What Grew Out of 365 Days of Yoga (with My Dog): Part 1

Me and Ilsa Yoga

This year, among other things, I committed to doing a full year of yoga. With my dog. The plan was that I would show up on the mat every day, regardless of how I felt or what else was happening in my life.

As of this writing, I am 32 days in. I got a jump on the official start date of Yoga with Adriene’s True practice with her “Yoga for a Hangover” video, because, you guessed it. I started the new year with a hangover (just a slight one; Ma would be proud).

I have learned a lot in the past month, and I would urge everyone to start some sort of mindfulness practice. But, more on that later. First, I’ve noticed:

Effects on the Brain

I once watched a YouTube video that discussed the effects of mindfulness on the brain. I’d recommend giving it a go if you have some time (it’s less than four minutes), but in short, mindfulness (which you can achieve through meditation or yoga–I’ve been doing both) can grow your hippocampus, which is responsible for creativity, emotional intelligence, and happiness, and shrink the amygdala, which is in charge of “fight or flight” instinct, stress, depression, and addiction.

While I have not had the pieces of my brain measured recently (or ever), I can say that in the past 32 days, I have had a much easier time handling my stress and anxiety, and I am feeling happier and more creative. I don’t think it’s happenstance that I’ve been thinking about doing this blog for years… and only felt inspired to begin once I started this yoga and meditation journey.

I Rock (and so do you)

Committing to do yoga every day was easier for me than committing to do yoga for a set number of days each week. In the past, when I set a goal to workout five days a week, for example, there was always an excuse NOT to workout. I was tired. I didn’t feel well. I was super busy. I would rather get drinks with friends.

No matter the excuse, I would always placate my inner personal trainer with a “don’t worry–I’ll workout TOMORROW.”

Oh, how I love telling myself I’ll do something tomorrow.

When there is no tomorrow, though, I found that I could easily fit yoga in every day, and I discovered that I’m tougher than I thought I was. Even on days I was REALLY hungover (or stressed, or busy, or whatever), I still managed to get on the mat (and felt much better after I did so).

I’m happier when I feel in-control

I am paraphrasing here, but some words of wisdom from one of Adriene’s daily “True” emails were, “Where your words and thoughts go, so goes your energy.”

On the mat, if I think I can’t do something, guess what, I’m going to fall on my face. Thus, I practiced accepting that I could do more than I ever thought possible.

As with most things yoga, this helps with life, too. Last week, while sitting in traffic on a bleak day, I thought, “Ugh. I hate this city.” I could feel my good mood fade, and the itch to sell my home and escape became almost unbearable. If a psychic took a photo of my energetic aura, it had turned blue.

Usually, I would continue on this mental descent into unhappiness, but on that day, I decided to shake things up. Instead of focusing on traffic and my general sense of malaise, I focused on my comfortable seat and the music playing from my iPhone. I didn’t dwell on the past, future, or crappy weather. I didn’t worry about what would happen if I was five minutes late to my appointment. I just sat in the present.

Let me tell you, that stuff will rock your world. It’s when you are fully aware in the present that you start to feel the real joy of being alive (more blogs on that later).

How to get started

I haven’t written the blog about budgeting yet (it’s coming; I promise), but beginning a yoga or mindfulness practice is a lot like saving.

Saving is not easy, particularly when you are a poverty-stricken blogger and freelance writer. However, if one looks at one’s finances, there is always room to trim, negotiate, find extra–even if it’s $2 a day. Plus, if one ever plans to retire or go on vacation or buy new shoes (and this one does), saving is imperative.

In short–you owe it to yourself to save a few bucks a day.

The same is true of yoga and meditation. You owe it to yourself to take time each day to feel better, be happier. I don’t know your schedule. Maybe you can’t do 30 minutes of yoga a day (though I would challenge you to consider how much time you spend scrolling Facebook or the ‘Gram). However, there are apps that offer one minute meditations (Breathe is my fave).

Everyone has one minute a day that they can devote to a healthier life (this is the mindfulness equivalent of saving your spare change–trust me, I’ve been there).

If you are ready to embark on a yoga or meditation journey, check out YouTube. There are approximately a million videos–all free!–for every ability level. If you have a favorite, comment below!

To close, sorry for the blurry photograph. I had a clearer, better one of me, but Ilsa looked slightly insane.