There are enough moments where I see a photo on Instagram of an amazing variation or new asana done by an absolutely beautiful and talented yogi, and my first thought is usually “I need to try that!". I have a whole album in my phone with asanas I want to work to achieving. I like to try these new asanas, most that include challenging my flexibility since I know it’s my strong point. Even though many times trying new things in my practice excites me, a small part of me is afraid that I might push myself too far that I might end up hurting myself.
It’s easy to look at a photo or video and think “that’s easy” when you see how gracefully it’s been executed. But it doesn’t always go that smoothly! I’ve tried many asanas that just end in frustration and about 20 minutes looking up prep poses to practice. I’m guilty of wanting to just do something like bounce to get into the splits when i'm just an inch or two off the ground so I can achieve it now! (Biggest No-No!) But I know that’s very dangerous, and you should know that too.
NEVER RUSH YOURSELF.
There are many people who make the mistake of really pushing themselves too far when they first start out with yoga or when practicing a new asana. I know that feeling, when you so desperately want to achieve an asana, you get frustrated and upset that you haven’t gotten it. It’s easy to forget that this is a process that can take a lot of time and work.
The thing is, I'm no expert. But it doesn't take one to tell you that you MUST listen to your body - especially if you're practicing on your own.
It's always good to have a little challenge. I personally believe if it doesn't challenge you, it won't change you. But there is a huge difference between challenging your abilities and pushing yourself past your limits.
I've seen many yogis warn people about things they shouldn't do. Staying safe and staying within what you body is ready for is extremely important. Support, focus, balance, flexibility and strength are all things we need to consider when working on our practice. I wouldn't just push my leg behind my head if I hadn't warmed up or ever tried it before. That's what we have prep poses for.
One asana especially, the splits. I talked in my last post about how using the Lets Start Yoga e-book has really improved my flexibility and helped me progress. This was not done overnight. And even when I started on the guide, I had already achieved the splits, It just wasn't straight and my hips were not squared. That's what I learned though the help of Lets Start Yoga.
And now imagine if the best your flexibility allowed was a low lunge. I can easily say you are not going to learn the splits in a week. Probably not even a 1 month, maybe not even a year. Our bodies all work differently. Flexibility was my strong point and I got my hips to touch the ground (comfortably, i.e. no pain at all) after 4 months of stretching for splits.
This photo was from yesterday (27/06) I warmed up with the splits flow I normally do and after 5 minutes let myself comfortably get into position, then i worked on adjusting to square my hips as much as I could. After 9 months of practice I'm still a work in progress. It could be another 9 before I finally get my splits where I want it to be.
I used to believe those "Learn the splits in 7 Day/10Days/30 Days" videos but honestly they never actually taught me anything that truly did wonders for my practice then left me angry at the end for still not getting it in time. I wanted fast results but I know what's better is to get good results after having a proper practice instead of some half-assed method that could just end up hurting you in the end; especially if you're a complete beginner.
Progress looks different for everybody but the important thing to remember is that your body will progress at it's own speed. Let it take time, it really doesn't matter if you've been practicing for a few days, few weeks, months or even years!
The beauty in it all is being able to take your time and get there when you are truly ready.
I’ve mentioned a few times now that I use Jessica Olie’s “Lets Start Yoga” E-book. For those of you who follow Jess on Instagram (@JessicaOlie) You’d know her e-book was released not too long ago and since I was already so inspired by her practice I knew I had to get it for myself.
Even though I had already been doing for about 6 months and I was progressing well, there was no doubt that an e-book like this would be beneficial for my practice.
I’ll admit, I learn best through videos, I prefer watching someone do something and following them rather than looking at pictures and words describing what to do. If her e-book was released a year ago, maybe I wouldn’t have bought it. But after I had started Kayla Itsines’s BBG (also an e-book) I thought If I can work it out for BBG and I’m doing better than with any workout plan before, surely I can with Lets Start Yoga too.
Jess doesn’t lie about her e-book helping you no matter where you are in your practice. There are many asanas I already know how to do, i have my own routine and I know how i like to practice, but after going through her e-book I realised what changes I needed to make to improve many aspects of my yoga practice. Being Self-taught always has it's downsides. There were things I had no idea was doing wrongly and sometimes no matter how much you look online, most websites just tell you the same thing over and over.
