fitness · yoga

Laughing while doing yoga: gimmick or tool?

CW: mention of BMI and body weight in a medical study on laughter yoga.

Since yoga took off in North America, teachers and studio owners and social media hopefuls have trotted out every possible variation to make it more attractive to more people. I’m not talking about Kundalini yoga, Iyengar yoga, etc.

No, in this case, I’m talking about yoga with music, yoga with wine or beer or cocktails, goat yoga, bro yoga, naked yoga, yoga dance, etc.

Glow in the dark yoga!
Glow in the dark yoga!

One type of yoga I hadn’t heard of until last week was laughter yoga. Yes, this is a thing. Dr. Madan Kitaria is credited with inventing it, and this site goes into loads of detail about him and about what laughter is alleged to do to us and for us. In short, laughter yoga is supposed to lower stress and anxiety, provide ease from depression, release endorphins, and generally relax us.

If you’re interested in a demonstration of laughter yoga, here is a TED talk (of course there’s a TED talk!) that you can watch.

5-minute TED talk on Laughter Yoga

Okay, I get it: yoga is good for you. Laughing is good for you. So, laughing while doing yoga must be extra-good for you. And yet I maintain a smidge of skepticism. Why?

Lots of scientists and sciency-folks have been speculating about the role of laughter in health and well-being for decades. In this Shape article (an authoritative source if ever there was one), we get this capsule history of laughter as medicine (forgive me, I got lazy while googling):

William Fry, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, helped to pioneer the research on the health benefits of laughter back in the 1960s. Fry found that laughter enhanced the activity of immune system cells through an experiment in which he drew blood at regular intervals while watching comedies. In author Norman Cousins’ 1979 book, Anatomy of an Illness, he described how he battled a fatal disease for years through his practice of mindful laughter. And psychotherapist Annette Goodheart published a book titled Laughter Therapy in 2006 that included 25 ways to help yourself laugh about everyday things. 

It makes sense that people hope to leverage laughter to bring down blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, cortisol levels, you name it. So far, the research suggests diffuse and bidirectional effects– laughter may affect well-being, and feeling better influences frequency of laughter. For instance, in a 2021 study of the relationship between oral health and laughter, the researchers found

The participants with 10 or more teeth were significantly more likely to laugh compared with the edentulous participants, after adjusting for all covariates… There was a significant bidirectional association between frequency of laughter and oral health that was independent of socioeconomic and lifestyle factors among older adults.

Which is to say: people with more teeth laugh more, and people who laugh more have more teeth.

I bring up actual laughter research because last week, while perusing the weekly newsletter on body weight and metabolism research, I found this study:

Effects of a laughter program on body weight and mental health among Japanese people with metabolic syndrome risk factors: a randomized controlled trial. In BMC Geriatrics.

Curious, I read the article. Twice. Here’s what I found:

The researchers tried out a 12-week program of 60-minute laughter yoga classes and 30-minute rakugo performances (a traditional form of Japanese comic storytelling). The participants were mostly women over 60, and they had some standard risk factors like high blood pressure or cholesterol, diabetes, or slightly higher body weights (overweight according to researchers and adjusted BMI scale). The control group just went about their business, with no intervention.

So what did the researchers find?

The intervention group laughed a lot more. Their responses to all sorts of quality-of-life health surveys after the 12 weeks were a bit higher than the control group’s. The laughter yoga and comic performances seemed to do them good.

But laughing a lot didn’t really affect their body weight. The researchers document some teeny-tiny shifts in BMI– shifts which they acknowledge aren’t clinically significant. The men in the intervention group– which were 2% of the group (yes, I wrote that correctly) experienced stronger effects overall, but even their effects were very small. So much for laughter yoga as weight-loss method. This is entirely unsurprising.

However, that doesn’t mean that laughter yoga should be dismissed; far from it. It seems to be a way to introduce some people to both gentle movement and breathing techniques that reduce stress and improve mood and feelings of well-being.

