PsycheTruth: Yoga Stretches for Back Pain Relief, Sciatica, Neck Pain & Flexibility
Today I changed up my agenda to find a workout that would give my body what it needed. Don’t forget – this is what yoga should really be about. What I realise the more I practice, is how much more in touch with my body I have become from doing yoga on a regular basis. Body awareness is just one of the benefits you will experience from doing a 30 day yoga challenge. You will find yourself doing a quick child’s pose when you feel some tension in your back, or a downward facing dog before bed to stretch out your body. Yoga classes and videos are great for helping you to build a self-care toolkit. Once it is filled, you will be able to use the right tool to fix the problem. Or you will be able to find the right routine to match the need.
I woke up today with some pain in my back. This is because I have spent far too much time sitting down the last few days. Very bad for the body! My excuse? I have been revising for an exam for some extra qualifications, stuck to my sofa and dining room chair for hours on end. That and the fact the typical English weather has returned after such a long and beautiful period of sunshine – making going outdoors far less appealing. So I decided to find a suitable yoga class to address the pain in my back and neck so I could get back on track.
PsycheTruth is a really popular yoga Youtube channel with videos from all different instructors in one place. They also have videos on other holistic health and wellness topics including nutrition, massage and reflexology. You will see from the start of this video this is a little bit more than just a yoga video – you are been given tips and advice throughout about how to prevent back pain – this is a nice touch. This practice is slow paced and based almost entirely on stretches. So you won’t get any flowing movements and certainly won’t break a sweat. But that wasn’t the focus today. Today was about resetting the body and releasing tension where it was caught. For that, this class worked great. My only criticism is that it could have included a bit more variation and additional poses. This video isn’t going to be one added to any 30 day challenge or workout routine for weight loss / body toning – but it is a great example of a class to try out when you need it. Another example of ‘needs-based’ practices would be a ‘Yoga for stress relief’ or ‘Yoga for energy’ video.
But hopefully that’s as much slowing down as I need to do for now. Tomorrow, it will be back to some more intense workouts to keep challenging the body and shape up for summer!
So first I have to say sorry that I didn’t post yesterday. I did want to make this challenge to be Yoga everyday for 30 days – but I have to admit I missed one. We had friends come over for the first time since we have been allowed to meet with other households under lockdown rules. It was amazing to see our friends (socially distanced of course!) who we actually hadn’t seen since before Christmas. So my bad, I broke my challenge. I will make up for it by still doing the rest as planned and adding in some extra sessions as I progress. Plus, if you set yourself a challenge and you absolutely have to break it, don’t give up and use it as an excuse to quit – keep going!
If you are doing yoga as your main exercise and are hoping to lose weight, I would recommend to increase exercise overall to achieve that goal too. Unless you are going hard on cutting calories in your diet. Whilst diet will have the single biggest impact on how much weight you lose, a healthier way to drop pounds is to do it slowly – don’t put yourself through the pain of starving yourself and doing some fad diet. Instead eat healthy, but keep your snacks and portions under control and make exercise a core part of your strategy. Yoga can be that exercise, but for best results compliment it with some aerobic exercise that works for you whether that’s hiking/walking/cycling/running – especially you find yourself sitting around a lot during this time. I know myself this is something I need to improve on.
But anyway, back to Yoga. So Ekart Yoga was one of the Youtube channels recommended in various blogs. The one I picked was one of her older classes and was called ‘Heart opening’ I couldn’t really imagine what this meant for a class – so have it a go to uncover the mystery! So it turns out it is a very standard yoga class with all the classic poses – but focussed on movement to open the chest. It works the upper body and stretches out the whole area including back. Good for beginners as the instructor talks through the pose really well to make sure you apply pressure in the right places and there are no challenging poses.
I think I probably didn’t pick one of the best videos from Ekhart Yoga as she has now produced many more modern looking practices so I will try some of her most recent to make a better assessment. But either way, this is a good practice for when you are feeling tightness in the chest area and want a slower paced workout that will build strength.