As great at this e-book is, I’ll say right now, it is not a miracle worker! I’ve seen comments on Instagram about how some people expect this e-book to teach you every complex asana that Jess can do. There is no short cut to learning yoga, it will take work and you need to start with learning the basics first. Lets Start Yoga will teach you the fundamentals you need to either start your practice or improve what you're doing now.
As I said earlier, I wasn't exactly a complete beginner when I bought her e-book but using it has already increased my flexibility drastically! I know the one thing many yogis want to achieve is the splits. I did too (since i was like 6) and though I was pretty close to it on my right side (right leg forward) before, her splits flow has really transformed my practice and progress. I do her splits flow every second day and though I do get lazy to work my weaker side some days, I love seeing the progress I've made on my stronger side.
The bottom photo was from January, and believe me, back then I thought this was as good as it would get for me! i kept pushing myself but my improvent was slow. I did get myself into a straighter split by the time Jess's e-book was released but most of this progress was made from Lets Start Yoga alone!
I'll include a second progress photo at the end of this post of my 3 week splits difference on the guide.
My flexibility has definitely seen progress aside from the splits as well. And recently I've started working on my headstands again. Since I've started my daily handstand practice my other inversions have really suffered. I've never had a proper method to learning headstands beside "finding my own balance" after kicking up to a wall. Now that I've lost touch of it, I'm relearning headstand with Jess's e-book. I find myself getting closer to that amazing headstand lotus I always see Jess doing! Again, the e-book won't specifically teach you how to get into a headstand with lotus legs, but it would teach you the headstand foundation you'd need to be able to achieve this variation and many others.
It still baffles me, but Jess's methods are much better than most videos I've used before. It's funny how sometimes we think we know what methods work best for us, then you're introduced to something new and it works like magic!
There's really so much you can learn from Lets Start Yoga and I feel like I could write about all i've learned from it for ages but it's better to just try it out for yourself.
Now for my 3 week splits progress, I know feeling like you're already at a certain point so there's no need to get help to progress, it'll just happen right?
I wasn't expecting much in 3 weeks, and i know many people will think this looks very similar. Look at the tiny differences, in the bottom photo my hips are more squared and my back straighter. Twisting so that my chest could face forward, instead of to the side, in the splits actually hurt me before! I know it would take ages to really get changes i could see, but that little bit of improvement (big improvement to me!) between these photos really surprised me. I've been wanting to square my hips for the longest time and I could finally do it a little this week without hurting myself. It was confusing and irritating trying to adjust my body to square my hips before; but now I know this helps. Knowing that I can do a flow which truly helps me improve motivates me. It makes me stronger and I love feeling that way! Even small progress is progress! And It's something I sure am proud of!
I can't say it was anything else but Lets Start Yoga and some determination that got me here! And maybe a little help is all you need to push you to further your practice!
After all, no matter how long you've practiced, you will always be learning new things about yoga, your practice and your body.
Get Jessica Olie's e-book "Lets Start Yoga" Here
Today, 21st June 2015 is the first official International Yoga Day!
How amazing and exciting is that??
I hope all of you did some yoga for today at least! I know there were some events held in different parts of the world to celebrate this day and even though I wish i could have been part of one of them, I'm happy still with my home practice.
As part of today, I wanted to share how yoga and BBG (Kayla Itsines's Bikini Body Guide) have worked for me and how doing them both have helped me progress much faster than before.
It’s common for me to receive comments on my Instagram photos about what workouts I do, if yoga is my only form of exercise and if follow any diet plans.
Though my account is 90% yoga, occasionally I do have posts regarding my exercise routine and the foods I eat. After all, on my Instagram profile it states “Trying to be healthier”
Firstly, I'm a huge fan of Kayla Itsines and her Bikini Body Guide (BBG) workout plan. Secondly, I do not consider yoga to be a form of exercise for myself. So that answers the first two questions. The third, I will answer on another day!
At the end of 2014, I started Kayla Itsines’ BBG. I was already following her account on Instagram (@Kayla_Itsines) and was always blown away by her progress photos.
Since I had already been on this journey to get fitter and healthier for a year and a half and I wanted to try it all to figure out what kind of workout plans worked best for me.