Here are a couple of laughter yoga exercises you can try in the privacy of your own bathroom. I took them from the knowledgeable folks at Shape (obvs):

Smile-Ups: Stand in front of a mirror, or even better, face to face with a friend or family member. Practice breaking into a big smile 10 times. You can also do this when confronted with a stressful situation, such as being stuck in traffic.

Hand Puppet: Struggling with negative self-talk? Get rid of it by acting it out. This exercise, which you can also call the “I love myself” laugh, helps you to recognize the silliness of those thoughts. Lift up one hand and imagine it’s a hand puppet, and start putting those negative thoughts into words using a funny voice and moving your hand puppet accordingly. Then, take your other hand and “squash” the hand puppet with laughter.

Person using hand puppet technique. Googly eye additions optional.
Person using hand puppet technique. Googly eye additions optional.

Readers, have any of you tried laughing yoga? Did you try the smile-ups or the hand puppet negative self-talk? Let me know.

fitness · yoga

Catherine discovers the feeling of full support on the yoga mat

Doing things slowly is often harder than doing them quickly. This is true for jazz singing– ballads expose every note, every nuance of melody and rhythm– and also for yoga practice. Ditto for holding poses for longer periods of time: you’ve just got to relax into the process, open up, and commit.

Some people prefer to just go with the flow, favoring vinyasa, power yoga, etc. That’s cool– you do you. I’ve found myself getting into yin yoga, pranayama yoga and restorative yoga again. Many of you know these terms, but here is my take on them, aided by Wikipedia:

  • yin: passive poses done on the mat and held for minutes, focusing on connective tissues; a very contemplative practice.
  • pranayama: practices and poses to focus on the breath; poses are supported and passive and directed by a teacher. Also very meditative in nature.
  • restorative yoga: passive poses, supported by props (basically everything in the yoga studio, including folding chairs), for relaxation, rest, and calm. Very meditative and occasionally nap-inducing (snoring is not an uncommon sound in an evening restorative yoga class).

Before the pandemic, I discovered yin yoga while in Tucson, AZ on a work/play trip. It was absolutely sublime. But, there were poses where I still experienced tension, or held myself up or back, where I couldn’t melt into the pose because my body wouldn’t do the thing we were supposed to do. I felt too impatient or embarrassed or clueless to try to fix it, so I just carried on. During in-person yin classes, my experienced and intuitive teacher Emily would come around and adjust people, adding props to make their poses right for them. Since zoom-time, though, it’s not been quite the same.

Restorative yoga has been much the same story, but with a twist: I blogged last year about how restorative yoga turned into face-plant yoga for me because of pandemic changes in my body and my having to get used to re-arranging myself for rest and calm. The teacher was super-helpful when I asked for help. But I spent a fair bit of time gritting my teeth through some of the poses, not feeling patient or kind or inquisitive enough to explore options that might have made me feel more at ease.

Enter pranayama yoga. The workshops I’ve done have been, hands down, my favorite yoga experiences ever. Why? Because, for whatever reason, there’s been a harmonic convergence of 1) poses that are naturally (for my body) more comfortable; 2) persistent assistance from teachers I trust (yes, you Rahel and you Mary from Artemis!) in providing adjustments or modifications, using everything in the studio but my bike bottle; 3) studio owner Liz’s creation of an environment of complete support and safety for inner exploration.

This spring, during Rahel’s pranayama class, she had us to do chair-assisted forward folds. They were a little like the pictures below:

On the left, we see a person using a chair for support in a forward fold. In real life, lots of people need blankets or block(s) to support their heads. I thought I didn’t need a block, as my head reached the chair seat. But Rahel put a block there anyway, and you know what? It felt lovely, yummy, super-supported. I could have stayed there for an hour (well, probably not, but you get the idea).

On to a pose I’d never seen before. We did a variation of the picture, standing with our butts against the wall, out legs straight out from the wall. We held onto a folded up chair, and were to drape ourselves over it into a forward fold.