Cat Meffan: Yoga for toned bums: 30 minute yoga flow
Some of you may not have come across Cat Meffan before, she is our first British yoga instructor of the challenge! All of the most famous yoga youtubers tend to be American. I originally came over Cat Meffan from her Instagram, where she would often demonstrate some of the really advanced yoga poses. She does cater for intermediate and advanced yogis with her videos but also has a lot of beginner classes. I have done a few of her classes before and most are a step up in terms of difficulty, so she is a good go to when you are looking to move to the next stage. Seeing her amazing figure is enough to motivate anyone to do yoga and keep advancing!
So this class was all about the bum! It was a really good class I really enjoyed it. It had the right mix of yoga to stretch out and warm up and exercises to work the legs and butt. It was challenging enough to feel the burn, but not too much to make you want to give up! As this yoga challenge is all about seeing the impact on body shape and weight loss – this is a great practice to work towards that. If losing weight and getting toned is your number 1 priority – I would recommend doing a class like this a few times a week – perhaps a 2nd workout of the day. With lockdown right now keeping the gym doors closed, this is a great replacement for leg and bum day.
Yoga with Adriene: Yoga for Weight loss, Healthy Energy Flow: 36 minutes
So today, I really didn’t feel like doing yoga – or anything for that matter. I had been out for the whole day yesterday running errands and spending over 5 hours in the car, which had left me feeling really icky today. Despite the fact I only had one glass of wine yesterday I also felt hungover for some reason – think my whole body was just tired.
At times like this, you don’t feel like doing any exercise – but because I was on a challenge, there was no way I was letting myself down 😉 (that’s the beauty of setting yourself a challenge right? You are way less likely to give up!).
So I checked my list and today was another Yoga with Adriene video – Yoga for weight loss, healthy energy flow. Urgh, I let a sigh out when I read this. I wasn’t sure I could handle anything too high intensity! But I plucked up the energy to get to the mat and give it a go.
To my surprise (and delight!) this workout was not high intensity. It actually starts off super slow, relaxing into the practice and is followed by a series of slow, flowing movements. It is a great workout when you want to cover off all the classic yoga poses – vinyasa, half splits, cat/cow, forward fold, triangle etc. There were no surprising or unusual poses and other than a small section of ab workout towards the end – it wasn’t in any way a practice that you would expect to be called yoga for weight loss. I think Adriene needs to rename this one. What it was good for, was unravelling the body from tension. I liked how flowing the movements were, it was very graceful and smooth and felt really good. Very quickly I had forgotten how shitty I had been feeling only a few moments before and was so happy to have forced myself onto the mat today.
Would I add this to my recommended yoga video list? Yeah I guess. It was a good all-rounder. Potentially could be a bit samey to other workouts so not one if you are looking for a video to challenge and add variation. But nonetheless a good workout if you are in the mood for some good classic yoga poses with a little bit of ab work. It’s actually the ideal workout if you are feeling a bit rubbish as it clearly had a positive effect on my body and mind today and helped to release the stiffness of 5 hours spent in a car!
Sarah Beth Yoga: Full Body Yoga Workout – Strength and Tone – 30 minutes
So today I was going to be out all day and needed to get up early to get my Yoga session in. I considered doing a specific ‘Morning Yoga’ or ‘Wake-up Yoga’ video, as there are lots of them out there. However, as this was going to be my one workout of the day I wanted to make sure it was a full and challenging workout. All the morning yoga videos tend to be a bit shorter and (I assume) are a little slower to ease you into the day? One to try another time to put the theory to the test.
On the agenda for today was Sarah Beth Yoga. Another very popular well established Youtuber, who I had never watched before. This workout was a full body workout – to help strength and tone the body. This was a totally different vibe from yesterdays video, but great for people looking for a workout that incorporates a lot of strength building exercises for core and arms. You can expect to be holding plank position for extended periods, variations of push ups, ab work and leg raises. But it is still very much Yoga – so it is a great blend of stretching and working the muscles. No challenging poses here that require you to be an advanced yogi – and if you are used to regular aerobic workout classes and Pilates you may find this easier as it incorporates some common exercises.
