How Yoga Saved Me Mentally And Physically During The Lock-down

girl doing yoga in a room

Prologue and a Disclaimer

First and foremost: I’m not an expert, nor I pretend to be one. Please read the following story with the right judgement in mind – this is what worked for me. If you’re considering any changes in your diet and/or workout regimen, please consult your general physician first.

Some of you may have read the title of this piece and nodded candidly. Others may have rolled their eyes. I know, I was there myself only 3.5 months ago! I never picked up yoga, was never really into sports at all, and the one yoga class I ever took while having a gym membership, bored me almost to sleep, literally! But they say that desperate times call for desperate measures, right?

Stuck In The Middle With… Myself

It was mid-March, and COVID-19 was making its way quickly towards Germany, where I’ve been residing for the past 4 years. The cafe I was working at had decided to close its doors, even before any official regulation instructed so, which I was blissfully happy about.

On the day they decided to close, I got there to help with cleaning and stocking. I knew for a while already that I was out of shape, my body gave me some signs that I chose to ignore and the additional kilos I gained during the winter didn’t help either. On those couple of hours of working with my body, I felt heavy, almost betrayed by the vessel which I came to the world in. Although I wasn’t a complete couch-potato – I rode my bike to and from work (about 8 km per side), I live on the 3rd floor without an elevator, and living in a big city means covering a lot of mileage by foot or bike regardless – I wasn’t challenging myself enough, I ate too much (including a lot of rubbish) and didn’t really take care of myself.

The following two weeks of my isolation were confusing, to say the least. I spent way too much time being online and connected to social media. As an artist, I kept reading those posts of other artists claiming that they’re going to use this time to be ultra-productive, and calling their peers to do the same. Honestly, I felt stuck in a clutter, and wasn’t able to produce anything. All I could think of was how can I manage my budget in the foreseeable future in a way that wouldn’t leave me going bankrupt.

To add salt to injury, my flatmate had decided to spend this time with his family, which I completely understood, and I was left alone in a big apartment (spoiler: just wait for it), and worried sick about my family overseas.

The Decision That Changed Everything

After those two weeks in bed, I felt very unhappy. The four walls of my room closed on me, and I had to go out every two days or so for a walk around the block, or else, so I believed, I wouldn’t go just bankrupt, but also completely insane. I did dance a lot, though, which helped a little. My best friend, who’s back in Israel, signed me up with her on Zumba classes a few times a week. Apparently (and I did not remember that), even those were hard for me at the beginning: The amount of messages I wrote back then to her about how stiff my body and muscles were are staggering, and frankly, quite embarrassing.

Without any solid plan, I told myself that at the very least, I can and should use this time and start working out properly again. And what could be a better incentive than getting some equipment that you’ll end up sticking somewhere, judging you daily from its corner, and never actually use? So I found myself scrolling through Amazon, and decided on buying a yoga mat – that way, all the “forthcoming” crunches and squats would be a little more comfortable. I didn’t even think of doing yoga at the time – as I mentioned, to me, yoga was just another hour of snoozing.

My beautiful mat arrived to my door less than 24 hours later. Shocked and unprepared, I unwrapped my purple-and-white new friend, and rolled it open onto the wooden floor in my room. We looked at each other for a while, as if we were two cowboys about to start a showdown in a Western film, cause this room is too small for the both of us. After a few minutes, I stepped on it, and set down cross-legged. Little did I know, I was about to do that every single morning, and sometimes twice a day, ever since then.

30 Days? (Pea)nuts

I’m not completely sure why I decided to give yoga another chance, but two days after receiving my mat, I woke up in the morning and looked for a yoga class online. I quickly found my teacher – you may have heard of her, her name is Adriene, she’s Texan, and she’s been one of the most famous yoga teachers in the world for the past couple of years.

I started with a challenge – “30 days of yoga with Adriene”. A month isn’t such a long period of time, I thought, and it’s enough time for me to experiment with it, so if I didn’t like it – no harm, no foul. I love a good challenge, and I love deadlines, and her videos seem to be crazy popular – so why not?