Turns out, this pose isn’t easy to do as shown. Rahel took her time and adjusted everyone, including not leaving me until she found the perfect way to support me in this pose. She tucked a block on the chair rim so my head would rest effortlessly. And rest it did. As did I.

If you’re interested in a bunch of ways to do forward fold, check out this site.

Friday night, I went to an in-person Artemis restorative class taught by Shireen, a teacher I didn’t know. Again, we did a series of resting poses, many of which requires a fair number of props to make comfortable and effective. One very common pose that I just can’t do as shown is the spinal twist. I’ve had rotator cuff surgery on one shoulder and a partial tear in the other, so neither will rest on the floor as I twist.

I can’t do this– my opposite shoulder is too tight to rest on the floor (on either side).

Shireen saw me doing what I usually do in this pose– trying to calm my flailing arm– and suggested I just move my arm over my head instead. And it worked. I got some nice stretching in my side body– excellent! I also got to actually sink into the pose and feel the sensations without worry about instability or pain or time. Nice! Thanks, Shireen!

Asking for help when I need it, allowing myself to receive help when it’s offered, and feeling the benefits that help and support bring to my life– these are big and newish experiences. They’re a little daunting because getting help requires allowing ourselves to be seen as in need of something.

Also, help isn’t perfect– people don’t have the mind-reading capabilities or even problem-solving capabilities we wish they did. I know this to be true in life as well.

In 12 days I start my sabbatical. I’ve got plans for writing projects, athletic projects, home and self-care projects. I’ll definitely be wanting some help. So I’ll be asking, responding, taking some advice, experimenting, and (most importantly) taking the time to recognize and experience support when it’s happening.

Readers, have you had an experience in which you needed help or support and got it? What was that like? I’d love to hear from you.

ADHD · fitness · self care · yoga

Go Team! How are you taking care of yourself today?

Thanks to a bit of over-enthusiastic scheduling, I have three back-to-back Zoom meetings this morning and then I have a lot of routine tasks to do this afternoon.

Yesterday, when I realized what my Tuesday schedule looked like I had a moment of feeling completely overwhelmed and my brain scrambled to figure out if I could reschedule something.

Then I took a deep breath and realized that it would actually be better to get all of these things done in one day so I didn’t have meetings scattered throughout my week.

And, secondly, that the schedule was doable as long as I took good care of myself before and after that string of meetings and that list of tasks.

So, that meant making a really clear list of my planned Tuesday afternoon tasks so I could be sure I had included everything and that I had time to get them all done.

And it meant getting to bed a bit early on Monday night so this morning would be easier.

And it included taking time to do yoga first thing today so I would be starting my day calmly.

And it definitely means making a pot of tea, grabbing some snacks and setting up my notebook for doodling * before that first meeting so I could feel more relaxed all the way through.

And I’ll definitely be taking a walk with Khalee after lunch but before the admin gauntlet in the afternoon so my brain is at ease before digging into detailed work.

By the time you start reading this on Tuesday morning, I’ll be on my mat finding some ease before my day begins.

You may not have the head start I had (I am writing this on Monday evening after all) but you still have a good chunk of your Tuesday ahead of you.

How can you plan to take good care of yourself today?

When can you add some movement into your schedule?

When would you like to feel more calm? How will you help yourself relax?

When will you need a snack? How can you make sure you have one available then?

Even if you can’t make your day totally relaxing, any effort to take good care of yourself is going to help, at least a little!

Speaking of efforts, here’s a gold star to celebrate the work we put into making things a little easier on ourselves.

A gold star ornament rests on a white surface.
This gold star is covered in little bits of shredded foil, it’s not as muppety as this photo makes it seem. Image description: a gold star ornament covered in little bits of shiny gold foil is resting on a shiny white surface.

*Doodling during meetings helps me focus. 🙂

yoga

Sam finds her new perfect thing: Yin yoga Fridays

Did you ever find a physical activity that just *clicked* in your life?