Overall, I would say that this is a solid video to add to your yoga collection as it adds variation – which is always good to work your whole body and not get too complacent. What I also liked is that she really explains each of the poses in a simple way that helps you get the correct posture and pose. Beginners will appreciate this, who may feel they need a little more instruction to make sure you are doing things right.
How does it feel doing Yoga in the morning?
It definitely felt tougher at first, as your body hasn’t woken up yet. But the benefit is how you feel after. For me, yoga is like meditating. It declutters your mind for whatever is ahead of you that day and gives you a sense of clarity. I don’t know about you, but I struggle with meditation – something about sitting there quietly ‘not thinking’ is a bit odd. I struggle to find myself the time and motivation to do it – even though I am 100% sure it has great benefits for those that can. But with yoga, I can focus on my body and what I am doing, and this gives me the same mental clarity that is advocated in meditation. Just do what works for you. Because of this side effect, I can really see why doing yoga in the morning is a great idea (I usually practice mid-late afternoon). So I can totally see why there are lots of ‘Morning Yoga’ videos out there now – so during the rest of this challenge I will try out a few of them out, and let you know which I recommend.
Already in this challenge I am noticing a difference incorporating yoga every day. Most noticeably is my ability to focus and get things done. I read about this from a girl who did the same challenge and recorded the exact same thing. When she looked back over her 30 days she said she had achieved more than she had the whole prior year. I am seeing how this could be true for sure – I’m on top of everything, finding time to study and do a course and not procrastinating and wasting time as much. Then there is the fact that my body feels great and my energy levels are higher. So far, so good – and its only day 4!
OMG. I am writing this immediately after doing this class and I am really blown away by how I feel. I had never done a Boho Beautiful video before so had no idea what to expect – I could see straight away that the video was visually much more professional, with that typical ‘Zen vibe’ you associate with yogi’s – and I wasn’t sure if it would be something for me. Sometimes these type of channels can be a little too, ‘try hard’ and cheesy for my liking. But no, everything about this yoga video, just worked.
It is the first video that had a dominant and beautiful music soundtrack. This really helped to zone out and focus solely on the practice. Somehow I felt like I had been transported to another world for 30 minutes this afternoon. It was a challenging practice – the most challenging yet for sure. Mainly because it used different poses and flows than I am used to – some were more advanced and not suitable for beginners, but there was always a substitution you could use instead if the pose pushes your body too far. I don’t know about you – but I struggle a bit with every pigeon variation, I don’t feel confident I am doing the pose right just yet so definitely needs some practice!
With this workout – you can expect to get your sweat on and really feel the stretch and burn through your body. But somehow it all seems OK because the instructor has this lovely soothing voice motivating you to keep going. When it got to the end I could feel energy flowing all through my body yet I almost felt sleepy, like I was awakening from a dream. When noticing how my body felt I was actually pretty overwhelmed with how incredible I felt. I really noticed the mental benefits from feeling a real sense of calm and clarity.
I don’t know why this class had such an effect on me. Maybe it is partly to do with the fact that I am a few days in, getting into yoga practice, zoning out and realising the benefits – orBoho Beautiful is just the best thing ever. All I know, is that I will be coming back to this video again in the future and I cant wait to try more!
If you try this video out for yourself, let me know in the comments if you are as big a fan as I am!
So, day 2 of my yoga 30 day challenge. On the agenda for today was a video from FightMaster Yoga – another really popular yoga channel offering a large variety of different practices. I had done some of the FightMaster yoga classes before but not his particular class.
Whilst still suitable for a beginner, this class is more demanding in terms of flexibility, strength and fitness than the Yoga by Adriene video yesterday – despite it including a lot of the same poses. There’s a lot of downward dogging – which personally I really like as I find this pose fantastic for stretching out the whole body, especially the legs! (which I found particularly beneficial after my run yesterday).
