Doing yoga every day is a lofty goal I’ve had for some time. But, between making no time for it and being resolutely stuck in my ways (not to mention stubborn when it comes to switching up my routine), it just hasn’t happened for me. Shocking, right?
But, with a fresh lockdown dawning and the realisation that I was going to continue spending a lot of time inside my own head, it felt the right time to shake things up and slow them down. Enter: Yoga and lots of it.
With searches for Youtube yoga and online yoga classes increasing by 1200% since the beginning of the pandemic last March, I knew I wasn’t alone in my mission. In fact, with lockdown-induced anxiety rocketing within my group chats and my evenings permanently free, it seemed like more of a lifeline than a strictly-fitness based experiment.
So, I rolled out my yoga mat and settled in for seven days on the straight and narrow to (what I hoped) was a calmer mind and more limber body.
Keep scrolling down for the 5 lessons learned.
Day One: 45-minute yoga flow with Aditi Shah
Featuring lots of side poses and hamstring-stretching moves, everything felt looser in my lower body by the end of it. That niggly inner hip/groin muscle (commonly known as the ‘hip flexor’ but what I tend to refer to as ‘the worst’) was released and I felt my whole pelvic area relax because of it. A must repeat, for sure.
Day Two: Calming 9-move Yin yoga with Robyn Silverton
Storytime: Robyn was the first IRL yoga teacher to really get me into the practice back in 2016. A person with high-functioning anxiety, she made me feel safe enough to properly slow down and feel grounded within myself.
I knew I needed some of that energy after a hectic Tuesday at my standing desk, where I hadn’t quite managed to get on top of anything. Instead of spiralling, I deliberately took myself off to bed earlier than usual, lit a scented candle and did her slow nine-move Yin flow. Between Butterfly pose (my favourite!), twists and supported inversions, I was heavy with calm by the time it came to Savasana.
Day Three: 15-minute morning yoga with Arundhati Baitmangalkar
One perk of working from home is that there’s time for a quick yoga flow and a workout before the day gets started. Arundhati’s 15-minute morning yoga flow moved through Sun Salutations and chewy hip-opening asanas that after eight hours fast asleep felt invigorating.
I enjoyed that she taught without music, I concentrated more on my breathing and technique, whilst her repeated reminders to not rush helped to keep me moving safely and with correct form. A huge dose of (efficient) endorphins at the top of the day!
Day Four: 30-minute energising yoga with Siha Collins
You think you know joy and then you (virtually) meet Lululemon ambassador and yoga teacher Siha Collins, a force of happy if I’ve ever seen one. Her voice? Like bright sunshine. Her positivity? Infectious.
We started class with a (new-to-me) invigorating breathing technique and accompanying arm movement, designed to get the energy moving before we started actually moving. I found myself smiling without meaning to during the class: a mix of really enjoying the poses but also at how good it felt to move after sitting at my desk all morning. A must-do if you like to feel exercised and all-over happy. TY, Siha!
Day Five: 50-minute yoga for relaxation and chill with Jess Skye
Now an Apple Fitness+ instructor, Jess Skye has been a fav of mine for a long time.Her 50-minute deep, dope, dynamic flow moved through smooth sequencing and incorporating some of my most beloved poses – including the lengthening, strengthening Warrior asanas.
Jess’ instructions were clear, calm and concise, something I find instructors can often lose if they dabble too much in small talk and fun-but-distracting anecdotes. Almost an hour of yoga and I was surprised when it came to the end. Love that.
Day Six: Beginner calming Kemetic yoga with Sarah Wesley
A slight situation arrived with the weekend: I seemed to have hurt my knee from wearing nothing but slippers since March 2020. The lack of proper footwear (and the fact I am terrible at making time to stretch) meant I had to scale back the intensity of the flows I was planning for the weekend. Never mind. I saw it as a chance to try something new – Sarah Wesley’s beginner Kemetic yoga, to be precise. A form of Yoga originating in Egypt, Kemetic yoga combines specific breathing techniques, meditation and sequences designed to heal and encourage self-development.
The highlight? Sarah’s ultra-calming voice and how grounded I felt at the end. Invaluable.
Day Seven: 40-minute Fly LDN restore, reset, relax slow flow
Sweet Sunday and a delicious restorative session to round the week out. Happiness. Fly Ldn’s Head of Yoga Fi Clark’s class used props and extended holds to really get into muscles and fascia, as well as supported backbends and twists to release sore lower backs.
In a nutshell, a relaxing flow that like a gift I was giving to myself. I finished feeling unwound and completely calm.
Sweaty Betty Eco Yoga Mat
Lululemon Reversible Yoga Mat 3mm
5 things I learned doing yoga every day
Seven days later and I felt happier, calmer and altogether more grounded in my everyday life. Something, Nahid de Belgeonne, founder of The Human Method and yoga teacher explains is a common side effect of regular a practice:
‘Practicing breath and breath with movement will soothe your nervous system. We all seem to be in a state of hyperarousal, so, to function at our optimal, we need to balance the active state with rest – yoga will help you to do that.’