For me, right now, it’s yin yoga at noon on Fridays at the campus gym.

Here’s the description of yin yoga, “A series of passive stretch postures held for longer durations to elongate connective tissue. This meditative based yoga class will help you improve your flexibility, mobility and circulation.” Catherine gives a great description of Yin yoga here.

It’s perfect. It’s in a very large room in an older part of the gym. The teacher is calm and helpful. She suggests modifications to the poses in a way that doesn’t sound at all judgmental. “Maybe this version isn’t what your body needs today and you might find this version more relaxing.”

I love the blocks and the bolsters and all of the props that help you get into a pose you can hold for awhile and focus on breathing.

Because it’s all students, staff, and faculty the teacher often mentions stresses that are relevant to university life. She seems to know when the students are extra busy and what’s going on campus that week.

For me, it comes after a long work week at my desk with lots of weeknight bike racing. My body is ready for long gentle stretches held in a quiet room. Usually my Friday schedule is a bit more relaxed than the other days, so I can almost always make it.

I’ve taken to wearing yoga clothes under my work clothes so I can just take off an outer layer and go straight to the class without worrying about getting to the locker room. Since it’s yoga there’s no need for my running shoes.

The class feels perfect in every way. It just clicked into my life and I hope it can stay there for awhile.

Here’s the entry from the 220 workouts in 2022 group.

Purple yoga block

How about you? Did you ever find a class that’s just what you need, with just the right teacher, at the perfect time and place?

self care · yoga

Yoga & Sadness (but in an oddly non-specific way)

I have often come away from a yoga practice feeling calm. I have occasionally come away from a yoga practice feeling frustrated.  But last week was the first time I can recall coming away from my practice feeling sad. 

I was doing a lovely hip-focused yoga practice one evening and I felt a little shift in the muscles in my hip/lower back. It was a new sensation and I felt like I had ‘unlocked’ something important.

A person leans forward, facedown on a pink yoga mat with their arms extended.
A person leans forward, facedown on a pink yoga mat, their arms extended in front of them toward the camera. The feeling is one of surrender.

But then a wave of sadness hit me.

It wasn’t overwhelming and, strangely, it wasn’t even particularly upsetting. It was kind of like the feeling you get when you remember something that made you sad a long time ago. You aren’t sad now, per se, but you are sad for your past self and looking at them with empathy.

I paused the video and breathed through the feeling, letting it wash over me and trying not to do my usual ‘search for the origin of this feeling and possibly make it worse’ routine. The feeling subsided and I went on with the practice. 

Then another wave hit me. The same kind of ‘sadness about a distant event’ feeling.

I’ve had this sort of thing happen before when I wasn’t on the mat, of course. I’ve suddenly remembered something sad or frustrating or upsetting and then temporarily re-lived the feeling but usually something has prompted me to remember it. 

This time, the feeling wasn’t related to any specific past event, and there was no memory or baggage attached to it, it was just there.

A photo of a person with their arms wrapped around themselves, as seen through a rain covered window.
A photo of a person with shoulder length hair, their arms wrapped around themselves, as seen through a rain covered window. The colour scheme is muted, blues and greys and the overall impression is of a sad moment, someone trying to hold themselves together.

It didn’t make me cry, not even those sort of leaky tears that don’t involve sobbing. It was just a quiet sort of internal, ambient, soft sadness.

It kept happening as I moved through the video and it hung around like a chill after I was finished. 

If I hadn’t heard about this happening to people during yoga (and massage), I probably would have spent a lot of time poking around in my memories to figure out what I was sad about and I definitely would have spent a lot more time feeling down. 

Instead, I was able to identify what was going on, finish my yoga practice, get myself a cup of tea and do comforting and reassuring things for the rest of the evening before heading to bed a little early.

A person touches their tea which is in a white cup and saucer that is resting on a brown table.
A person touching their cup of tea with their fingertips as if testing the temperature. Their cup and saucer are white and are resting on a brown table.

