You probably haven’t met Agnieszka, but if you have you’ll realise she’s got more drive than a fleet of Peterbilt Trucks. Whereas I’m more like a Fiat Punto on a hill that just about manages to avoid rolling backwards by keeping it in first.
So it was with a degree of reticence that I agreed to join her 365 day nagging challenge for 2018, where each month we try something different that I’m not very good at or haven’t ever done before — like yoga. While she whatsapps me a mix of warm encouragement and physical threats if I don’t pull my finger out and write a f*cking blog.
I’m joking, of course. I thought it was a super cool idea; I just seriously doubted I’d be able to stick with doing something every day. But you know what? IT DOESN’T MATTER.
This project is about experimentation and growth with a degree of self-discipline thrown in. It’s not about perfection.
Which is exactly the kind of sentiment that Adriene gets across in her excellent 30-day yoga series. I haven’t quite managed to do it every day this month, but I’ve only missed a couple of videos. Here’s a few things I’ve learned so far:
- It’s not a billion light years away from other stuff you’ve done.
If, like me, you’ve had a bit of physio over the years and dabbled in martial arts on and off, you’ll realise many of the yoga poses are akin to the lower back and hamstring stretches, lunges and Karate stances you might have done before. This is a good thing.
- You will surprise yourself.
Whenever I’ve seen people sitting in that cross legged position — sorry, don’t know what it’s called, The Crushed Lotus? The Painful Coat Hanger? — I’ve thought, ‘well, that’s not for me’. My knees don’t twist 180 degrees sideways. Yet, with a towel under your butt and a bit of practice, your hips do in fact start to loosen up, which helps your glutes. In fact, at some point it starts to feel like a nice stretch. It’s also my favourite bit of most sessions because you get to sit down.
- You will develop a crush on Adriene.
In all seriousness though, she is an excellent coach. Knowledgeable, easy-going, encouraging, likeable. Aggie made a great choice of a course to follow, and I heartily recommend it. Also, Adriene’s dog sometimes wanders in and sits on the mat mid-session, which is cute and proves that having pets isn’t an excuse not to do yoga. A bit of warning here though — if your wife sees you disappear off to a private room for half an hour of grunting over a YouTube video, she may grow suspicious. Best work out in the living room for transparency.
- It will make you appreciate other forms of fitness.
You might have already known that, but yoga is bloody hard work. It’s amazing that Adriene (and Aggie, to be fair) can go through all the transitions smoothly WHILE TALKING AT THE SAME TIME. There’s a lot more to life than how much you can bench, bro!
- Benefits start to appear pretty rapidly.
During this month of yoga I’ve also been keeping my regular exercise going, which includes four combined weights and cardio sessions. Managing my lower back, glutes and hamstrings is an ongoing battle — but, given the alternative to not exercising is an early death, it’s one I persist with. Even with stretching, once every few weeks or so I’ll tweak a muscle in my back and have to take a few days off to lie on the floor and complain. Well, so far (*touches every bit of wood in next door’s garden*), the yoga seems to have prevented that from happening. Which is a major benefit.
It’s not all magical ice cream and belly rubs though. I do find myself starting to get a bit fed up with sessions after about 20 minutes. Although I think this will happen less when I a) get yoga-fitter and the whole thing becomes less draining; and CRUCIALLY, b) get better at the breathing and focus side of it.
Which hopefully will change it from the sort of high-stress position torture the CIA puts suspected terrorists through, to a more meditative process. And I’m a big believer in meditation, so I really hope this happens soon.
I guess this bit is like the end of a dating show when the couple both have to say whether they want to see each other again. And I’m pleased to say I would like yoga to become a part of my life on a regular basis. Maybe not daily, but two 30-minute sessions twice a week feels about right so far…
…I’ll let you know how it goes.