The LD staff decided it was high time we all made health a priority. Enter Wellness Wednesdays, a series of weekly health challenges by LD writers (and editors!) where we commit to seven days of healthy habits and share the results with our readers. This week’s challenge: Yoga.
This Week’s Participants: Kelly and Lauren
Kelly: I’m not a yoga guru by any means. I’ve taken a few yoga classes over the years and I can recognize a few of the movements by name. However, I’ve never stuck to a class for very long—not due to lack of interest but lack of commitment. With life becoming more and more stressful, I’m looking forward to a chance to stretch and relax this week and, with any luck, find a yoga program I can stick with.
Lauren: I’ve done a fair amount of yoga, mostly in high school. My mom firmly encouraged it after I fractured my spine about a decade ago to help ease the intense back pain I experienced. I frequently do yoga stretches independently of a formal class or program because many poses, like Cobra, help stretch my back and relieve some of my lower back pain. Yoga, like many niche fitness fads, is expensive and I don’t have the funds to pay for classes, so I’ve been using apps (I finally found my favorite overall workout app about a year ago, SWORKit) and YouTube videos. Hopefully, I can get back in the habit of doing yoga more frequently.
Kelly: I’ve found the Sworkit app that offers free yoga programs (Everyday Yoga, Yoga for Runners, etc) where you can set the time length of the yoga session. I started with Everyday Yoga set for 15 minutes. The program walked me through the new movements and positions, that did wonders for my muscles. At the end, I felt well-stretched and slightly more relaxed; however, I had spent a lot of time checking my phone to make sure I was following along. Ideally tomorrow I’ll be more familiar with the movements and move through the program more fluidly.
Lauren: I decided I’d do something different than my usual yoga routine today and decided to take advantage of some of the many workout videos on Amazon prime. I thought I’d struck gold when I found one that deals with back pain, but the instructor in the video drove me crazy and I made it through about 15 minutes of the 30 minute video before I cut it off. I found that a lot of the stretches where hard to do because my breast were getting in the way and I had difficulty modifying the positions. I am very impatient and the slow pace of the video and the instructor taking lots of time to talk made it difficult for me get in the zone. Also, she kept talking about “opening your heart” which made me gag a little (okay, a lot). My back surprisingly feels tighter, which was the opposite effect I wanted. Better luck tomorrow?
Kelly: I’m using the same app, but decided to do the Yoga for Runners program today after a lengthy run. I’m notorious for not stretching well enough after a workout and I thought that the yoga would force me to slow down and cool off properly. I chose the 10 minute session since I was already exhausted from my previous workout. Somehow the Yoga for Runners consisted of positions that I already knew, making it more relaxing and fluid (except when my dog intervened and tried to eat my hair while I held the poses). I didn’t feel quite as loose as I did the day before, but perhaps that could be expected with a shorter yoga program.
Lauren: Yesterday Kelly and I discovered we enjoy the same workout app, SWORKit, which is what I used today. After a long day at work, some yoga was just what I needed. I powered up the app and chose “Everyday Feel Good Yoga.” Man did I feel good! It had some of my favorite poses too, the ones that feel the best on my poor spine (like cobra and child’s pose). This was so much better than the video I’d chosen the day before, though I realized halfway through that I need constant reminders to move slowly and stand up straight, tuck my pelvis, and tighten my core. The flow of the app confused me for a solid few minutes, before I figured out that the examples started standing and that wasn’t necessary. I figured my flow out.
Positions aside, what I love about this app is the music interface, it connects with both Apple Music and Spotify so when it dawned on me that it was too quiet for me to concentrate, I fired up some nice soothing yoga music. I felt much more relaxed today, but my phone died before I actually finished my 22 minutes of yoga. The left side of my back was slightly more tense and I realized I really need to move more slowly between poses and warm up beforehand.
Kelly: After noticing that my yoga sessions were seriously short, I opted for the 30 minute Everyday Yoga. This time, I cleared out the apartment, dug out my (fiance’s) core mat and put on a soothing music playlist. I made sure to relax a bit before starting my yoga, not jumping from a cardio run to yoga like I did yesterday. I also hadn’t had any caffeine when I started and he small adjustments made all the difference. The 30 minutes flew by and I became aware of the pattern that the program goes through, making it easier to predict the next position and perform a smoother transition. Ultimately, after the yoga, I felt much more loose and limber than I did in the first two days—but also very sleepy and in need of a nap.
Lauren: I need to stop doing the yoga before bed. I think it’s keeping me awake. After my discovery about my posture and breathing (I need constant reminders), I decided to experiment with another video. After very minimal searching, I stumbled across a rainy day yoga video on YouTube (appropriate, since it was raining today). Surprisingly, I really loved it. There were moments that really annoyed me (such as when the instructor had me “wag my tail” and give myself a hug), but overall I loved the flow of the video and the slow transitions. There were great hip stretches too, which was amazing for my perpetually tight hip muscles. I also got to learn a few new poses and rediscover poses that I’d completely forgotten about like the pigeon pose. I had to make some adjustments, but not many. Ultimately it was the most relaxing yoga session so far. Tomorrow, I’ll try to wake up early enough to do yoga before work.