And it hasn’t happened again since even though all of my practices last week were hip-focused. 

Have you had an emotion pop up for you out of nowhere when doing yoga or another movement practice? 

Was it just a vague emotion like mine or was it connected to something specific?

To be clear, I’m definitely not asking you to revisit trauma or to bare your soul and I certainly don’t need details (unless it would help you to share them for some reason) I’m just interested to know how this experience has played out for other people.

And, of course, I hope that if or when you find yourself awash in emotion on the mat, you can find the comfort you need in that moment. 

winter · yoga

Snow-ga with Alpacas!

Alpaca

What we did: Snow Yoga at Brae Ridge Alpaca and Horse Farm

Now you can embrace the powerful benefits of traditional yoga, nature and animal therapy during the winter months.

Who went: Bloggers Sam and Kim, also Sarah, and friend of the blog, Rob

What it was: An hour of very windy yoga in the snow and brilliant sunshine, with our wonderful instructor Angie, and time spent after drinking hot chocolate and feeding the alpacas and learning lots about the animals.

Rob, Sam, and Kim and the aplacas

Rob

I said “yes” immediately when asked to “snow yoga”; when the morning rolled around and my alarm went off I was a little less chirped about it. However, I powered through the routine, and packed for alpacas) chiefly my particle mask against allergens, not virus particles) and rolled out to the farm.

First yoga I’ve been to in at least five years–I do Aikido, though not lately–and it was a blast!

The wind was very chill–the instructor, Angie, was calm about it. Sarah loaned me some woolen mitts (I needed them) and we were off into Warrior Pose with warm wooly mammals wandering amongst us.

The alpacas doubtless thought we were all mad, but they just mingled complacently among us, eating hay and giving is the occasional bleat (do alpacas bleat? It’s a weird noise.) Was great. The sunshine was fabulous and I’m glad I went. I missed being in a class.

Sam and Sarah and alpaca

Sam

I love alpacas, yoga, and sunny winter days but I confess I wasn’t sure about the combo. I’ve been to goat yoga before and enjoyed it but it wasn’t winter. It wasn’t snow-ga.

As it turned out the snow-ga part was just fine. We didn’t use our yoga mats. We did yoga in the actual snow. I thought the instructor, Angie, did a great job of bringing our attention to this very Canadian winter day and making it part of the class. Let the wind take the things that aren’t currently serving you and blow them all away! We moved more and more quickly than you might in a typical yoga class, but I enjoyed the flow of the movements. I easily stayed warm and felt like we got a good workout in.

I also loved spending time with the alpacas after the class. They had such distinctive personalities and their owners enjoyed telling us how each of the alpacas came to the farm. Some were recent rescues and they weren’t that comfortable yet with people. Others acted like we were best buddies forever. Feeding them does that.

There’s something about the alpacas wandering around during the class that makes it better for me. Partly, I’m less self-conscious. No one is looking at my form or the modifications I’m making when there are alpacas to look at. But also the alpacas make me feel like a child again. I’m moving my body in the snow with alpacas. What a great way to spend a winter day.

Sarah

I did the alpaca snow-ga booking and it was super easy to do through the Brae Farm website. They were really organized and professional and offered us an opportunity to rebook from a previous date that was forecast to be very cold.

Despite my positive experience with the organizing part I must admit I was expecting something along the lines of a highly instagrammable petting zoo, with maybe an instructor running us through a few poses in the adjacent paddock.

Instead I was pleasantly surprised by both the alpacas and the yoga. Brae Ridge is a nice little hobby farm with a herd of adorable alpacas, who just kind of hung out and nibbled on feed and hay that the staff scattered amongst the participants. Alpacas aren’t much into being petted but were totally happy to hang out with us as if we were new to the herd and a little slow on the food uptake.

