Yoga is having a moment these days. It’s easy for beginners, doesn’t need any equipment (though some Instagram influencers will probably make you think otherwise), and most importantly – you can do it from home. A 2020/2021 pre-requisite.
It’s something I tried and failed at a million times before. I realised that I wanted to be a person who did yoga more than I actually wanted to do yoga. Not being flexible or spiritual made me feel like it was just out of my reach. In classes, I’d get halfway through downward dog and find my wrists aching, arms shaking, and stomach quaking. “Now grab your foot.” Lady, I can’t even see my foot.
But I love a challenge. So when January 2021 came and I became aware of Yoga With Adriene’s 30 Day Yoga Journey, Breath, it caught my attention.
As a plus-size woman who’s never been particularly good at touching my toes, but still runs three times a week and frequents the gym, I thought it was about time I got more in tune with my body in a new way. So I printed off the calendar, tacked it up to my wall, and began my journey (a word I learned to cringe at a little less).
The yoga community online is overwhelmingly kind and supportive, but thanks to some of the media, it looks like it’s just full of skinny bendy people, twisting themselves on their expensive ethically-made mats on a beach in Bali. No fatties allowed, and if you can’t do a headstand you’re not allowed in. Also you need to know what your third eye is and name each chakra.
By diving in head first for a month of yoga every single day, I learned that’s not the case at all.
Yoga With Adriene’s Breath: A Review
The focus of Breath, is learning how to use the breath to move through yoga flows, and how using it in different ways can help you to regain energy, keep your balance, and make it through a round of exercise. It’s also about learning to trust your breath, and use each new breath as an opportunity to begin again.
Each morning a new video is released for free on her YouTube channel, or a day earlier in the app (FWFG, meaning Find What Feels Good). Videos last between 15 and 50 minutes, and the journey comes with a calendar telling you exactly how long that day’s video will be, to help you plan your day.
Overall, the videos were very accessible for beginners, with the potential to be levelled up for intermediate/advanced yogis. Some of the videos are incredibly easy to allow a moment of rest and meditation, and others are designed to physically challenge you. It was a really nice mix.
Now I want to talk about Adriene herself, who became the queen of at-home yoga in 2020, though she’s been popular for much longer. I have dedicated yogi friends who first started yoga with her back in 2015, and still love her today. She has a soothing voice that could calm a rabid bull, but she’s also fun, and not shy of a cheeky innuendo or pop culture reference. She has a sixth sense for knowing which moments might be difficult. “If your arms are shaking right now, you’re not alone,” she manages to say at just the right time.
Special mention to her dog Benji who is usually in the background, and who is very well loved by the community.
To answer a question that my fitness-first friends ask; how ‘hippie’ is it? Meaning, how much is about the exercise, and how much is about things like ‘feeling the energy of the Earth?’
The more spiritual side of yoga is wonderful if that’s what you’re looking for, and it can be immensely healing. But it can also be a bit too much for those of us who aren’t about that. I have a lot of respect for it, it’s just not something that I can easily tap into. Adriene has the balance between the physical challenge of yoga and the mindfulness of it totally nailed. In all of Breath, I think Adriene used the word ‘chakra’ exactly once.
That’s not to say she didn’t get me all up in my feelings. At one point during savasana in Week 1, Adriene told us ‘I love you so much’ and I burst into tears. Yup. Didn’t cry at Marley & Me, but that got me. I immediately bought the app. And ordered a t-shirt from her online store. (It’s super nice btw.)
Adriene doesn’t just feel like a yogi who shows you how to do yoga on YouTube. She feels like my yoga teacher.
What Happens To Your Body When You Do Yoga for 30 Days
So it didn’t change my life, but it did make it a little better. Every now and then when I find myself hurrying about and being busy without being productive, I remind myself to move from my core and to move with intention. And it actually helps me to slow down and stop faffing about.
The next time I went to the gym (I took January off to focus on yoga) I noticed that I felt much better on the treadmill, and keeping control of my breathing allowed me to run further before getting puffed out. I also went through my usual stretching routine, and instead of juuuust managing to touch my toes with the tips of my fingers, I actually got a pretty good grasp of my foot!
So cardiovascular endurance and flexibility are both up. And I feel immensely proud of myself for showing up to the mat every single day, even when I didn’t want to or it meant having to get out of bed early.
It hasn’t changed my life, or opened my third eye, but I feel physically and mentally healthier. In the Find What Feels Good community, I’ve found an inclusive and yes, even loving, space. After taking a break for a few days I’ll be hopping straight back on the mat, and maybe even finding some open-air classes in the parks here in the city.
TW: weight loss.
For those of you on a weight loss journey (yes even I use the word journey now!) I found that yoga toned my arms and slimmed down my waist, but that’s just a personal experience. I’ll definitely keep using yoga to compliment my gym workouts and weekly runs. It’s a great boost to weight loss, but I wouldn’t say it’s the primary driver of it.
Yoga and Fat Gals. Can We Be Friends?
Short answer, yes! Absolutely!
As Adriene says, yoga is a practice, and there’s nothing about size that dictates whether you’re allowed to practice or not.
But someone should really tell the media that, because images of girls my size doing yoga are few and far between. And there are some amazing plus-sized yogis out there!
Now that the algorithm knows I do yoga, I get a lot of ads. One of them was for Alo Moves, Alo Yoga’s app, and to my surprise there was a plus sized woman. Thankfully almost all of the comments on this ad were positive and pro-representation. The only negative one was surprisingly astute, pointing out that Alo Yoga is primarily a clothing company whose sizes don’t go larger than a UK 12-14. One size smaller than me. Should these companies be using us to represent themselves when they don’t serve us? Feels a little deceptive.
Part of me actually kind of enjoys not fitting the profile for what someone who does a sport “should” look like. I love being the person with the highest percentage of body fat in the weights room at the gym, because at least it means I showed up. And I like not being able to stay in downward dog for very long, but still getting up there for the next one, and the one after that. Not giving up and not being too embarrassed to show up is something to be proud of. It means you’re out of your comfort zone, and not being afraid of judgement.
Yoga, at first, looks like something that’s way more complicated than it actually is. It’s like the Goop of the fitness world. But you don’t actually need a £90 Lululemon outfit, a £200 mat that’s made out of bamboo, or a fancy hot yoga studio. You don’t need to be skinny and bendy, or even be able to touch your toes. Can’t meditate? That’s fine!
You can roll out of bed in your PJs, jump on a £6 mat from your local sports shop, pop on a free YWA video, and just give it a go.
Adriene proved to me that yoga is for everyone, and anyone. And for this flabby can’t-downward-dog-for-more-than-10-seconds cynic, it’s here to stay.