Yoga

I Tried a Month-Long Yoga Challenge, and It Transformed My Core, My Triceps—And My Relationship to Myself

Photo: Getty Images/fizkes
For someone who loves engaging in deep, audible sighs throughout the day, you would think that a breath-focused workout like yoga would be right up my alley. You would be wrong. I am a self-proclaimed yoga hater. As a group HIIT instructor, I love all things fast-paced, with loud music, and extra intensity. I really struggle with slowing down. In general, I am a go, go, go girlie, and I don’t take a ton of time to stop and smell the roses, so to speak.

So whenever I’ve attempted yoga or meditation in the past, I’ve gotten incredibly frustrated because I’d spend the whole time thinking about all the things I needed to do later, and going over my grocery list in my head.

But there is a reason they call yoga a “practice”: It can take time to adjust. Yoga isn’t just about building physical fitness, it’s also about your mental strength. (The poses themselves are really only one of eight pillars of yoga.) “When you do yoga, it starts out in relation to the body as a workout, and I feel like that’s the first layer,” says Bria Lee, a studio coordinator and instructor at CorePower Yoga. “With me, after I saw the difference with my body, then there came the difference in the changing of my mind.” Lee shares that the literal meaning of the word yoga is “to unite,” so in your practice you are uniting the body and mind.

Knowing that I have a difficult time slowing down, I decided I would embark on a month-long yoga journey to see if I could challenge myself to a change of pace. The rule was that I had to do four or five classes per week for one month. (I don’t ever recommend doing any type of workout seven days a week, even something low impact.)

I started my journey at my local CorePower Yoga, which offers athletic-based flows, often in heated studios. Oh yeah, did I mention I also hate being hot? I’m a Colorado girl, so heat is not in my blood.

I came out of the gate hard with their Yoga Sculpt class. This includes yoga, cardio, and strength moves that help boost your metabolism and build muscle. It seemed like it would be the closest thing to a HIIT class I could get while doing yoga, so I figured I would like that the best. Spoiler alert: I did not. I spent most of the class cursing myself out under my breath, and the rest laying in a pool of my own sweat (or was it tears?) taking deep breaths until I could return to movement again.

I decided that Sculpt probably wouldn’t be my favorite. Though I do have to say, I was incredibly impressed by the instructor who was not only coaching but doing a majority of the movements with us—I think yoga instructors may be some of the strongest people on earth.

The next class I attended was a C2. The CorePower website describes C2 as a “challenging vinyasa flow” that involves more difficult postures. I was surprised this ended up being my very favorite type of class even though it’s slow and intentional. What I found I enjoyed most were the postures where we balanced on one leg. Though I placed first all-around at state in gymnastics in seventh grade, that part of me is long gone. So I enjoyed seeing if I could still balance on one leg, or if I had any flexibility left. (Clearly, I am very competitive with myself—I am an enneagram three, the achiever. If you know, you know.)

On day four, I don’t know what happened, but let me tell you, I was feeling myself. I walked past a mirror and looked over and said, “Damn, you look hot.” Was there any physical change at this point? No. But the reflection I saw looking back at me in the mirror was mighty fine.

Though I know I wasn’t actually seeing physical results that early, by the end of the challenge, I certainly was. I saw a visual difference in my triceps, and I loved it. My upper body is quite muscular, yet I have always struggled to get defined triceps. Not anymore! I’m bummed it’s been too cold to wear sleeveless shirts, because I’m ready to put them on display. I also noticed superior core strength. I’m not sure I saw my abs, but I could definitely feel them. I noticed certain abdominal exercises that had been challenging for me in the past were now exercises that I could do with ease, which was a cool feeling.

For the rest of the month-long challenge, I vacillated between, “When is this month over?” and “Oh wow, I feel really great after this class.” There were days when the heat in the studio was just unbearable. I always had my eye on the thermostat. The classes I took ranged from 95 degrees all the way up to 108 degrees, and they made me realize I would be happier with yoga done in temperatures I would want to be outside in. (There are those who love hot yoga, and the others are me.)

I did partake in a few of the online videos that CorePower offers, because I was curious about how motivated I would be to do yoga in my house. The answer is: not very. The classes were good, but I’m someone who needs to be part of a group to get motivated.

When I first committed to doing this challenge, I asked myself, “Whhhhy?!” and took one of those deep audible sighs I love so much. It felt like something I was adding to my already long list of things to do.

But by the time I was done, I found myself missing yoga a bit. I never thought I would say that. What I miss the most is taking an hour out of my day to get in tune with my mind and body. Though I did see visual results, and gained super core strength in particular, the thing I noticed most was how much I liked me. Doing yoga forced me to spend time with myself, and I found out I’m pretty darn amazing, if I do say so myself.

Doing yoga forced me to spend time with myself, and I found out I'm pretty darn amazing.

Every time I left class, I had a sense of peace that I never get after taking a HIIT class. I feel great and energized after HIIT, but not peaceful. Both types of workouts make me feel like I’m ready to take on the world, but in different ways. I now see the benefits of both forms of training. Lee puts it simply, “For someone with an athletic mind, you need to do something else to compliment what you already do.”

Yoga is that counterpart activity for me. Since finishing my month of yoga, I have been more intentional about taking time to myself, but it hasn’t been quite the same as actually practicing yoga. Mostly it consists of me laying still on my couch for 10 minutes a day. It’s not savasana, but it’s not not savasana.

I will go on the record and say, I am no longer a yoga hater. I am now a yoga appreciator! While I don’t see myself doing yoga four to fives times a week anymore, I will add yoga into my fitness programming at least once a week. I love the peace I feel after each class, and my body can use the stretch as well.

Lee’s advice when deciding whether to add yoga to your fitness routine is this: “The body changing is the last thing you should worry about. Your body is going to change no matter what. You have to be willing to open your mind. Be willing to listen, and not say anything for a second. Really just go inwards.”

That’s what I’m going to take away from this experience. I will remember to take time to slow down to reconnect with myself. The changes will always come, but they start from within.

Want to find your own peace through yoga? Start with this flow:

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