The yoga part was also surprisingly good. Nothing too formal or advanced; the instructor did a good job of mixing up standing movements from different modalities to keep us warm and active and connected with our surroundings. I’ve done a fair bit of yoga outside in warmer seasons and love the feeling of communion with nature, but I wasn’t sure how that would translate to a snowdrift on a windy day, but it was wonderful. It definitely helped to be well dressed for an hour plus we spent outside, but I found it as easy to feel connected to a cold blue sky and the earth under a thick blanket of snow as it is in the warm summer months. I might have been a tad less flexible in the cold but everything was fun and gentle and definitely enhanced by having curly little alpaca butts running around.

Kim and Sam feeding alpacas after snow-ga

Kim

When I arrived at Brae Ridge it was brilliantly sunny and wickedly windy. I thought for sure, this is going to suck. It took a while to get started but once we were into it I couldn’t help feel like I was being overtaken by joy. Angie the instructor made the most of really tough conditions, choosing lots of fluid simple movements to keep us warm, focused on the sun, and she encouraged us to interact with the animals as they moved all around us. At one point I was in forward fold, only to realize that my route to standing was blocked by an alpaca bum. This is what I mean by joy, and delight! Somehow my mood lifted what with all the sun and the fur, and when we had the chance to hand feed the animals and snuggle with the horses, I felt exactly like a kid. Robert reminded me to hold onto that joyful child like feeling

Collage of Alpacas

Sorry, Tracy. It was one more Yoga and…!

How about you? Do you love or hate outdoor yoga with animals?

habits · hiking · yoga

The beauty of bite-sized chunks

Remember how my goal this year is to undercommit? Or at least commit less? I’m pleased to report that I’ve actually had some success! Not sure if I’m really “committing” less, but at least I’m maybe committing differently, or to other things: bite-sized chunks of movement.

Last year, I got stuck in a mode where I’d not exercise because by the time the evening came around and I’d actually have time, I was too tired. So I’d crash on the couch exhausted, or pile on the MBA coursework. So far, this year, I’ve managed to integrate bite-sized chunks of yoga into my evenings a lot better. As I mentioned in the group post on this year’s Yoga with Adriene Move challenge, I’ve only done some (I’m writing this having just finished “day” 7), but I’m really enjoying them.

Part of my “overcommitment” problem is that I want to “Do Things Properly”, i.e. I’d want to go out for a run, or do some “Serious Exercise”, be too exhausted for that, and end up on the couch instead. But I’m coming around to the idea that 20 or 30 minutes of yoga are actually feasible at night. I’m quite chuffed! I actually feel like I’m getting a bit of my workout mojo back.

Bettina hiking on a forest road in a foggy winter forest with a child carrier on her back. Tiny human is in the carrier enjoying a nap.

We’ve also started going on bite-sized weekend hikes lately. Rather than overcommitting to half a day or a full day of hiking, we’ll go for an hour or two. Tiny human goes in the hiking backpack (he loves it and usually falls asleep), and since he now weighs 11kgs or so, carrying him is quite the workout, even if the hike is short. They’re also lots of fun, especially while tiny human is awake – his enthusiasm for dogs (WOOF! WOOF!) and other things we see along the way is quite contagious.

Hooray for bite-sized chunks of movement!

fitness · yoga

Bed Yoga!

I’ve written before about nap yoga. (OK, it’s actually restorative yoga but all the bolsters and cushions and blankets def put me in mind of naps.) I’m doing a Friday lunch hour class that’s all about supporting your body in a small number of positions for a relatively long time. It’s very stretchy and comfy and relaxing. Perfect for Fridays.

But now actual Bed Yoga has started popping up in my newsfeed. Maybe it’s always been a thing but it’s new to me.

It’s just what it sounds like, yoga in bed.

“Bed yoga is a series of stretching and breathing exercises done on or in your bed. Since a mattress is a much softer surface than the floor, you cannot perform standing or balancing poses that require a solid sense of ground. But this soft surface can be beneficial if you have sore knees, wrists, or other joint pain. Bed yoga is usually practiced right before sleep or immediately upon waking. Bed yoga practices include calming and soothing poses if done at night or energizing poses if done in the morning.” From here.

