Being a good way through 30 days of yoga – I am seeking out longer practices to keep up the level of challenge. Here is a great 45 minute workout with moderate intensity that will make you break a sweat. Although it has ‘for weight loss’ in the name, this is still a very typical yoga video with familiar poses, just with quicker transitions and a slightly higher tempo.
Yoga with Adriene: Yoga for Strength 40 minute Vinyasa sequence
Monday you are back again. I always find it hardest to get to my matt on a Monday. Especially after a busy day. Today I had a long day at work followed by constructing some flat pack furniture for my home office, so I was pretty knackered when it got to the evening. I had to force myself to roll out my yoga matt and find a yoga video to put on the television. But as always in these situations – I am so glad I did.
After just finishing the practice I feel a lovely deep sense of relaxation and warming buzz through my body. Isn’t that a amazing feeling? I do think when we feel least like doing yoga is when we need it most. I’ve also done my class much later than usual. As a rule I would never do yoga after the last meal of the day. It would either be morning, afternoon or early evening before dinner. But I must admit, whilst it may take more motivation to do yoga later on in the evening, it is quite nice to use the practice as a way to switch off from the day. I have an urge to cuddle up in bed now and go to sleep! That makes two realisations I have had now from doing yoga in the morning and evening – it is a great way to start and end your day. Perhaps the perfect routine is to do morning and evening sessions.
Now back to the video of the day. Another feature from Yoga with Adriene (I love her as you can tell). I picked a second yoga for strength class as I particularly enjoyed the last one from Cat Meffan. I also picked it because I really value the process of building strength and the feeling it gives you when you notice progress. This is a great class with all the classic yoga poses using all the muscles in your body and working on your balance. I enjoyed the flow of movements in this class making it really enjoyable. It includes a chance to test your crow pose. I got quite excited because for the first time ever I managed to lift both feet – even if it was only for a couple of seconds. That’s why you need to keep going! Even the poses you think you will never be able to do, or feel super tough at first – can be achieved with practice. Some maybe you will never do, but that’s OK too. Everyone’s body is a different shape and different make-up and progress in yoga is unique to you.
Now time for something different. Brett Larkin’s Yoga Fusion series combines Vinyasa, Yin and Kundalini yoga into one practice. This is great if you are curious to try something new and take a dip into Kundalini. When I have looked into Kundalini videos before, I have been a bit hesitant to commit to a full 30/40 minute practice. I really wasn’t sure if it was for me. Kundalini yoga is very different to any other form of yoga as it includes chanting, singing and unusual breath work – which can feel quite alien to a lot of us. I worried it would feel a bit false or silly. I still have a full Kundalini class on my list to give it a fair assessment at some point during my 30 day challenge.
What is great about this practice is that it introduces Kundalini softly, with just one section of the practice. And to be fair, I quite enjoyed it. See for yourself how you find a combination practice like this. Personally I think some variation and surprise is a great way to keep you engaged. This way, you don’t get bored doing the same set of movements every day. I found this practice to be suitable for beginners but pushes the body in different ways. It will work your arms more than other video so far so a great way to tone up those biceps and triceps.
The last Ekhart Yoga class I did I wasn’t too impressed by. But I decided to give them another go to make a fair judgement. And I am glad I did. This was a really great 45 minute yoga flow. I found it to be a great pace, not too fast, not to slow. It used a combination of lovely flowing movements. If you enjoy yoga that has a rhythm and almost dance like feel – this includes some combinations like that. It is a full body workout with lots of twists that will energise your body and leave you feeling great. I will definetely be checking out more of Ekhart Yoga classes in the future.
Boho Beautiful: Vinyasa Power Flow Class 20 minute Yoga
Today I am sharing two videos with you. Both of which follow on the theme of providing challenge and pushing yourself more and more as you move through the 30 day challenge. First up, is Boho Beautiful with a Power Yoga class. Check out that backdrop! That is the life I dream of – doing yoga in some baggy trousers with elephants grazing in the background. Tough job right?! If you are not too distracted by the beautiful elephants and can focus on the video it is a good example of a power yoga flow. Don’t worry if you cant take the poses as far as the instructor here – she is extremely advanced. It has a good variation of poses so that you are working the whole body – but I would say this one is a little more focussed on the legs and core. It is suitable for beginners but does have a few more difficult poses here and there.
