21 Days of Yoga Challenge: Being Present and Letting Go

By Angela Tague in Healthy Feeling

If you can breathe, you can do yoga. It really is that simple. For years I've wanted to establish a home yoga practice, and now I'm finally doing it to supplement my visits to a local yoga studio. I've read that it takes approximately 21 days to form a habit, so I've stuck to it for the past three weeks and documented my journey to show you how easy it actually is to integrate yoga into your daily schedule.

I set aside time each day to work out, or maybe it's more accurately called "working in," since yoga focuses on mental relaxation. In addition to stretching my muscles, I've used this 21 days of yoga challenge to fine-tune my breath work, mindful meditation, and sitting in silence.

My practice isn't about burning calories or getting my heart rate up. My goal is to unite the mind and body, which is the definition of yoga, according to Ananda. I'm seeking to lower stress levels, reduce stiffness from sitting for work, and clear the mental clutter that piles up over the course of the day. Here's what I learned.

Week 1: No Practice Is Perfect

During the first week of this challenge, my mind wandered to all the roadblocks that have kept me from doing this sooner. I thought I had to have a dedicated yoga space, a choreographed sequence of poses prepared, candles burning, lots of props, specific yoga music, and an hour to dedicate to my mat. It turns out none of that is essential.

All you need is to be present, even if it's only for fifteen minutes and you're wearing jeans. You can't do yoga wrong. On my first day of this challenge, I reclined on the bed, queued up a thirty-minute meditation on a music streaming app and moved through a series of gentle grounding poses using just my body and a nearby pillow. It was simple, relaxing, and exactly what I needed to unwind.

For the rest of the week, I tried to keep a mindset of simplicity by taking my practice outdoors under the golden hue of our maple trees and using the large rug by the front door for my personal space for a half hour.

Week 2: Getting Into the Flow

As my home practice started to grow, I found a new level of acceptance for myself and for yoga as a whole. You really don't need any prior experience or an expensive gym membership to do this. All you need is you, a few minutes of time and a series of go-to poses.

I started to realize that I could experiment with techniques I'd otherwise be a little hesitant to do in a public class. Being in a judgment-free zone (a.k.a. my living room), I could wobble without worry and exhale as loud and as long as I wanted. It was freeing and encouraged me to try new poses spyed on my Instagram feed. I even tried new poses with my yoga wheel.

One afternoon while lunch was cooking, I instinctively moved into a tree pose because it simply felt like what my body wanted. I didn't expect it, but these movements became second nature and naturally popped up to calm tense moments.

Week 3: My New Favorite Appointment

There's only one person responsible for your well-being, and that's you. Whether you explore yoga or prefer to draw, paint, sing, or swim, allow yourself the time to tackle that activity several times each week to mentally and physically nourish your body.

Over the course of my 21 days of yoga challenge, I learned to be kind to myself and accept that every moment spent focused on my health is precious. Some days involved more self-care than others, and all of it is worthwhile.

Are you thinking of doing a daily yoga challenge? My advice: Keep it simple. Start by sitting with calm music playing and focus on your breath. Inhale for four counts, pause for four counts, exhale for four counts, and repeat.

Have you recently started a home yoga practice? What benefits have you noticed? Share your insights us on Twitter using the #GoodMatters hashtag.

Image Source: Angela Tague

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Why It's Good

You don't need to go to a fitness class to regularly invest time in yourself. In as little as a few minutes, you can apply the relaxation techniques and principles of yoga to your day. Try taking deep breaths while walking through a store or stretch your arms toward the ceiling while dinner cooks. Even the smallest movements release physical and mental tension, making you feel happier.