Four weeks ago I never would have willingly dedicated my precious workout time every morning to YOGA! I mean come on. I am a busy mom and I love my “me” time. I mean I wake up at 4:30 just to make sure I get my “me” time in! So why would I sacrifice that precious time to do Yoga. You know “Om”, standing still in weird poses being one with myself. Who else could I possibly be one with? How stupid! I’m just not one of those people. This is what I would have told you 4 weeks ago.
Fortunately for me I am a part of something bigger than my ignorant ego. I am a part of something that encourages me to step out of my comfortable little box and make sure that I am not only getting my body healthy but my mind healthy as well. I am a part of something that encourages me to do things I think are “probably good for other people but not for me”. I am also lucky enough to have an inspiring friend who may have told me all about how she taught a couple yoga classes (and even taught kids) and then did another intense workout class that same day and made me really realize I needed to understand what this Yoga thing was really all about. So what happens when you commit to 3 full weeks of a yoga retreat? Do you become super spiritual and say Namaste to everyone you meet? Do you all of the sudden become super flexible and bendy? Are you all of the sudden calm and peaceful all the time and start hugging trees? Do you start losing muscle tone and stamina because you are giving up your normal workout time to stand funny and sit cross legged for 30 minutes?
Here is my experience with 3 full weeks of a yoga retreat designed for beginners. This means a maximum of about 31 minutes of yoga every day for 3 weeks straight.
Day 1: I struggled. They did these poses that made me feel like I was ridiculously not ready for yoga. I didn’t look like they did, not even like the modifier. I couldn’t get my body in to these positions the right way, and this pose they call downward dog, yes the staple move in yoga, was freaking impossible. I felt like I was bound to fail, but I stuck it out. I finished day one feeling like I had really wasted my workout time and gotten nothing out of it. Day 1 was called Core. How do they figure? We weren’t holding planks, doing sit-ups, crunches, leg lifts, etc.
Day 2: Day 2 was called Stretch. We did all these deep stretches. Again some stretches I couldn’t even get close and I am a fairly flexible person to start with . . .or so I thought. Again I thought, why am I wasting my workout time stretching? Seriously!
Day 3: It happened, I WAS SORE!! SORE! How was I sore, I hadn’t worked out in more than 2 days. That makes no sense. But I was more sore than I had been from any workout in a long time. I had trouble bending down, reaching for things, brushing my teeth! It was the kind of sore you get after a really good workout. What was going on!
As my first week continued I allowed myself to really focus on what I was doing rather than what I was missing by not doing my regular workouts. I realized that by holding these specific poses I was really having to focus on my form, what muscles I was using, and making sure that my muscles were engaged the entire time. I would catch myself if I didn’t have my abs engaged, or my shoulders were tenses and be able to correct my posture before they even reminded me.
One thing that I really enjoyed was due to the nature of the workout, and the fact that I was streaming these through an app on my phone AND I was able to download the workouts if needed for offline viewing, it was very easy to get these done with no excuses. I could do the workout wherever I was, no matter how much space was available, as long as I had my phone. I did these in a tiny bedroom, outside, in a hotel room, and in my living room.
On to week two and I started to struggle a little with getting in my workouts. I only have one time a day that I can guarantee I fit in a workout and that is at about 5am when I wake up and everyone else is sleeping. The weather started to get nice and the dog needed her exercise too. I had to choose between my morning Yoga (which I still wasn’t pumped about every morning), and taking Roz rollerblading for 4.5 miles, outside, in the fresh air, getting her and me exercise. I made sure to get Roz out for her walk at least 3 times during week 2, but that also meant sacrificing some of the things I usually get done at night in order to get my yoga in as well. I pushed through because I wanted to know what all the hype was about and I knew I needed to commit to the full three weeks. Unfortunately, my house chores and a few other things suffered a bit during this time because something had to give. This weighed on me mentally making week 2 even tougher. It is a personality trait that I am still working to overcome that I struggle to leave chores until the next day, and when my house starts to get chaotic, messy, and dirty (yes those two things are different) it really drives me crazy mentally! But I survived, and so did everyone else in my house 😉.
I made it to week 3. A huge accomplishment in my book because I didn’t think I would get past week 1 without getting bored and going back to my usual workouts. I realized right away that my muscles weren’t as tight as when I started. I also realized that I was getting better at each of the steps to each of the poses. I was starting to understand the flow. I was still not good at calming my mind or thoroughly focusing on my breathing during my workouts though.
During week 3 I got very busy and struggled to keep at it. I missed two separate days. One I doubled up the following day to make up, and another I skipped the calendar day and then picked up where I left off in the program the following day. It was tough to keep going after missing a day but I knew I had to finish the program to get the full effect, and to feel the sense of accomplishment in knowing I had completed it.
So what did it do for me? What did I notice throughout my 3 weeks?