Besides that, my DOMs also all but disappeared. Hurrah! Here are the five things I learned over the course of the week.
1. Schedule it like an important appointment
I am the queen of not doing things I don’t want to do. And, my history of repeatedly proclaiming ‘I have no time for anything else in my day – let alone yoga’ felt true for a very long time. But, as it turns out, there is always time for the things I make time for.
Cutting my nightly Netflix sessions a teensy bit short, just to make sure I could do 10 or 20 minutes of slow stretching in my room made all the difference to how my body and mind felt ending each day. However, I am fortunate in that I don’t have to juggle children or other time-consuming commitments when making time in my schedule for something like yoga.
What I would say is that making the time instead of expecting it to just appear – when we’re all so busy and ‘on’ – is the key. I realigned my priorities and made yoga something I needed to do, for myself and my mental health. Whether it was a short flow or a longer restorative session, whatever I made time for, happened. (Funny that, isn’t it?)
2. There are so many different types of Yoga
There are so many strands to try: from Yin and restorative to Vinyasa, Hatha, Power, Ashtanga and Iyengar (plus many more), the web of all things Yoga, is vast.
Need a quick refresh?
Originating in Mysore, India, Ashtanga is a series of six established and strenuous pose sequences – the primary series, second series, third series, and so on practised sequentially.
Unlike Ashtanga, there is no set order to poses in a Vinyasa class. Usually, a vigorous flow combining standing, seated and supine poses, Vinyasa is the style of Yoga to really get a sweat on and build strength throughout your entire body.
In a study by York University in Canada, women who did two 75-minute sessions of Hatha yoga for eight weeks reported better moods and reduced stress. This style of Yoga is characterised by holding static poses for longer – but don’t be fooled, it’s just as difficult as moving quickly.
Iyengar Yoga is best described as using maximum support to help you get into the right position. Think chairs, bolsters and blocks and release muscle tension.
A newer style, Yin yoga is a much slower practice, with postures held from anywhere between three and 20 minutes. It uses props – bolsters, blankets and blocks to help you relax into each pose. Designed to stimulate and release the fascia (the sheet of connective tissue below the skin that encases the muscles), it’s a static form of yoga that primarily works your lower body.
Easily the most relaxing of all the practices, Restorative yoga is a restful practice that uses multiple props to help you sink into each position. Typically less invigorating than Yin (which is already pretty mellow), Restorative is focused on accessing your parasympathetic nervous system and bringing about healing and calm.
Discovering different teaching styles and how people like to lead and structure their classes is a massive draw in keeping up the hobby. If you’ve been to a yoga class or two in the past and felt it ‘just wasn’t for you’, I wouldn’t suggest chucking the whole towel in. Instead, have a scope around for a style that might appeal to you more. You might be surprised…
(Don’t believe me? Yoga set to ’90s hip hop – that’s an actual thing.)
3. It’s not (always) about the metrics
Colour me in love with closing the rings on my Apple Watch but it’s not always something that makes me feel so sparkly. Scheduling in more yoga (the only workout I do that doesn’t include blasting terrible house music) and trying to get out of my head, had me placing less emphasis on metrics and more on how I was feeling. I even stopped tracking my flows as workouts.
Research has suggested that practising yoga can play a part in lowering cortisol (the stress hormone) levels in our bodies, as well as reducing depression. I found this to be one of the main wins from the week – an altogether more tangible feeling of calm.
Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS)
Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular)
4. A good yoga mat will make all the difference
As an ex-employee and now, embedded in the fitness industry, I have a surplus of Lululemon yoga mats in my room of varying thickness and technology. Using it every day made me appreciate how much the padding supported my joints and the fact that my hands, feet or knees never slipped. And I have clammy paws at the best of times.
My go-to? The 5mm mat: cushiony, padded and completely anti-slip.
5. It doesn’t have to be a long session to be beneficial
Woefully bad at making time in my fitness routine to stretch, I’ve always had some residual tinge of muscle soreness and DOMs following me around each day. And, whilst yoga isn’t necessarily the only thing I need to be doing (mobility and stretching also have huge parts to play), it was definitely a step in the right direction. One study showed that 12-minutes of Yoga practised every day or every other day improved bone density in participating women, whilst another displayed better working memory and cognitive function after just 20 minutes.
So, if you’re beating yourself up for not making time for a 60-minute Yoga sesh every day, don’t just do nothing instead. Even fifteen minutes of intentional movement will make a difference.
I know they say it takes 21 days to form a habit but when it’s this enjoyable, it might only take 7. Whilst I don’t see myself doing yoga on the daily anytime soon – I’ve gotta mix it up, y’know? – I do think it’ll become a twice or thrice-weekly occurrence. Which, when compared to my track record, is a huge win.
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