As a triathlete, I’ve always been intrigued by yoga, but finding time for a daily practice hasn’t been a major priority. I’ve been doing a 10-minute flow every morning and that’s it. But it’s been something I’ve wanted to build on for a long time. So, I decided that, for a month, I would do a yoga class every day — probably online, anywhere from 15–90 minutes — plus in-person sessions when my schedule allowed. The catch: I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my other training, so I was going to have to sneak in these sessions in addition to my normal 30–120 minute workouts.
WHAT I LEARNED
1. MY STRENGTH AND FLEXIBILITY INCREASED SIGNIFICANTLY
By week 2 of doing yoga on a daily basis, I realized something: Planks felt easier, and my runs — with no change in how I was running — were feeling stronger. My posture, if I glanced in the mirror or caught my reflection, looked better. And my ability to do balance poses was actually improving. Most notably, I was at a race walking around at the end of the month, and several friends commented that I was looking much more fit. (And they’ve seen me at the end of Ironman training when I was arguably at my peak.) So to have yoga combined with moderate running lead to the most compliments I’ve gotten in years was pretty darn impressive.
2. MY ENERGY LEVEL ROSE
Like most people, I usually hit an afternoon work slump. Typically, I work all morning, then run around lunchtime, then work in the afternoon, but around 3 or 4 p.m., I’m just about tapped out. That was when I would usually do my yoga, and I found that after each session, I was more energetic and had at least another hour of good, solid work time left.
3. MY STRESS LEVEL DECREASED
Obviously, the benefits of yoga and meditation are well known. But back in June, yet another study came out showing that even at a molecular level, yoga and meditation could decrease stress and improve symptoms of depression. Despite the fact that October was jam-packed with work and travel for work, plus my normal training, I realized that putting the time in each day to stretch, look away from my phone and focus on myself and my body was time well spent. I could definitely notice a decrease in my stress levels compared to an equally jammed and emotionally fraught September.
4. WANTING TO SKIP MEANT NEEDING TO DO IT
The days I didn’t want to do yoga were the days I benefited the most. The busiest, most stressful days when all I wanted to do was take a 30-minute Netflix or novel-reading break and eat junk food, but sighed and turned on a yoga video instead turned out to be the best sessions. Netflix breaks are great, but on the days where doing yoga seems super hard, I probably needed it the most.
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5. I FOUND MY PERFECT TIMING
For me, 30 minutes was a sweet spot. Trying to add an hour-long class to an already busy day was stressful, to be honest. And that was counterproductive. I found that around 30 minutes was enough to get a serious benefit, while not deviating too much from my routine.
6. IT JUST FEELS GOOD
After the end of the month, I was a little relieved to not have to do yoga videos every single day, but after I took a couple days off, I wanted to get back to it. The first weekend where it wasn’t on the schedule, it felt great to have that free time back. But when Tuesday rolled around after four days yoga-free, I realized I was already feeling tighter, both physically and emotionally. Adding a 30-minute session back most days — but letting myself skip a day when needed and not forcing it — was the perfect balance for me.
HOW YOU CAN DO IT, TOO
To try it for yourself, keep a couple things in mind:
1. SET UP A SYSTEM
The days before I started the challenge, I did what I always do: research. I knew there were plenty of free online yoga videos available, and I also knew my schedule meant going to classes was impossible. I didn’t want to rely on free videos that needed an internet connection, though, so when I found an online site with 4,000-plus videos of all lengths and styles — think Netflix for yoga — that allowed subscribers to download classes, I was sold. YogaGlo became a fast favorite, since I could pick whatever type of class I wanted for any given day, and I had options downloaded for days when I wasn’t online but needed a quick routine. I also prepped the house: cleared a space in my living room for my yoga mat, and procured a yoga block so I was ready.
2. HAVE BACKUP VIDEOS READY
As I said — it can be easy to fall victim to the ‘my internet didn’t work so I couldn’t do a video,’ or ‘my car wouldn’t start so I couldn’t get to class.’ So, have DVDs or pre-downloaded videos, or even simply a written yoga routine that you can flow through on those days when things aren’t happening the way you hoped.
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3. DON’T STRESS IF YOU MISS A DAY
If you have to miss a day, just stretch in bed for five minutes before you crash, and be back at it the next day. Over the month, there were a couple of days I didn’t make the full 30-minute class. If you’re like me and breaking a streak tends to ruin the streak, just those few extra stretches before bed mean you can technically say you did your yoga for the day.
But really, it’s not about keeping a streak alive or hitting a certain target: This is about supplementing your workouts to make you stronger, faster and less prone to injury, while lowering your stress and improving your day.