Kelly: I reverted back to the Yoga for Runners today as I started my day with an early run. I wasn’t quite as exhausted post-cardio as I was earlier in the week, so I extended my yoga program to 20 minutes. I actually managed to force myself to stretch before doing yoga, which was helpful. This seemed to be a good amount of time for yoga after I work out and I walked away feeling more relaxed in general. However, I did notice that I was more anxious for the yoga program to wrap up so that I could take a shower, potentially inhibiting the whole relaxing point of yoga.
Lauren: I followed through on my resolution to wake up early to do yoga. It is currently 5:52 a.m. and I’ve already managed to do about 20 minutes of yoga. I did an Energizing Morning Yoga routine from the same YouTube channel as yesterday: Yoga With Adriene. Adriene is a bit too cheerful for my cynical soul but I really like her sequences. She’s also great at reminding you to check in on your breathing and posture and she offered variations for some poses if you aren’t as limber as she is. After the video, I finished with a 7 minute Sun Salutation from the workout app. I don’t know how energized I am but I am awake with more than enough time to get to work on time. But I do wish I could nap first.
Kelly: Out of curiosity, I wanted to see how much I could get out of a shorter yoga program. I selected the Everyday Yoga routine and cut down my time to a mere eight minutes (I’d already completed a run earlier that day). While the session flew by, I felt compelled to put more into the position, stretching out my muscles more than usual. The positions were held for the same amount of time as they would be in a longer session—for 15 seconds—but there were fewer in the rotation. At the end, the yoga was a great option for my on-the-go Friday mentality, but not quite as fulfilling as a little bit more time at yoga could have been.
Lauren: I was so sick last night that I let myself sleep in this morning instead of getting up early to do yoga. I tried doing yoga tonight and made it through about five minutes before I called it quits. Nausea and downward dog don’t mix. I found myself missing how relaxed and awake I felt post yoga.
Kelly: I was up early today (not by choice) and decided to really commit myself to this yoga challenge. I opted for the 45 minute session, rolled out my yoga mat and began. The longer session involved more positions that I was unfamiliar with, so it took me longer to get into my rhythm. This unfamiliarity also meant more time turning to check the video to make sure that I understood the position/was doing it correctly. By the time 30 minutes rolled around, I was ready to be done. The 45 minute programs are just too long for my personal preferences and I was more anxious to wrap it up than relaxed.
Lauren: I was so restless today and struggled to get motivated to practice yoga so I only did a 15 minute sequence. I struggled with breathing and moving slowly, my instinct is to rush from pose to pose. I wish I could’ve committed to longer but I’m massively dehydrated and feeling less than energized. I love the stretch that yoga gives me, but I think it’d feel better if I did more of a warm up beforehand. Tomorrow I’m going to do morning yoga again. That seems to work better for me.
Kelly: For my last day of yoga, I decided to give the sun salutation a try. I’m definitely not a morning person, but I figured that perhaps waking up with a relaxing stretch might do me some good in my stressed-out state. I ended up choosing the 15 minute yoga session, pushing away my morning coffee, and getting started. This program was strikingly different than the Yoga for Runners sessions I’d been doing, which were more stretching based. This program felt slower and more focused on the pinnacles of yoga.
Lauren: Today I tried extending my the length of each pose in the app I’ve been using. I chose the Yoga for Runners program, even though I’m not a runner because I thought it would give me a deep stretch. Before doing yoga I had completed some of my strength and cardio workouts, so I felt that a more stretch focused yoga routine would be good. I did a 20 minute session and the longer poses were nice, though I definitely could’ve made them longer for more of a stretch.
Kelly: I limited myself by sticking to only one yoga app. However, the app proved to be a good fit for me with my busy schedule (and it was free!). I rotated through the different programs on the application, focusing the most on the Yoga for Runners which fit into my exercise routine. I particularly liked the app because it visually simulated the yoga positions, an essential for a yoga novice like myself. At the end of each yoga session, I felt looser and more relaxed in general; however, I often felt sleepy. Slowing down and taking the time to stretch—whether in the morning, middle of the day, or at night—would oftentimes leave me ready for a nap. Overall, I liked taking the time to relax and focus on my muscles, and it helped my cardio runs, but I’m still not convinced to be an everyday yoga practitioner.
Lauren: I loved doing this challenge for the week. It got me out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to try some of the yoga videos I’d often scrolled past on Amazon Prime. While I liked using the app, I was able to focus more on the movements in the videos. The app involved a lot of repetition and used all the same poses, which got stale very quickly. Unfortunately, I relied on it more because it was convenient. In terms of the best time of day, I really enjoyed waking up and doing yoga. This was a nice way to relax before a busy day and made yoga it seem like less of a chore. This week has made me want to workout more and motivated me to keep yoga in my schedule (at least regularly, if not daily) and has inspired me to find new videos. If you’re like me and struggle with motivation and lose focus easily, I strongly recommend YouTube yoga videos. They’re free and if you overlook the weirdness, they can be really fun. I plan to check out more of what YouTube has to offer.
Do you have any go-to yoga programs or tips? Let us know by tweeting @Litdarling!
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