And so my journey began. Before I even noticed, I opened every day with a practice, and got completely sucked into the yoga craze myself, which is a very calm one! It wasn’t long until I started seeing changes in my body – my leg muscles became significantly more defined, I lost a lot of weight around my waist, and my core became very strong too. Not to mention that my arms, hands and back became very resilient.

I felt an immense change in my overall wellbeing. This half hour in the morning to myself, that “forced” me to focus on my breathing and the quality of my movement was a game changer. As Adriene says: I took the practice off of the mat and implemented its values into my routine. It wasn’t long until I started spreading the word about yoga to close friends and family, and stopped panicking or wanting to get out of my apartment every other day. Hell, I was even enjoying being alone in my flat! At my best, I wasn’t going out for almost two whole weeks, by choice, and had absolutely no problem with it – the only thing that forced me to get out was, eventually, the fact that I needed to feed myself with some fresh produce.

I became happier and calmer than I’ve been in a very long time, or actually… ever!

Now What?

Before I could even say “namaste”, the first playlist of “30 days of yoga” challenge was done. On the 1st of May, after a month and a half without working, and 1 month into yoga, I returned to work again. I made an informed choice and decided that I’m going to continue practicing, and manage it into my busy day, even if it meant that I’ll have to wake up earlier.

Right after the decision was made, I immediately started her next 30 days playlist and challenge, which felt like a huge step forward: both for my self development and commitment, and also one in terms of the difficulty and length of the daily practices. I should mention that alongside yoga, I also worked out intensively at home at least 2-3 times a week, worked almost full-time in a physically demanding job, kept getting to and from work almost exclusively by bike, and did intermittent fasting almost every day.

I was exhausted.

And yet, I wasn’t willing to give up on yoga, and it didn’t give up on me either. Now, days that don’t start with a practice seems different. I seem to be a little more stressed, a bit more tense in my shoulders and jaw, and don’t put as much thought into my breathing cycles. These seem minor and almost irrelevant, but had and still having a huge impact on my day-to-day life.

“I Was Thinking About You A Lot During The Lockdown”

Flash forward to the beginning of July. I went to see my massage therapist. I didn’t feel as exhausted already, but I did feel a little tight in some places that I worked very hard on. See, she saved me already a couple of times in the past few years, as I kept coming to her with some chronic back and shoulder pains. She probably knows how my back looks like better than I do. She’s also, I forgot mentioning, a well-versed yoga teacher, who recommended me repeatedly to start practicing myself.

This time, unlike previous ones, I walked into her clinic with a wide smile on my face. “I was thinking about you a lot during the lockdown!” I told her, “I started practicing yoga, and it changed my life completely!”. She was obviously thrilled to hear that, but only saw what I was talking about when I took off my clothes and lied down on my stomach on her massage table. It only took her a quick second to notice the numerous changes in my back muscles – from the top all the way to the bottom. Needless to say, this time, I finished the treatment with the widest smile and pain-free.

The Future

And then, out of the blue, after 3.5 months of daily practices, I finally managed to do a pose I was working on from the very first month. It may not seem overly complicated to the naked eye, but for me, standing as a tree was incredibly challenging. I finally nailed it! Of course, there’s so many other poses I’m not even close to conquering. This journey taught me that my body is wiser than I’ve ever realised, and I’m so very grateful for this very realisation. I know that I will keep on learning and mastering some poses, and that this isn’t even the goal, the journey is. Another lesson I take with me is the fact that we change daily, and what may “work” one day may not be as simple on another – and that’s totally fine.

It’s hard to tell now if I’d continue practicing yoga every day for the rest of my life. I would like to believe that at least in the foreseeable future, I will. The benefits, effects and bliss it has brought to my life are countless, and the lessons I’ve learnt from just half an hour a day will guide the way that I move and think for a very long time.

I think the most important thing yoga had taught me is the fact the every journey requires a first step. This step may seem either very little, or very scary at first, and not all journeys are as fun or fulfilling, but with determination and perseverance, you’ll get there. You might even fail, but that’s okay. Respect yourself and respect your journey, and do your best to enjoy the ride – the rest is just a matter of time.

This article was originally published on JULY 29, 2020

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