A Realist Does Daily Yoga: The First 30 Days


My History with Yoga:  I've been someone who has (sporadically) practiced yoga since early 2012ish.  That said, in recent years...not so much.  Once I was cleared to workout post my heart surgery in 2014, I took to lifting weights because I was angry.  I tried yoga then but it was too quiet for me and I just couldn't relax.  But when I first did yoga 5 years ago, I was skeptically openminded and ended up being astounded at how peaceful I felt after about a month of yoga practice.  I never forgot this, though I really wasn't patient enough for it in recent years aside from every few months needing a good stretch and buckling down long enough to have a yoga session.

This spring was interesting as I had a lot of nervous energy while launching Blair UncensoredJust Shair is doing a total reboot, and bigger and better blogging opportunities have been coming in.  All of this is good, but to say I haven't felt the pressure would be a lie.  My social life also went a little quiet, which happens, but I don't do well without social interaction to fuel me.  So between the stress of setting goals and executing them and not being totally preoccupied, I decided now was a good time to re-start a yoga practice...especially since I'm in an even (though slightly anxious) headspace, unlike the past few years.

The Questions/Goals: If you Google it hard enough, you'll find that yoga cures "everything."  I don't know about that, but I do believe in the mind/body connection and that some lifestyle choices can be better than medicine.  However, I'm skeptical at how far this takes you.  I have allergy headaches CONSTANTLY, a plethora of benign but disruptive health issues, am finding that I get stressed out more easily, and sometimes lose focus on the bigger picture of both life and what I work so hard towards.  Any dent in alleviating or facilitating the above will be appreciated--if it happens.  So I'm going to practice yoga daily, to see how far it truly will take me in life.

The Rules: I have to do yoga for at least 10 minutes one or two times a day.  10 minutes may seem like a very low number, but the secret to being serious about building a habit out of physical activity is to start small and realistic.  If you over burden yourself you will likely burn out or miss a session and be too intimated to start again.  Realistically I wanted to do 15-20 minute sessions a day, but some days I took advantage of my 10 day rule.  Other days I did 30 minutes.

Equipment: Yoga mat, Roku fitness channels, Amazon Prime Instant videos.

Days 1-10:

Having done yoga in my past, I wasn't expecting changes over night.  I remember liking yoga just fine when I first tried it a few years back but not noticing any impact on my mood or headspace until roughly a month in.  One day I was reading on my couch and then I realized my head felt less foggy and I felt a lot more content than I had felt in years.  But that was a month in, so I was open to whatever changes the first 10 days would bring, or the idea that no changes at all would come.  Here are my notes:
  • Though the purpose of this routine is not for aesthetics, within 2-3 days I noticed my leg muscles popping more than before.  OR I was appreciating the curves in my muscle tone more than before because I was constantly staring at my legs in downward dog.  I'm already pretty slender and have muscle tone, but due to stress and allergies I dropped off of my running routine about two months ago and have gotten virtually NO exercise.  I've noticed in the past my body quickly transforms when I start a new fitness routine or start eating unusually healthy, so I don't think it was all in my head.
  • My headaches basically disappeared!  I get so many sinus headaches it's unbelievable.  If I wake up with a sinus headache I tend to be totally screwed because no amount of allergy meds or Excedrin Migraine seem to help me and I just have a miserable day.  I got two headaches in my first 10 days; one I woke up with and one I developed midday and both only lasted 2-3 hours.  Given that this was during spring time in Denver (which means snow one day, 80 degrees the next and a helluva a lot of wind blowing who-knows-what around) this time of year messes with my system in general.  Nearly being 10 days headache free is amazing!
  • My stress level was better...sort of.  For the most part I was able to snap back into an old habit I made myself develop a long time ago about only letting myself fester on things out of my control for a few minutes and then letting it go.  I had a weird episode about the midway point of the 10 days where I got super angry thinking about some stuff one night.  I'm prone to being sad, anxious, or frustrated, but anger is not an emotion that comes easily to me nor does it stick around too long.  (Not counting the months after a failed heart procedure, of course.)  I found myself thinking about things that are legitimately bothersome and triggering, but my pronounced reaction was surprising because nothing prompted it (On record, I've never experienced a mood swing out of left field either.)  I remember getting my first massage and feeling totally hungover the next day, which apparently is common because the massage can dehydrate your muscles and (maybe) toxins are leaving your system.  I've also read that taking certain vitamins can sometimes make you feel worse before they start to fix what you're trying to alleviate.  Change is good, but it can mess up all kinds of weird parts of your body.  I couldn't find anything to back me up completely (besides people can get emotional during yoga practice, which is not what happened) but I wonder if this was a case of a backlash before a positive change becomes the norm?  Residual and repressed anger working it's way out of my system?  Anyone relate, ha?
  • Having follow through on something that I did daily felt good.  I live kind of a weird life.  My schedule is all over the place and my health throws a lot of wrenches in the works.  I tend to live in my own world, which can be bad and I can lose track of how many days in a row I've put off doing something.  Being committed to do doing yoga everyday feels good and I think it's helping me stay on track for other things in my life.
  • I'm remembering to breathe deeply more often.  We really do forget to take deep breaths.  I caught myself doing that a lot and reminded myself to breathe.
Anything bad?  Not really.  But I noticed my left leg is way more stiff than my right leg.  I'm not sure where this comes from; I don't remember this being a challenge in the past nor do I believe I'm blanking on an injury that could have caused this.  So that's interesting.  I also sprained my right wrist 4x in my lifetime (3x over the past year), so sometimes during long downward dog or plank poses I HAD to slip into table or child's pose because I don't want to blow out my wrist, especially so early into this new commitment.  There were two days I found it to be a challenge to squeeze in a yoga practice due to a cramped schedule.  However, I managed to do yoga every day!

