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I was beginning to think that the SCAN editors were simply enjoying my suffering when for the sake of a column they first made me teetotal for a week and then instructed me to eat a vegan diet. So when I was asked to try yoga every day for seven days, I was somewhat relieved. Having consumed approximately 3.75 tonnes of food over Christmas, the idea of regular exercise was (almost) appealing. Since the ritual humiliation of school P.E lessons, I have largely avoided exercise where possible, and I’m pretty sure I haven’t ridden a bike since 2010 – therefore, the idea of exercising from the comfort of my bedroom without an audience was pretty much all the encouragement I needed.
A week ago, I knew very little about the standard mores of yoga, I hadn’t got a clue about what positions correlated to what seemingly arbitrary names, the potential health benefits, or even what one should wear. The latter quandary was addressed when, quite coincidentally, a brochure arrived in the post advertising all natural yoga outfits – and at just £80 for a pair of organic, reversible, floral print leggings, I’d only have to sell my kidneys to pay for them! I discarded the aforementioned brochure quicker than my new year’s resolutions, and decided to settle for my Sainsbury’s leggings and a T shirt. I proceeded to download the ‘Daily Yoga’ app to my iPad, and began to explore what benefits my new regime should reap. The NHS website seemed like a reliable source, and while I was dismayed that it wouldn’t count towards the recommended weekly 150 minutes of ‘moderate-intensity aerobic activity’ that I already fail to achieve, I discovered that it does promote muscle strength, balance, flexibility, and mental well-being.
The app that I decided to use only provided beginner’s activities for free – as I was a total novice, this wasn’t a problem, but I’d recommend exploring different tutorials or spending the money on classes if you plan to develop more advanced yoga skills. I selected a beginner’s introductory class, and spent the next ten minutes learning simple poses such as the mountain and the slightly dubious looking ‘upward’, and ‘downward’, dog. Some of the poses admittedly looked as though they’d been lifted straight out of the Kamasutra, but I was encouraged by instructions that involved your stomach and thighs meeting, and your chin reaching your chest, as my Post-Chrimbo flab easily facilitated such actions.
The primary goal of yoga is to achieve a feeling of mental and physical liberation, and dedicating just quarter of an hour each day to emptying my mind helped considerably alleviate the stress and anxiety I had worked up each day. While my previous challenges had involved making sacrifices, I found that adopting a new habit and creating some semblance of a routine each evening did help me feel more liberated. I can’t say that I always found staying focussed easy, and discovering the drawing pin I had lost last term impaled in my foot when executing a ‘warrior’ pose put my self-restraint to the test.
Sticking to a routine was easy when my evenings were clear, as I would spend quarter of an hour on yoga before bed, but when the weekend arrived I realised I was going to have to juggle yoga with my social life. I compromised by playing an instructive video on the TV while my friends participated in pre-drinks, and worked out that if I used a long enough straw, I could drink my beer whilst attempting a ‘downward facing dog’.
My week of yoga did marginally improve my flexibility (though I still maintain that the only reason I can’t reach my toes is my inordinately short arms), and provided me with a small amount of time each day to dedicate to self reflection rather than criticism, so I genuinely intend to maintain my habit at least three times a week. Perhaps one of the most important developments was the invaluable time management and multitasking skills I gained to add to my CV – I mean, who doesn’t want to be able to drink a pint horizontally whilst in the plank position?
NB: I feel there’s a gap in the market for an Alcoholic Yoga Society – applications are now open for the role of vice-president.