Person wearing white long sleeve shirt with black and white tattoo on left wrist. Photo by  Nicole Honeywill  on  Scopio

I’m tempted to try it but I’d have to move Cheddar out of the way!

Want to give it a try? Here’s a short bed yoga video to follow along.

fitness · yoga

We’re on the MOVE! (Group post)

To be clear we are talking about MOVE, Adriene’s 2022 30 Days of Yoga Practice.

Christine recently blogged about being moved by Move even though it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. (Reader, it wasn’t Susan’s.)

Lots of us here on the blog are fans of Yoga with Adriene and many of enjoy kicking off the new year with her 30 days of yoga. I thought a group check in might be good and I posed these questions to the bloggers’ group:

Did you do all 30 days in a row? What did like about daily yoga or MOVE in particular? What didn’t you like about MOVE? Which were your favourite days?

Here are our responses:

Sam

I got stuck at 22 but I’ll keep working away at it and eventually see it through. That’s my usual 30 days of yoga approach. It ends up being more like 30 days out of 45 and that’s just fine with me. My favourite thing this year was doing Yoga with Adriene with my weightlifting son. It was something we often did together at the very end of the day and we now have two yoga mats laid out on the living room floor with room for Cheddar in the middle. My faves were Mobility, Snuggle, and Ritual, all of which I’ll do again.

Tracy

I started and finished “on time” but missed a couple of days here and there that I made up over the next day or two. I appreciated it this time but I somehow didn’t feel quite as enthusiastic about it as I have the two years prior. I think that has much to do with where my head is these days — my word of the year (FOCUS) has not been working for me and I felt distracted and stressed much of January. The MOVE practices all kind of blur together and I don’t think I had a favourite, but my least favourite is the silent practice that we ended with. If I want to do a silent yoga practice for half an hour without being led, I can do that whenever I like. With 22 years of consistent yoga practice under my belt, that’s really accessible to me. I do YWA so that I can follow along. But if I want to follow along I need to keep looking at Adriene, which distracts me from what I’m doing, which has the opposite effect of the internal connection. So in the end I did let go of Adriene for that one, and just did my thing mostly, and that’s fine and all, but I can do that anytime.

Bettina

I’ve only done a few of them so far. I started late and everyday yoga just isn’t on the cards for me right now – it’s more like twice a week. But I have to say I really like them this year! I know some people found it too pilates-y, but I’m actually rather enjoying these elements. I’m still working on improving my core again after having kiddo, so I’m finding that these sequences really suit me.

Catherine

I didn’t get past day 1. These days I have 1) a membership at my local yoga studio, which offers online classes; 2) a new membership to the Underbelly, Jessamyn Stanley’s most excellent yoga video site; 3) yet another membership to something called Body Groove, which has yoga, pilates/strength workouts, as well as goofy and cheesy and fun dance workout videos; 4) everything else on the internet. In short, I’ve been distracted by this embarrassment of riches, and sometimes paralyzed by too much choice. Clearly, this calls for some kind of action or decision-making or commitment to, uh, something or other. But as of yet I know not what…

Nicole

I appreciate YWA for what she offers and love the shorter length. But I prefer my traditional yoga teachers over all. If I could combine my favourite yoga teacher Lisa V. shorter offerings I’d be happy.

There were parts of Move I enjoyed. I did it all, as I did last year. This tells me there was enough of it bringing me back each day. I think I enjoyed last year’s a bit more. I appreciate the short length of each offering. Overall, I am glad I did it and am grateful to her for sharing it the way she does. I find her direction a bit scattered sometimes. I really, really, dislike the last one she does every year where you decide what to do. I want to be guided (but not by myself)!

Cate

This is the first year I haven’t tried to do it every day, just because my head wasn’t there. I’m just over halfway through, and ironically, I like this year’s offering better than any of the previous years. It’s short and sharp and fits where I am right now — needing focused bursts to remind myself I’m mobile and, as Adriene encourages us to whisper, I am strong.