Honestly, I was scared. The first few weeks looked easy but as I went through the rest of the e-book, the workouts kept getting tougher - most of the exercises were things I knew wasn't capable of yet. Still, I felt pretty good going through the workouts, knowing I was doing different things everyday made it easier because I easily get bored when doing the same workouts. Additionally, for the first time in a long time, I could see myself progressing not just inside but outside too.
But how did this work with my yoga practice?
Many times people – even myself at my point – think that yoga is just some stretching and moving slowly and it doesn’t really do much for your body. But doing BBG and yoga at the same time really worked well for me. Before I started yoga I would get so sore and so stiff the day after my workouts. It just felt terrible. It made me hate leg days especially and I honestly thought this was just part of the process! Workout, suffer, workout, suffer etc.
When I did start yoga, it made things a little better but I would alternate between workout days and yoga days which still made me incredibly sore and tired on yoga days.
After I started BBG i came up with a new routine for myself. I would start by doing about 20 to 30 minutes of yoga; most days it's sun salutations, a few backbends, forward folds and I’d get in the asanas I needed for the challenge I was doing that day. It was all pretty much touch-and-go no long holds or stretching too much. Just something to get me moving. Once I felt opened and ready, that’s when I would start BBG. Between each circuit i would do a few upward and downward dogs and forward folds. I used to always feel like my back was really tight between circuits, and doing this stopped them almost immediately.
When I finished the workout, I would end it with a lot more forward folds and backbends, hip and shoulder openers and of course foam rolling. The difference in the next day soreness was amazing. I could actually walk down stairs without tripping and it was tolerable soreness even in the later weeks of the BBG plan.
Get a Kayla Itsines foam roller + Foam Rolling Guide here.
The difference between when I was doing yoga compared to when I didn’t was pretty extreme. Besides feeling better the day after, one other thing that I really noticed was that push ups became 10 times easier. For a year I struggled with push ups, I couldn’t get off my knees and It was almost painful to try to do more than 5 in a row. I knew I lacked the arm strength but building it up was the hard part - the part i didn't like. So I stopped doing push ups for months, I hated it so much I never wanted to do it. It's a terrible attitude to have but I just wanted to give up on ever getting a push up done!
When I started BBG, of course, push ups were in the guide. And I thought, if I wanted to do this right, I had to do them. I did my push ups on my knees, but for the first time, I was able to do 10 push ups without feeling like I needed a long break after (i paused for about 10 seconds before finishing the other 5 pushups in week 1).
Now, I believe it was all the arm balance practice I had put in. Trying to do a proper chaturanga, kakasana and Astavakrasana were in my daily practice when BBG started and I think that's what I have to thank for this progress.
It was such an extreme feeling, like for the first time I managed something I thought was impossible. It took me about another 4-5 weeks to work up the strength to do a push up on my toes. Sure, it was tough - it still is - but I was doing it! Something that previously I couldn't do at all after a whole year of practice I managed in just weeks!
I know this might not seem like a lot to certain people but doing yoga really helped me build the strength I needed for push-ups, ab exercises and the balance for lunges – I used to need to hold on to a wall or chair, it just never worked haha! And doing BBG had it's own benefits in my yoga practice as well. Just as arm balances helped me get push ups done, the work in BBG helped me progress with arm balances and inversions much faster. As I said before, I lacked arm strength but as the weeks went by with BBG, I keep seeing how fast I was improving. Each time i practiced i felt stronger, more stable. Like holding my weight up in arm balances wasn't a problem anymore, i just needed balance now!
Just like in this photo, I'm holding myself just above the ground with only my chin barely touching the floor and my chest hovering right above the ground. With proper balance and more core strength I'll get away from the couch but this is already more than amazing progress for me.
Considering it all, I like to think I have the perfect fit for myself. Keep in mind It might not work for your body, all our bodies work differently and our progress will look and feel different as well, you should figure out how your body works, what makes you feel good and what helps you progress better.
I feel great doing it all this way and I love how BBG and yoga have benefitted each other. I've only gotten better, stronger and happier with myself.
And for those girls who have always asked me on Instagram, I would definitely recommend doing BBG if you're interested. It's worked amazingly for me and so many other girls around the world!