This workout gives you just the right amount of challenge, so you feel you are pushing yourself but not too much. The instructor also gives a few options throughout the practice to match to your level. Warning – don’t try these advanced versions too soon if you are a beginner! I could just about manage a few of them with difficulty…
Again, I found the instructor easy enough to follow. She has a very calming voice, nice enough to listen to – but if I had to pick I would say Adriene is my favourite so far – mainly because she just seems such a lovely person and you feel more like you are doing Yoga with a friend.
Overall, this Yoga session was a really good workout. The instructor makes a pretty bold promise on the video: ‘will make you feel so good!’ and I must admit – it really did. I felt energised and that my body had really awakened. My recommendation is to start with a few sessions with my day 1 video – then move onto this one when you are ready to challenge yourself a bit further and want a more full workout.
Pilates vs Yoga
So later this afternoon when I fancied another workout – so I decided to give a Pilates video a go. A lot of people don’t really know the difference between Yoga and Pilates and assume they are quite similar. In reality they are quite different – but you may see some cross-over with certain poses and exercises here and there. I would say the main difference is that Yoga is much more about the mind – you connect to yourself on a deeper level and find a peace through Yoga. Pilates, is more of a straight up workout – you often feel more of a burn but don’t get that same energy flowing through you like you do after a Yoga session.
As with Yoga, there are many different forms of Pilates – but I would say that Pilates is even more varied in terms of what people classify as a Pilates workout. The video I did today, was actually more of a ab/core workout than pure Pilates. It was quite limited in terms of range of motion and the muscles used. If I had done the workout without knowing the title, and afterwards asked what I thought the class was called, I would of 100% not labelled it as Pilates. However, its not a total surprise as Pilates is very focussed on core strength.
Would I recommend the video? Sure. Take a look for yourself by following the link below.
But as I say, this may be more suitable for someone looking for a good ab and bum workout, rather than what you might expect from a typical Pilates class – which from my experience is more about testing and developing your range of motion, balance and control alongside core strength. I’ll find a more traditional video to share with you another day.
Pilates can be great compliment to yoga, especially if you want something that challenges a few muscle groups (in particular core) a bit further. After all, core strength is critical to maintaining good posture, reducing back pain, improving balance and improving your performance in just about any sport or activity.
So after some weeks of stepping off the pedal in a major way when it came to my exercise routine in the midst of lockdown… I found myself a few pounds heavier and feeling quite low in energy. In the first few weeks, I had been pretty good. Yoga sessions every few days and going for short runs, determined not to get lockdown chubby. Somewhere along the way, it fell down. I got into a negative spiral of getting up late, sitting in the garden sunbathing in this beautiful weather – and not getting regular exercise.
After deciding enough was enough (and getting an unfavourable result on the scales :|) I decided to set myself a challenge. I don’t know about you, but I find this the best way to get into or commit to something new – make it a personal challenge to achieve in the next week or month. I was also keen to see for myself what impact Yoga as a main source of exercise can deliver. I am already convinced that Yoga has amazing benefits for body and mind, but many people remain unconvinced whether it can work as a main source of exercise when trying to achieve a better looking body, muscle tone and weight loss.
In theory, it should. Yoga works all your muscles rather than just focussing on limited muscle groups as you do with typical gym workouts. People also make the mistake of thinking yoga is ‘easy’ or that you don’t burn calories or really work that hard. That isn’t the case at all. But it definitely helps to pick the right Yoga routines, teachers and some time to learn how to do Yoga properly. I admit it took me a while to understand what Yoga was all about and how to get the most out of your workout. But the answer is simple, practice.
So to test the theory of whether Yoga as a core exercise can deliver results, I set myself the target to do Yoga everyday for 30 days and make a record of how my body changes and how I feel. At the same time, I will try out a variety of different Yoga videos from the most popular Youtubers to let you know which ones I recommend and what to expect. By the end of it, I will be able to provide you with my recommended 30 day Yoga workout Video set that you can try out for yourself – saving you the trouble of hours of trial and error and wasting your time on the not-so-good videos that could put you off practicing. So you can wait for that one and save yourself the reading – or follow my journey as it goes.
