Yoga challenge:  Ten minutes a day for eight weeks.

When I started this post it was supposed to be about a 10-minute workout challenge I was going to do before work every day.  I wanted to start doing some strength training and over the years I have struggled to make myself stick to a plan for very long.  I thought if I could just start with 10 minutes a day it would become a habit and eventually I could stretch it out longer than 10 minutes.

I was doing pretty good for the first two weeks when suddenly my son, his girlfriend, and their dog needed a place to crash for a while.  I set up a makeshift room for them in the basement in the same area where my yoga room and fitness equipment is.  So there went my early morning 10-minute workouts because they would be sleeping when I needed to be working out 🙄

It took me a few weeks six months to re-group and figure out a new plan and to get over the fact that I had two people and a dog living with me indefinitely!  I was determined to find a way to make it happen, after all, it was only 10 minutes a day!  I hauled my yoga mat and some of my yoga DVDs upstairs so I could work out in the living room.

Since I wouldn’t have use of my weight machine I decided to turn this into an eight-week yoga challenge and scrap the strength training for the time being.  I picked a pose that looked impossible for me to achieve, Dancer’s Pose.

My new plan was to do a short, 10 to 15-minute yoga session every night which included dancer’s pose.  I took a selfie of my first, somewhat rickety, and totally stiff, dancer’s pose in the yoga room that I was no longer able to use whenever I wanted.   I hoped that in eight weeks I would at least be a little more flexible!

After the first seven days of practicing yoga, I was definitely feeling it!   I had read some tips and pointers on how to do dancer’s pose and was practicing that along with my 10-minute yoga workout every night but I ended up pulling a muscle in my hip so I must have pushed a little too far at that point.  I purchased a foam roller to help relieve pain and used it before my yoga sessions to help loosen up my hips.  I was really impressed with how well it worked!

Three weeks into the challenge I took another selfie of dancer’s pose.  I had watched a few YouTube videos on how to achieve dancer’s pose and learned a few things, like which way my hand should be holding my foot and how to use different muscles in my legs and hips to help maintain my balance.  I was getting better at it and taking selfies of my progress was helpful too.  I could tell by the pics that my grounded leg was straighter but I could see I needed to lower my arm straight out in front of me and work on getting my raised thigh more parallel to the floor.

Normally I am out of energy by the end of the day and I had serious doubts as to how an evening workout was going to work for me. Much to my surprise, it felt wonderful to do yoga every evening! I actually started looking forward to it.  I knew whether I ever achieved a perfect dancer’s pose I was at least becoming much more flexible.

I have several different yoga DVDs.  Some of them were purchased when I first started doing yoga and they were too advanced for me.  The instructor moved too quickly through the poses and I did not have the names of the poses memorized so I never knew what I was supposed to be doing!  Now that I have dabbled in yoga for several years I have a pretty good idea of what the different poses are and I can follow along pretty easily.  My beginner DVD’s seem too slow and easy now.  I’ve learned that I’m not as flexible as the instructors and I just do what feels comfortable to me, altering the pose to accommodate my tight hamstrings and using a yoga block when necessary.

At five weeks into this routine, I was amazed at how much more flexible I was.  It motivated me to keep practicing yoga each night.  There were, of course, nights that I wasn’t able to squeeze in a yoga session.  I do have a life and frankly, sometimes I’m just too tired to do it!  I think as long as you remain dedicated to a goal you will get there eventually.  You get out of it, what you put into it.  I noticed as the weeks went by my 10-minute sessions turned into 15 or 20 minutes when time permitted.  I found myself not wanting to stop after 10 minutes, that’s how good it felt!  I’m sure if I spent an hour every night instead of 10 or 15 minutes, I would be much further along, but 10 or 15 minutes is what I felt I could do.

One yoga session that focuses on back stretches was particularly difficult for me when I started this challenge.  Towards the end of the 15-20 minute session, you have to push yourself up off of the ground into a backbend.  I literally laid on the floor and laughed 😂.  Even if by some miracle my back was flexible enough to bend that far, there was no way my weak arms were going to push my body up off of the floor into a backbend!  I kept practicing other back-flexibility poses like camel pose shown below:

Eventually, I was able to actually push myself up off the floor into a “beginners” back-bend!  I was in disbelief!  I have to admit, it wasn’t pretty, which is why there is no picture of it on this post!  It did prove to me that I was building strength and flexibility without even lifting weights.  I needed no fancy equipment,  expensive memberships or classes, and didn’t even have to spend a lot of time doing it.  I did it all right in my living room!

I took the last selfie at the end of the Eight weeks.  You may not be able to tell from the picture but I can certainly feel how much progress I made.  My grounded leg is straight and strong.  My balance is so much better.  I have more flexibility, improved focus, my arms are stronger and more toned and I have way fewer aches, pains, and muscle cramps after running.  Yoga is amazing!  I’m going to continue to practice yoga.  I would like to have more flexibility in my back and keep the stretch going for my legs in order to get more lift and become even more balanced on one leg.  I keep watching videos and practicing other back-flexibility poses that will help improve my technique on dancer’s pose.  Many of the balance poses are hip-strengthening exercises that will prevent injuries and help with my running.  I’m excited to see what the next eight weeks bring!