All in all?  It was a successful 10 days.  The main challenges were finding yoga programs I haven't tried that were appropriate for me; relaxing ones for night, stress reducing ones on days I felt like that's what I needed.  I'm not a yoga novice, but I am sort of starting over so I'm rediscovering what works for me and have seemingly endless options to watch so it's overwhelming.

Days 11-20
The second 10 days were been met with some different challenges.  I've been trying out as many yoga exercises as I can find on Roku (channel "Yoga" by Fawesome, for anyone interested...) and Amazon Prime Video.  Some days I accidentally picked a way more challenging practice than I thought I signed up for and other days I had to quit and start something new (like if something was too energetic to do right before I went to bed).  Two nights I literally only had 10 minutes to commit to yoga, so instead of surfing through options I did my favorite yoga poses for 10 minutes (counting to 30 in my head for each pose/side).  This was good to know I could do this because one day I will be traveling and may not have ideal access to the channels I use to do yoga, so I'm relieved I found a way early on to be low maintenance while still being committed.  Here are my other notes:

  • No changes yet in reduced stress and anxiety.  I'm managing, but deep down I'm a bundle of stress and crumble at making decisions.  As I mentioned, it took a month or more for me to feel at peace when I first started a yoga practice YEARS back.  I'm only on day 20.  I guess I assumed since I was doing it daily that the calmness may creep in quicker, as before I was doing a yoga practice a small handful of times per week.  This didn't happen.
  • I find I get the most out of stretches where the pose is held for a minute or more.  Something about feeling the burn/pain but standing/sitting still instead of doing something aerobic brings me joy.  I genuinely like to make it hurt.  Maybe I am angry deep down??  If not, perhaps I'm a masochist.
  • Being allergic to life and being an asthmatic, I tend to cough a lot.  I still do, but I've been experiencing productive coughs over dry coughs, so wherever this is coming from, it's a win in my book!
  • Towards the end of these 10 days, a myriad of factors caused some headaches that I could not easily get rid of.  I attempted a yoga for headaches video I found on YouTube.  It somewhat challenged what my idea of what doing a yoga practice is, as it wasn't physically challenging (at all) and was mostly focused on breathing.  It helped a little bit in the moment, but when I went to bed two hours later I still had a headache.
  • The most I'm getting out of my daily yoga practice is the dedication of committing to something daily.  I like that my muscles are firming up and that maybe other changes internally are taking place, but really I just like having the routine and sticking with it.
I also added doing free weights and/or pilates practices every 2-3 days after my yoga routine.  Being strong and healthy is a big deal in my world, and I enjoy those forms of exercise.  I wanted to give at least 10 days of just doing yoga and breaking my body into working out every day gently.  (I started the weights on day 18, so really it was nearly 20 days of just yoga.)  There are a lot of yoga practices that are designed to work out your abs, behind, arms, etc.  I attempted a few of those but ultimately turned them off to find another practice.  They were too much like Pilates, which I enjoy, but want something more strictly yoga based for when I practice yoga because I'm attempting yoga on a daily basis and not just general exercise.