I made my list by reviewing other blogs and recommendations of the best Youtube channels for Yoga, then making a list that covered a variety of different Yoga styles/ workouts. I will complete a mix of Vinyasa flow, Ashtanga, Power Yoga, Yoga specific for working certain body parts, and for different goals e.g for weight loss and stress relief. This way I can give you a good overview of how each of these felt during and after practice to help you decide which might be best for you. So let’s get started.
Day 1 : Yoga with Adriene – Full Body Flow (20 minutes)
So I picked this as my first Yoga class as it is my go-to for a short but effective Yoga workout. It is suitable for all levels, but as with any Yoga class you have to listen to your body and only push as far as feels comfortable – if you are in pain you are not doing Yoga right!
Why I like this class is that I feel it awakens the body giving you energy and works all the muscles. I definitely notice the loosening of my lower back which can get stiff after hours at a desk or on the sofa. When I practice regularly, this class feels pretty easy and I find myself wanting a bit more challenge. But I realised after having some time off Yoga (and fitness in general!) then coming back to this class – how much it actually works you. After 5 minutes I could notice my heart beating and feel warmth throughout my body. If you don’t feel that with your first workout make sure you focus on your body mind connection. It is critical that you think about the muscles you are working and try to attain strong stable poses to engage your muscles.
This is a great workout for testing and building your balance which is key to Yoga practice and helps to get equilibrium throughout your body.
You will see a few Yoga with Adriene Videos on the list as she is probably the most popular on the internet. As well as being someone easy to listen to and watch, she explains the poses well so that you don’t have to look at the screen too much to make sure you are doing the right thing! (at least after 1 or 2 times doing this practice if you are a complete beginner).
So overall, this is a great starter workout that can be repeated whenever you want a short but effective routine to awaken your body and help build core strength and balance.
Running and Yoga
As well as Yoga I am trying to incorporate some other forms of exercise into my routine a few days a week. So today I decided to go for my first run in weeks and attempt 5k (keep in mind, I have only ever ran 5k once before in my life so am my no means an expert runner!). I somehow managed it as a very slow pace but was glad to have kickstarted my commitment to fitness by getting a run in.
Yoga and running go very well together as Yoga is a great way to stretch muscles and aid recovery. With the 30 day challenge in mind, I decided now would be a good time to try out a ‘Restorative Yoga’ video – which are generally slower paced and focussed on stretching.
I hadn’t planned for this as part of my list, so I just searched restoriative yoga on Youtube and picked the first short one I found – which was called 15 minute chill out Restorative Yoga by Yoga by Candace. It was OK. I didn’t feel it really gave me the full stretch I was looking for, especially in the legs – and it spent too long holding one pose lying on the floor so I found myself doing a few extra poses I felt my body needed to help recover from the run instead. So not going to be adding this one to the list, but definetely made me want to do some research into restorative yoga classes to try another day to be able to give you a solid recommendation for a good Yoga class after a run.
I have always incorporated Yoga into the end of my workouts at the Gym even if its just for 5 minutes. People often forget to stretch after workouts and it is so important for recovery and keeping your joints and muscles in good order. Testing out Yoga with running with be a good learning process to assess how best to combine the two.
Does Yoga help you to run?
One thing I did question whilst on my run, was whether doing the Yoga session in the morning was helping my ability to run. What I can definetely say, is that considering I had not gone for a run in weeks and was challenging myself to 5k which killed me at the best of times – I did feel much better than usual. Personally, the hardest part of running outside for me is the pressure on my lungs and keeping my breathing under control – rather than the physical exertion on my legs and body. Spending 20 minutes really focussing on breathing prior to a run – as well as stretching out the body and getting energy running through it – probably did help. Let’s see how the two go hand in hand as the weeks go by.