At the very beginning I felt like I sucked. I was tight and couldn’t straighten my legs for most of what I was doing. When I got to the end of week three and almost had my heels on the ground during my down dog I was so proud. I still feel like a beginner, but I now feel like a beginner that would not be completely embarrassed to go to a yoga class with other people there.
As we went through several of the balance poses there were cues from the trainers on how to improve your balance. While holding those poses it was very clear how this skill would be beneficial to many other aspects of life. I live in Duluth Minnesota. It’s winter a lot and we live for hockey, meaning there is a lot of time to spend on ice. Balance is essential. Carrying my 6 month old who randomly decides to throw her head back and off put my balance is another time that knowing these cues and strengthening those muscles is important. Balance is needed all the time, everyday. We reach for things, we lean over to pick things up, we slip, we tip toe to not wake the sleeping baby, the dog runs into our leg and just about knocks us over. BALANCE is always necessary.
Mid program I went through two separate spurts of getting to the point where I started to question if I was sore, or getting seriously ill with the body aches. I noticed that I was not feeling the greatest and my whole body hurt. I was also starting to get a headache that stuck around for a while and my nose was runny. I wondered if I was getting sick with a bad cold or the flu. I sat around on the couch for a bit and tried to just tune in to what was going on in my body because it honestly just didn’t have the feel of actually being “sick”. I had recently gone from a 3 Day Refresh (cleanse) to eating really well and feeling fantastic to starting to shift back into eating not so great. I had been working out but not staying active enough; meaning I was getting in my 30 minutes in the morning and then the rest of the day I was not doing much other than sitting. Prior to starting Yoga I was only stretching for the 3-5 minutes after my morning workouts for the cool down. So when I really thought about it, I was not sick, I was getting rid of the sickness. Just by doing my Yoga every day I was waking up muscles and moving body parts back where they are supposed to be. My body was realigning and saying, “oh yea that’s how this is supposed to go”, followed by “oh shit we need to get rid of all this toxic crap”. For that reason I started to feel ill while all that toxic crap decided to leave. The feeling didn’t last and I was fine within the day and ready for more Yoga. This may sound far fetched to some, but I ask you to think about whether you have ever started a workout program or change in diet to be healthier and gotten sick within a few days of starting and committing. Check out my blog “Don’t get confused, you’re not sick, you’re getting healthy”.
The biggest thing I noticed. My strength increased immensely and I had no idea. I took a day off in between completing my 3 weeks and starting up my regular workouts again. I went back to my favorite workout program which is an MMA style workout called Core De Force. I did a dynamic strength workout that was 47 minutes long and that I would generally have to modify roughly half of the pushups throughout the program due to the advanced nature and/or the sheer amount of them we were doing. As I started the workout I noticed that the pushups felt easier than normal and quickly checked my form to see if I was doing something wrong or somehow cheating them. I wasn’t. I went through the entire 47 minutes and DID NOT modify 1 push up AND did all the advancements in the second half of the workout. I followed that up by doing a 5 minute plank challenge and while I still had to take a few rests (and by that I mean basically switching into a different pose) during that, I still noticed it was easier than in the past. I would have never thought that my muscles would gain so much from 3 weeks of yoga.
Would I recommend this to others?
Absolutely. We all have different interests, hobbies, likes, dislikes, skills, etc. Yoga may not be my favorite workout of all time, but I truly believe that by committing to the three weeks I will ultimately be able to get more out of my usual workouts, and by continuing to do yoga on a weekly basis I will become more flexible and more able to push myself to the next level in my cardio and other resistance workouts.
I may never be the bendy girl with the tight butt in the Lululemon’s who’s one with her thoughts and her mind. I may forever be the mother who is just struggling to stop her brain from reviewing the grocery list, the target list, the bank account balance, the cleaning list, the teaching list, and the hunny why haven’t you done this yet list while she is supposed to be focusing on her breathe. I may never be the perfect curvy shaped, calm, peaceful, headband around my forehead wearing my hair in snazzy braids, barefoot, blonde leading a class of people enjoying happy baby pose. I may always be the zero curve, zero chested, chaotic, high energy, whatever I can do to keep my hair out of my face, mud boots over high heels, ripped the sleeves off my t-shirt to make a new workout tank kind of girl. Regardless of any of these traits, I was able to complete 3 weeks of Yoga thanks to Beachbody’s 3 Week Yoga retreat designed for beginners and I can honestly say I gained from it both mentally and physically. I would no longer tell you that Yoga is a waste; on the contrary I will tell you that if you feel that way right now, you are probably the person who would benefit the most from trying it.
Are you ready to get down dog? Down on the matt for 3 weeks of just 30 minutes of Yoga a day. Are you ready to prove you are a warrior, and can handle the simplicity of a balance pose? Let’s do it!