Can committing to 30 days of yoga can change your life?

Yoga has many benefits (Image: Getty)

“I’m sorry to hear you’re going through all of that… have you tried yoga?’

Anyone who has had mental health problems will have heard this question.

Stick with us: We’re not promoting yoga as a cure-all for depression and anxiety.

But the truth is that yoga does it pose some serious benefits for both mind and body.

During the first lockdown, many flocked to yoga videos, such as Yoga with Adriene and other home fitness channels, looking for a way to stay healthy and escape stress.

Dr. Brian Cooper, co-founder of Yoga Alliance Professionalstells that there are many health benefits to practicing yoga.

He says: ‘Physically, it not only increases flexibility, but also builds strength.

“This is particularly important for those who lead a sedentary lifestyle.

“But its effects go much further, resulting in an improvement in general well-being, a greater desire to lead a healthier life, and an improvement in the quality of sleep.

‘Improved quality of life is linked to better mental health and greater resilience to stress.

‘One of the wonderful gifts that yoga brings is improved breathing. Shallow breathing is related to stress, and returning to a healthy breathing pattern leads to greater calm and balance.’

A 2021 study by researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Delhi found that those who practiced yoga in lockdown were better off mentally as a result.

So what about taking the habit and doing it daily, for a month?

Dr. Cooper says that the benefits of practicing yoga will naturally be more pronounced this way.

A little and often approach is better than an intense weekly session.

He says: ‘Most people report that doing yoga every day provides much more noticeable benefits than practicing once a week.

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‘Even just 20 minutes a day is enough to make you want to come back for more because the positive effects it brings are self-motivating.

‘If you do 20 minutes five days a week, that’s one hour and forty minutes a week; you’re unlikely to do that much in a single once-a-week session.

‘A good approach to building a safe and enjoyable home practice is to attend a yoga class in a studio once a week, which will give you ideas for your own practice.’

yoga for beginners

Dr. Cooper suggests that learning the Sun Salutation is a good way to start practicing yoga, as it only requires simple movements that you may already be familiar with.

He says: ‘Sun Salutations are great for beginners. Once you learn them, you can do them without thinking, so you’re never at a loss for what to do.

‘They also build strength, endurance and flexibility, and promote deep, strong breathing.

‘You can use them alone or as a warm-up before other postures.

‘One way to develop a good holistic yoga practice is to always start with the same short routine, like sun salutations, and then add a few more poses.

‘End your session with another short routine, such as simply sitting down to watch your breath. This familiarity is both comforting and encouraging.

Here is a step-by-step visual guide to doing a sun salutation:

The routine includes lunges and planks (Image: Getty)

Be careful not to overstretch your back when reaching back; yoga should never be painful.

Putting yoga to the test for a month, I followed Yoga with Adriene’s popular 30-day series, which ran throughout January.

Having done yoga before but allowed the habit to die, I was eager to get back in the flow.

The first day was a challenge, more than I expected.

My flexibility was gone and movements that I previously built some skill to do had diminished. I also got really impatient with the slower parts of the video, skipping 10 seconds here and there.

That in itself made me realize how little time I spend being still.

I managed to make yoga a daily practice for the most part, only skipping the odd day when I wasn’t feeling well or had little time.

By day 10, my 20 minutes of yoga in the morning or at lunch was something I was looking forward to.

It was a moment of peace, away from my laptop, in which I could only breathe.

I won’t lie: it was hard to break away from the messages, and some days I would still skip short snippets of the video so I could quickly move on to the next one.

However, since yoga asks us to be kind to ourselves, I decided to focus on the fact that without this 20-minute break, I would still be glued to the screen, even more stressed, and functioning on shallow breathing.

At least she was making room for a temporary moment of deeper breathing and light exercise.

Even if he could only be present for eight minutes of practice, that was eight minutes better than if he hadn’t appeared on the mat.

Over time, I hope to get better at getting this mental space off the mat and into the rest of my day.

By day 20, I was noticing a change. Getting up a little earlier wasn’t that hard, and my tight calves had loosened up a bit, making certain positions a bit more accessible.

Most importantly for me, I felt calmer on the mat, even once I fell asleep on the floor in a corpse position after a stressful day.

At the end of 30 days (or 35 after making up for skipped sessions), a wave of excitement hit me as I realized I had made it.

For a month I introduced myself and committed to this practice to improve my health.

Practicing daily meant there was also an acceleration in my learning curve.

Yoga isn’t going to melt away all my problems, but it does help me ground myself and handle tough times better.

We all need a mode through which we play. I have found that my way of doing this is by moving on a mat.

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