Welcome to Month of Me, where every day in January, we'll be publishing a new fashion, beauty, or wellness article featuring a first-person account of shaking up an old habit, pushing beyond a comfort zone, or simply trying something new. Follow along for 31 days of storytelling, including what it's like to quit alcohol for 80 days, try Beyoncé's very strict diet, or completely overhaul your closet.
Name: Kelly Morris, graphic designer, Who What Wear and THE/THIRTY
What did you try? I practiced yoga every day for 30 days, focusing on handstands, forearm stands, headstands, and any other arm balances in my practice.
Why did you try it? I've done 30-day yoga challenges in the past and I always come away from them with renewed motivation and feeling so much stronger. I always think back to when a teacher just said offhand, "You never regret taking a yoga class." I think about that constantly. Very few things make me feel as strong as yoga—physically and emotionally. In the last year and a half, I went from never having attempted any kind of inversion to doing headstands in most of my classes. It takes people years to master a handstand, so I had no expectation of truly nailing it in such a short period of time, but I wanted to have a specific focus this time around on these poses that take of time and dedication.
How did you prepare? I know from the past that I have a habit of doing too much too quickly while exercising and not taking time to recover properly, so I knew that I needed to be strategic in order to avoid injury or major setbacks. Most of my preparation was dedicated to setting aside my ego and accepting early on that progress was going to be slow, especially because I was starting this challenge after a four-week break from yoga. Logistically I had to really look at my schedule and plan much further ahead than I was used to in order to fit in classes. In that process, I also realized that I couldn't avoid practicing at home this time, which is something I have always been put off by. I have a hard time staying focused at home without the external motivation of a teacher and a room full of people.
What happened during the whole process? I actually started out the month taking a three-hour workshop just on inversions with one of my favorite teachers. Balancing on your arms in yoga is less about strength than it is perfecting the technique. In a handstand, the idea is that your legs, hips, shoulders, and wrists are all stacked on top of each other so that when you reach that balance, it's effortless. That makes it sound easier than it is, but during this process, I put a lot of focus on alignment and technique in order to create muscle memory.
Classes served as excellent warm-ups for drills where I would practice any different way to get into a handstand or forearm stand. I spent a lot of time falling down and banging into the walls of my apartment and scaring my cats, but I was able to figure out which techniques were most useful to me. I also found it exceptionally helpful to record videos of my drills so I could watch it back and self-correct as necessary.
Any challenges? I found a new appreciation for practicing yoga at home. Initially, I was scared that I wouldn't be able to challenge myself, that I would give up and get lazy, that I wouldn't be able to come up with a good sequence of poses to do, that being in a space where I usually don't do yoga would throw me off. I was using a studio and teacher and a room full of people as a crutch, and I needed to get past that. Instead of relying on someone else giving cues, correcting my posture, or motivating me, I had to do that for myself.
Any surprises? Something I hear so much in yoga is to listen to your body, but more often than not, when given the option to make a pose more challenging in class, I take it. On one hand, I am always surprised by how much more I can do that I expected, but I readily admit it's a solid way to pad my ego. Because I wanted to maintain stamina to keep going back to class every day without being exhausted, I ended up in a lot of slower-paced, yin, or restorative classes than I usually do. I took it slow and did what I needed to conserve my energy instead of just going full steam ahead. A lot of that pressure I put on myself faded away, and at the end of the month, I still felt a significant improvement in how strong I had gotten. Seemingly overnight, crow pose—where you balance on your palms, arms bent and legs resting on the triceps—which, I do regularly and consistently, and I can jump back into a plank without a problem, started to feel absolutely effortless.
How did you feel afterward? What kind of changes did you notice? Not going to lie, once the month was over, I was so ready to take a break. I was excited to not have to work out my schedule ahead of time and take a day to do absolutely nothing. But I also feel proud of myself. There were a lot of nights after a very long day when I would have otherwise tapped out to go home and sit on the couch but had to go to yoga instead. I realized that just meant that I had all the more reason to go, just for the sake of decompressing productively. When I started I was having a lot of trouble sleeping because of stress, but exercise, particularly at night for me, helps alleviate that so much. I was even reverting back to clenching my teeth at all hours, and that just melted away after yoga. I've most noticed how stiff I can be first thing in the morning or from sitting at a desk all day, and I have a renewed motivation to just hop onto the mat for 30 minutes as soon as I wake up or when I get home from work—it feels so good to work out everything from the day that gets stuck in my hips or shoulders and to reset my train of thought.
What did you like about it? As much as I complain about having to plan so much ahead of time and the sheer number of hours I spent driving to and from class, every minute was worth it. More than once I found that I'd walk into the studio and feel a migraine coming on and I felt a panic attack creep in while class started and the thought of leaving would cross my mind, but I always felt better afterward. I can't emphasize enough how much better I feel all around with consistent exercise and meditation.
What did you hate? My biggest complaint is that there isn't a class at any given time of the day to suit my mood. I only go to one studio and I am limited to whatever their schedule is and sometimes it doesn't always fit. There isn't a Sunday evening class, which I think is a huge miss—there's nothing better to alleviate the end of a weekend with a yoga class.
Any advice for anyone who's thinking of trying it? Don't think about it, just do it. When it comes to doing inversions in class, don't ever feel scared or embarrassed because what's the worst that could happen? You fall on your face or onto the person next to you and then it's over, that's all. That's the only way to learn.
Take a look below at the products that I used during the 30-day challenge: