Don’t have time to commit to a full yoga class every day? Check out our 15-minute mobility sessions for a good old stretch.

Images: Getty

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