Yoga with Adriene: Yoga for Abdominal Wall. 14 minute Core practice
Next up, time to work the core. As the first session was only 20 minutes I wanted to follow up with a second workout on a specific area. Today I went for the abs. This short video from Yoga with Adriene is a great short snappy ab workout that is over in no time.
Ab workouts and back pain
One thing I have often struggled with when doing abs – is lower back pain. I often feel like my back is working harder than my stomach in these exercises. When doing ab focussed practices like this – the key is to ensure that your form is correct. This requires a bit of adjustment sometimes and mind muscle connection. One thing to check in on – is your hips. Make sure that your tailbone (hips) are tucked under, drawing your belly button towards your spine. I personally find this tough because you can get confused between drawing your belly in and holding your breath. The latter you shouldn’t be doing as you should try to maintain deep breathing throughout your practice. Another thing to check in on some poses is that your lower back remains stuck to the floor. If you feel it lifting off you are going to put pressure on your back.
Pain in the back when doing abs can be a sign that your core just isn’t strong enough yet for the exercise. And that’s OK if it is the case. You should try gentler exercises to begin with that put less pressure on the back. If you still feel pain even after you have corrected your form it is probably best to switch to a more gentle core exercise.
Cat Meffan: 40 minute Yoga Flow for Strength, All Levels
Time for a real challenge. True to form, Cat Meffan provides a real push for the body with this video. It is probably the hardest yet in terms of difficulty. I found myself shaking on a few poses and some I couldn’t hold for as long as required. But that does not detract from how much I enjoyed this practice. It will test your limits with lots of high planks and plank variations – with a strong flow working every muscle in the body.
I had a realisation at the beginning of this workout that filled me with an incredible sense of achievement. When holding one of the first downward facing dog poses, I realised how much stronger I was feeling. Just before starting this challenge, I had noticed how weak I had gotten. From not exercising regularly (except the odd run and walk here and there) I hadn’t been working my muscles or building strength in a long time. And when you think about it, how important is our strength?!
We get so caught up in how we look and what the scales say – we forget what really matters. What we should be aiming for. Staying feeling young and pain-free is really a case of staying strong and flexible. But how many people would list those two items as their main fitness goals? Perhaps we don’t think about it until we are older – when the pain starts and we want to try and fix the problem. Too often, we never focus enough on prevention – only treatment of a problem once it occurs. I cannot believe the differences I have felt in just over two weeks doing yoga everyday. I feel great, strong and I can visibly see my body is more toned. Today is a day I feel like shouting from the rooftops – everyone GET ON THE YOGA MAT!
As well as the actual experience of doing yoga, I have also started to read into it too. With the combination of the two, I am thoroughly convinced that yoga is perhaps the best form of exercise anyone can do. For example yoga is great for our bones. By holding our weight through our bones they strengthen by becoming more dense. The benefit of yoga vs weight lifting – is that yoga poses are also functional. The moves we do are useful to everyday life and utilise a much larger range of motion and muscle groups. It is also great for joints. Some structures in the joints have no direct blood supply and depend on structures around them for nutrition. Changing positions through a yoga practice our joints are pumped with nourishment.
So my advice to everyone is to do a 30 day yoga challenge. Just try it. I am confident you will be convinced, as I have been already only 16 days in.
Time to take your yoga practice further with a longer session – increasing to 45 minutes. Whilst this seems like a long time, I hardly noticed the difference between a 30 minute and a 45 minute session. When you are in the zone and the moves feel good, yoga doesn’t feel like a chore you just need to get through, it becomes a part of your day you enjoy. This Hatha yoga class from Fightmaster, is an excellent full body workout that will build strength and flexibility with added detox benefits from the twists. It will create heat throughout your body and make you shake in some poses – but this is good! This means you are working hard and getting stronger.