Image description: photo of a dark-haired woman (Adriene) doing a reclining yoga pose on a mat on a hardwood floor, with a dog sleeping beside her (Benji), and a large window, trees and a portion of a handrail through the window.

Tracy writes that it’s not too late to start. And that’s still true. You can pick any 30 days you choose. Or like me, any 45 or so. Enjoy!

And if you did MOVE, what did you think? What’s next for you?

habits · yoga

Moved by Move: Christine H and yoga practice

I know that it wasn’t everyone’s cup of metaphorical tea but I thoroughly enjoyed Yoga with Adriene’s 30 Day practice this past month.

The series was called Move and it was exactly what I needed to start off my year.

The sessions were short – the longest was about half an hour – and they felt very do-able for me this time, even though I couldn’t necessarily do all of the movements in any given session.

I did all 30 sessions in the 30 days but I didn’t do one every day. I had a good run but I had a migraine on Saturday night and had to skip that day’s session. So I did Saturday’s session on Sunday and then did two practices on Monday. I didn’t feel any pressure to ‘catch up’ or anything, I just tied up a lot of loose ends on Monday and I thought finishing off the 30 days of yoga would help me put a bow on the month.

A GIF of a person’s hands tying a white ribbon on a present
Obviously, in this scenario, my January is inside that box. ID: a GIF of a person’s hands tying a white bow on a present wrapped in striped paper the present is resting on a light coloured surface and there are lights and Xmas/winter decorations around it.

Meanwhile, it was a bit frustrating to realize, while doing Saturday’s session on Sunday, that it was so gentle that I could have done it the night before after the worst of my migraine had passed. It might have even helped. But don’t think that I am being hard on myself about it, resting also made sense!

I’ve been doing some thinking about why it felt pretty easy* to stick with a daily practice this time and here’s what I came up with:

  1. The sessions were short so, not only could I literally fit them into my evening, I could IMAGINE being able to fit them in. This might be an ADHD thing but around 20 minutes seemed so feasible but 30 minutes might have felt like FAR TOO MUCH TIME.
  2. I started a new level of meds at the end of November and my ability to judge my capacity has really improved so I am not as worn out in the evenings.
  3. Since my kids are older, the shape of my evenings is different so it is easier to fit yoga in.
  4. Something has clicked for me and her language around movement really resonated with me this time. I was able to tune into nuances in my movements that I haven’t noticed before and that was really encouraging for me.
  5. I have gotten a lot more comfortable with choosing to modify a movement. I used to worry that I was somehow cheating or wimping out but now I just do what makes sense in the moment.
  6. I decided to practice on my own terms. I used to try to be all focused and attuned and ‘good’ and not check the time or not interrupt myself. This time I committed to just being my often-distracted self and, shockingly, that made it easier to get on the mat.
  7. I spent all month writing about building habits and I was putting my own advice into practice on the regular.

I have done short term yoga practices lots of times and I can have long stretches (ha!) of doing a few poses every day but this time a daily 15-20 minute practices feels like something I can actually maintain for the long term.

A GIF of a dog stretching on a wooden floor
I think we have to say ‘Oh, good stretch!’ when a dog does this, right? ID: GIF of a large black and brown dog stretching to lean down toward its front paws and the leaning forward to extend its back paws as it moves along on a wooden floor. The word yoga is in white on the bottom right of the image.

But, since I know me, I know that I need to choose those sessions in advance.

I was tempted to just start this series over again but I think I’ll mix things up a bit first.

I’m going to do this morning series from Yoga with Joelle and see how her insights in these practices help me build on the lessons I found in my January practice.

*I really only had one day that I struggled to make myself do the practice. It took me a full ninety minutes of sitting on my mat, reading, drawing, and texting my friend before I could make myself do the session but I did it. It was half-assed but it was done.