Here's What I Gained, Lost & Learned After 30 Days of Yoga
Feb 06, 2020
Let me be completely candid: I've tried to do 30-day yoga challenges in the past, and I've never made it the whole way through.
At my therapist's request, I try not to say that I "failed" those challenges. But with both TRUE and DEDICATE from the beloved Yoga With Adriene, I skipped days. Unclear whether it was the videos themselves, a lack of motivation, or just poor timing — but I didn't feel connected to the practice, and ultimately it felt like I sort of half-assed my way through.
So, when I committed to yet another 30-day yoga challenge in January 2020, you could say I was a little worried about whether the practice would "stick" this time.
Spoilers: I was wrong. I did yoga every damn day for 30 consecutive days. And throughout the journey, I lost and gained a variety of things, both in terms of my mental and physical health, that I didn't quite expect.
Whether you're considering trying a 30-day yoga challenge of your own, or you're simply curious about my experience, read on to learn about the highs and lows and everything in between.
Finding the Right 30-Day Yoga Challenge For You
Yoga can offer so many different things to all kinds of different people — so figuring out which challenge is right for you is going to take a little bit of introspection.
Are you working on practicing mindfulness and meditation? Then something like this might be the right option for you.
Are you interested in improving your strength? You might consider a challenge like this one.
Are you hoping to become more flexible? Then maybe this journey could benefit you.
But if you're like me and you're hoping to get a little bit of all of the above, and you're not totally sure what you need other than a daily practice to commit to, I'd highly recommend the 30-day yoga journey HOME from Yoga With Adriene.
The ebbs and flows in this particular series just really worked for me. Some days, the practice would be comprised of sweat-inducing vinyasas and core work that left me shaking; other days, slower flows invited me to grab blankets and pillows for restorative postures. The pace was on point for me and kept me motivated to come back to my mat day after day.
30-Day Yoga Challenge: What Worked Well For Me
The fact that the challenge was free and readily available online each morning made it really easy to stick to. Adriene sent out each day's practice in an email every morning, so all I had to do was click the link in my inbox and get it done. I actually took a weekend trip in the middle of the month and was grateful that all I needed to bring along in order to keep up with the practice was my laptop and a yoga mat.
For me, incorporating this practice into my morning routine was the most effective way to ensure that I completed it. That way, I couldn't come home after the work day and decide I was too exhausted to get it done, and last-minute plans to grab dinner with girlfriends wouldn't impede on my ability to stick with the challenge.
I also found a surprising amount of motivation in posting a time lapse video from my practice on Instagram Story each day. I'm not usually the kind of person who shares details about my health or fitness goals on social media, but I knew that if I announced that I was doing a challenge like this and started by posting videos in my Story on the first day or two, I'd feel more accountable to keep it up all the way through day 30.
At first, this felt kind of superficial and weird; in reality, who really cared if I was sticking with this practice? Wasn't I being an annoying, maybe even braggy-seeming, Instagrammer? But around day 8, I started getting some positive responses from people. Messages like "You go girl!" or "Proud of you for sticking to this, keep it up!" were very touching to me, as someone who initially felt very vulnerable sharing these things from the get-go.
Even when I'd run into folks in "real life" out in the world, some of them would ask how the challenge was going and offer words of encouragement. It felt good to be recognized for sticking to a health and fitness goal, and to know other people were rooting for me. It made me want to keep following through, both for myself and for them.
Is that excessive or unnecessary? Maybe. But it worked for me.
My 30-Day Yoga Transformation
I hope you read that section header as a tongue-in-cheek reference to all the articles out there that want to make you think that 30 days of anything will completely change you or your life. There are no "quick fixes" like that, unfortunately — but 30 days of intentional effort can lay the foundation for a healthy, happy habit that does have the capacity to "transform" you and your life pretty radically.
I lost weight. Admittedly, I was also doing a Dry January (you can read more about that here), so that may have contributed to a bit of the weight loss I saw over the course of this 30-day challenge.
But from January 1 to February 1, I lost 8 pounds. It felt like most of that was in my face and belly. Just sort of a reduced bloating and a stronger core. Whatever the cause, it felt good.
I gained strength. Before this challenge, I still practiced yoga pretty regularly — usually around twice a week, at least. But at the start of this month, I was still doing planks on my knees. (That embarrasses me to admit, when I co-own a company that's based around physical fitness, but I'm here to let it all hang out in the name of journalism, y'all!), and my legs shook pretty violently after about 30 seconds in chair pose.
By the end of the month, I was doing full plank, and while my legs weren't exactly stoked about chair pose, the shaking had decreased to minimal shuddering toward the end of the 30-second holds.
I lost a significant amount of my self-consciousness. I was practicing yoga on my own for the most part throughout this challenge, but I was filming myself for the aforementioned time lapse videos, which meant having to see the difference between how I felt in a lot of poses (like a strong, powerful goddess) vs. how I actually looked on camera (a little awkward, not my ideal body shape, fumbling through on occasion).
At first, seeing myself this way made me cringe; I didn't feel confident about what I saw, and even felt a little embarrassed. But by the middle of the month, I started to feel almost good about the poses I saw myself working through, knowing how much effort and energy I was putting in each day. By the end of the month, I felt straight-up proud of my progress and excited to continue improving and growing in the practice.
Most importantly, I gained trust in myself. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I've tried and failed 30-day yoga challenges like this in the past. When I embarked on the journey again this year, I was worried I'd let myself down again — especially since setting lofty goals and abandoning them has become almost a yearly tradition for me at this point (maybe you can relate?).
But I set a goal for myself this year and committed to it. For an entire month, without slipping up, I followed through on that commitment. And aside from feeling accomplished for completing the challenge, I'm feeling like I can actually trust myself to follow through on the things I tell myself I want to do for my own health and well-being.
This journey has helped me learn how to "have my own back," so to speak, and it feels pretty damn good.
So, After 30 Days of Yoga, What Comes Next?
On February 1, I still woke up, came to my mat, and worked my way through a yoga flow (Yoga With Adriene's 50-minute practice, Yoga For Self-Love).
I'm not going to sit here and pretend that I've continued to practice yoga daily since the challenge ended. But I have committed to moving my body in some intentional way every day. Some days that's a yoga practice, sometimes it's a dance class, sometimes it's a bootcamp-style workout. Of course, I listen to my body take rest days as needed, and on those days I usually just take a walk with my dog.
That's the only goal that I continue to aspire to at this point: moving and connecting with my body in some way each day.
And thanks to the work that I did through this 30-day yoga journey, I'm able to be less self-conscious when taking part in a fitness activity I'm not necessarily familiar with yet. I'm stronger and better able to keep up with the rest of the class during a workout.
But most importantly, I'm able to trust myself to work through each challenge day after day, to make positive choices, to do what's best for my physical and mental health.
Have you tried a 30-day yoga (or other fitness) challenge? How did it go?
Tell us about your 30-day fitness experiences — the challenges, the benefits, and everything in between — in the comments below, or tag us at @workforyourbeer on social media to share your story!