Speaking of getting stronger, I noticed another change in my body today after only 15 days of yoga. As well as definition in my stomach muscles, I can also now see visible changes to my biceps. Getting toned arms has always been a key target of mine – but one I have found difficult to achieve. It seems crazy to a lot of people that you really don’t need to use weights to build muscle and get a toned physique – but now I have proof that you don’t! If you are following along with a 30 day yoga challenge, you too should start to see differences in your body shape as you get stronger. It shows that all you need is your own body weight – equipment isn’t necessary. Sure – if you want to get big and hench very quickly – doing weights will always be the most effective. But should that be our goal? It all depends what your body shape ideal is. For me, I love a yogi figure. Lean, strong and shapely.
Yoga with Adriene: Yoga for core and booty – 30 minutes
A Monday workout needs to kick the week off with a challenge for the body! So I picked a yoga class that would work my muscles and make me break a sweat. This is a great video from Adriene to do just that. It starts off with some twists and a yoga flow to warm the body up and flex it out. Then it moves into a series of squats to really work the booty and legs (you will feel the burn by the end of this!). A great video if yoga is your main form of exercise and you are hoping to tone the body and lose some weight. Give this one a go!
Monday also calls for a weekly check on my progress. After 2 weeks of yoga as my main form of exercise (and not really much else other than the occasional walk) and not focussing on cutting calories, I had lost just over a pound in weight (0.5kg). Additionally my visceral fat had gone down (-1) to pre-lockdown levels, body fat had decreased (-0.2) and skeletal muscle had increased (+0.1). These are promising results, and I hope to see more of the same as the weeks go on!
To up the game for my final 2 weeks of the challenge – I now aim to do longer classes and practice more often (twice a day a few times a week). I will also try to incorporate some positive diet changes such as reducing treats and eating healthier meals throughout the week.
Sarah Beth: Yin Yoga to relax and unwind for stress relief
Ever heard of Yin Yoga? I hadn’t until fairly recently. Yin Yoga is a slow-paced style of yoga in which you will be holding postures for longer periods of time. These classes are quite similar to restorative yoga – and can particularly serve those who are recovering from injury or using their practice to fully relax the body, perhaps before bed. Yin Yoga incorporates principles of traditional Chinese medicine and is said to stimulate the ‘meridians’ (pathways via which life-energy flows according to Chinese medicine).
Perhaps yin yoga is the perfect Sunday practice? I didn’t have chance to get a yoga video going until later this evening – so I thought it was a good opportunity to try some yin. It was nice and relaxing for sure. I can see how this would be a great practice if you have a lot on your mind and need to shut off and focus on your breathing for 30 minutes while releasing tension. I did find myself wanting to do more afterwards. The great thing is when this does happen it is easy (and good) to take an extra 15 minutes doing a yoga-flow that serves you. I normally go for a few sun salutations, a few planks bringing knee to elbow, downward dog, tree pose, cat/cow forward folds etc etc. But if today you are just looking to relax and stretch out yin is a great practice. It is particularly good for flexibility and if for you – yoga is meditation or an aid to meditation.
Today is the first of our intermediate graded classes. If you are working to this level Cat Meffan is a great Youtuber to follow as she offers a lot of the more advanced classes. I wasn’t sure if this class would be too much for me as I can by no means do advanced poses yet, but I wanted to challenge myself to go a little further with my practice today – even if it meant falling over and failing a few times.
If you have been doing yoga for a little while and feel ready to challenge yourself a bit more – this is a great class. It was the right level of challenge for me. It does include some headstand and handstand variations (I am nowhere near close to doing either of these, so don’t worry if you aren’t either. The good thing is you can adjust to the level you are at – e.g with handstand just try doing a few kick ups, with the headstand variation in this video you can just stay in forward fold).
This is also a power yoga class – which means you will be working harder. Power yoga is great if your objectives are to build strength, tone and lose weight. This practice will leave you sweating and feeling like you have really worked hard. I would recommend doing power yoga classes at least 3 times a week if yoga is your main form of exercise as it will get the heart rate going and burn those calories!