Days 20-31

There's a lot less things to note here.  Mostly more of everything I reported occurred.  There was a cluster of a few days where I had a non-stop headache.  Around that time it was brought to my attention that I was anemic again (something that happens easily in my world).  Due to a perfect storm of conditions, I partially blame the headaches on not having the right nutrients.  So yoga DID help my daily headaches, but it proved to be no match for extra circumstances making my head pound a few times over the month.  

The rest of practice has been rewarding, and this is something I want to do daily for as long as humanly possibly and will continue to track in monthly posts (that will likely be shorter...).  As this goes to be published, I'm actually on day 43 as I got delayed with ALL blog posting over the past two weeks due to kooky schedule wrenches thrown in the works.  But I can reports that I am going strong!
Any Extra Personal Anecdotes I Wanna Share?  I never will be too TMI (or at least I doubt I will be...) and this is already a long post.  That said, this is a realist's journey in yoga so I feel obligated to share as much good, bad, and ugly as possible.  Most of my first 30 days took place in June.  June 3rd is the saddest day in my history, as it's the day my dad passed away in 2003.  Being that it was the 14 year mark this year, it brought some mixed emotions.  I've been "fine" on that day for years though it's impossible not to remember it.  Last year threw me off more than usual, however.  I didn't cry, but I was genuinely bummed out and that took me off guard.  So leading up to the 14 year mark a few weeks back gave me some anxiety.  But on the actual morning of June 3rd I woke up at peace and had a pleasant and productive day by myself (which is what I wanted).  I don't read a ton into this as 14 years in I've run the gamut with emotions involving this day.  But waking up in peace about the day was nice, and if practicing yoga daily helped at all, then cool.

I also have a heart condition, as you may have deduced from the aforementioned heart surgery (or if you've been reading my content for years).  The long and short of it is that I have a pesky thing called supra ventricular tachycardia, or SVT.  My heart races up to between 155-220 beats per minute (BPM) when I'm at rest.  If the BPMs don't go down on their own I need to go to the hospital to get my heart stopped so that it can reset at a healthy rate.  I got a surgery in early 2014 to fix this, but about 45 minutes in they had to abort mission due to some anatomy issues they discovered.  So I still have SVT.  Since my surgery I've had 5 SVT attacks.  Luckily only one has been big, and all 5 of them I was able to manage to stop them without medical intervention (pouring ice cold shower water on your face and laying in the fetal position on your right side can reset/slow your heart rate respectively and are natural cures I've learned to prevent the dramatics of an ER trip--and so far they've worked for me).  On day 11 of my yoga practice I had my 5th attack.  My point being, of course yoga has yet (nor will it likely ever) cure my heart condition.  That said, the fetal position trick has always reminded me of yoga and I've always found the mind/body/illness/health connection interesting.  SVT attacks are also VERY hard to stay calm during because your adrenaline goes insane; this time probably marks the calmest I've been during one (my dogs didn't even notice something was happening with me, which they usually do).  I can't say for sure if there's a connection or not, but feel all of this is worth putting on record.

Final Notes:  I loved doing yoga everyday!  The poses I enjoy the most of hips openers and twists, as you may be able to see in my mediocre self-yoga photography (I'll see if I can aim higher next month, ya'll!  Sports photography has comedically NEVER been my thing and this taking pics of me in poses is such a different animal from outfit photos!)

I hope everyone has a good weekend!  I'm looking forward to the next installment of this series in a few weeks and will be back to posting as usual next week!  Have a great one!
XOXO
Lauren-Blair Donovan

Comments

  1. I am mazed at all the things you told us about yoga now... I never practiced it and reading your post and seeing your pictures make me into "I have to try" it mood. I was glad that at first you mentioned that it has stopped your headaches, but not when strong conditions happen. One of my brothers has asthma when he was younger - I don't know whether this stops, or just that nothing happened anymore. So I ca imagine the coughing. I hope you are managing the SVT condition, of course you are, with what you said - the cold water seems to be a quick remedy and the fetal position does sound a lot like yoga! I hope you are fine! Hugs!
    DenisesPlanet.com

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  2. Wow, I'm really surprised by how much your daily practice affected you, especially your headaches! I've been skeptical about yoga for a long time now, but I must say, I'd give a lot to have fewer headaches! My mom/lots of my friends always tell me it would work wonders on my stress levels, but I've not felt I could take the time to try it until now, and of course the baby complicates things. I'm glad it's been such a good thing for you, and I'm looking forward to an update as you continue practicing!

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