Anyone on my Instagram page would know I’m self-taught. There is no shame in that and I’m glad to admit that everything I’ve learned so far has been through my own effort; finding videos to learn about asanas and flows, doing Instagram yoga challenge, learning from yoga websites and most recently by using Jessica Olie’s e-book “Let’s Start Yoga”
Truth is, up to today, I’ve never been to a yoga class. I have no background in sport or ballet and the only gymnastics I did was when I was 6 years old for P.E.
Is it best to learn yoga on your own? Honestly, even though I did it, I have to say NO.
If you can, you should definitely go for classes or get an instructor for one of one sessions. If I could have, I would have done the same. But we know it’s a lot easier said than done. Classes can be expensive or life can be pretty hectic for some of us that maybe we don’t have the time to get to one. So if you can’t make a class then definitely use what resources you have available to you to start your own practice. After all, today there are more than enough online resources to help us with that! But learning it all on your own is very different from having a teacher to guide you.
My self taught yoga journey began when I decided I needed to get a proper cool down routine after I worked out, doing those simple stretches just wasn’t enough for me. It felt terrible to be moving around and doing so much to suddenly come to a stop at the end and have these workout plans tell me to just touch my toes, stretch a muscle here and there and that's it. It wasn't enough.
My friend, Emma, was telling me how she had started doing yoga so I thought I might as well give it a try. Youtube was the only place I knew to look, I looked up a beginner flow and for the next week I would do that half hour flow after each workout. Surprisingly, it felt good. I liked what I was doing and the instructor in the video was very informative about the asanas in the flow.
I made my Instagram account shortly after and decided I should get more serious about learning yoga and found out through tumblr about the yoga challenges on Instagram. These yoga challenges seemed like a good place to start, after all, I would be given an asana to try everyday with tips from the hosts. I didn’t know how well I would do but I tried to challenge myself and learn as much as I could through this first challenge.
With each month I kept practicing and participating in challenges, I enjoyed having a daily practice lead by some youtube videos, challenge asanas and practicing whatever else I felt like doing for that day. My love for yoga only kept growing as I learned more about it and was able to see myself making progress.
Eventually I ditched the videos, made my own flows and only really went online for help when I wanted to learn more about an asana and their benefits or how to transition from one to another. The challenges stayed in my practice and it’s hard to say there would be a time when I would give them up completely. It's fun to challenge yourself and have something to make sure that everyday i need to get at least 10 minutes of yoga in.
It’s encouraging to see the difference my practice has made in the 9 months since I started. Who would have taught I’d get this far in this amount of time? Definitely not me.
Though so far I have been self taught, I am still looking forward to the day when I can get in at least one day a week of yoga in a proper studio, lead by a teacher so I have a whole new perspective into yoga. For now I will stick to my home practice, my challenges and e-books and enjoying every little bit of it and doing what I can for myself.
If you’re a self taught yogi, a beginner yogi, or just a yogi in general, you should have a look at Jessica Olie’s yoga e-book “Lets Start Yoga” which has done wonders for my practice in the last few months since it came out! You’re never too old – or too advanced – to learn something new!
It's incredible to know that so many of you had requested I start a youtube account, a website or a blog. Honestly I wish i could do it all, I would love to share all aspects of my yoga practice and journey to get fitter and healthier. But for now I'll start with this website and blog.
My journey has been a long one so far, being self taught is not easy but it's really encouraging to know so many of you are in support of it. I'm constantly inspired by the yogis I follow on Instagram and the ones i come across everyday through challenges. All these people really are part of the reason why I can keep my practice going everyday!
I've shared my daily practice on Instagram and this is just another platform for me to show you what I do, how I do it and what I feel about all of it. My journey isn't just abut yoga, I'll share what i do to (try to) get healthier. My perspectives on yoga, and my daily workout routine, occasionally I'll share what my diet looks like as well. Don't forget to have a look at the other tabs, click on them and the drop down options to read more!
One thing I know many of you might enjoy is the "What I Use" tab. I get asked fairly often about what clothes I'm wearing so that's for everyone who's been interested in out workout clothes, mats, accessories and what I use on my hair and skin!
If you need to ask me some questions please head over to the "FAQ" page to see if your question had been answered already, otherwise my contact information is available on the contact page!
I truly hope you enjoy learning more about my practice, routine and lifestyle.
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