I'm not a yoga newbie per se — I try to stretch my splits every week and I'm a big fan of doing yoga videos for stress relief — but I am definitely not advanced. So when I started Yoga For All, a 14-day course on wellness platform Commune, I was expecting to learn more about the foundation of a good yoga practice. What I wasn't expecting, though, was the overwhelming gratitude for moments of pause and, most importantly, the self-affirmations sprinkled throughout that, when said aloud like you're instructed, created more of an impact for me than the actual flows themselves.
I know that yoga has proven benefits for improving anxiety and overall mental health, and it promotes a sense of mind-body connection that other physical activity doesn't provide. I also am a big fan of Adriene Mishler from the popular Yoga With Adriene YouTube channel. The course description on Commune reads, "Each class builds on the next, like a good book, inviting you to tell a story, cultivate a strong home practice and find what feels good. Yoga For All is designed to build strength and create support from the inside out. New to yoga? This course opens the door to everyone from athletes to truck drivers, from kids to older folks. It doesn't matter your size or shape, colour or creed, all are welcome. Make the commitment and roll out your mat. Yoga For All has your back!"
The Yoga For All course originally launched last September and was free during the 14-day period when you were sent classes via email for two weeks. The course was reopened for free during a separate two-week period since then, but a spokesperson confirmed that Commune does not have plans for another relaunch in the future. Now, though, you can purchase the full course on Commune for $100, which includes 14 days of follow-along flows, a 45-minute empowerment practice, and 10 bonus yoga field trip videos. This gives you access to everything permanently on your own time. Note: I was given a Commune login for free for the purpose of this post. Here's a sneak peek into what the course entails:
Strength, flexibility & peace of mind—#YogaForAll is a 14-day course with @yogawithadriene created to bring yoga to ALL people. Join others from around the world in this at-home experience on 9/10.— Commune (@onecommune) August 21, 2018
Sign up for free: https://t.co/GYsY1XNoGD pic.twitter.com/Xc3AlcAKaq
Why I Liked the Self-Love Aspect Better Than the Stretches Themselves
I only completed seven days out of the 14-day course, and I didn't do them in a row. So, I can't comment on whether or not the course consistently helped my flexibility or made any improvements to my form in two weeks' time. But, I can talk about what got to me the most, and that's the self-care part of it. I readied my workout mat in my bedroom and played the videos on my laptop, and from the very first instalment, treating yourself right was a constant theme. In Day 1: Notice, Adriene talks a lot about your "inner smile." Before transitioning into certain stretches, you put on that inner smile and take stock, or be aware, of everything around you and how your body feels. Note: she mentions this concept of putting on an inner smile throughout the rest of the classes that I tried.
Day 2: Befriend focuses on getting to know yourself, or as Adriene says, "snuggling up to what feels like you today." During Day 3: Align, Adriene tells you to actually smile as you go through tough movements and breathe "like you love yourself." These tidbits really did make all the difference; I was so concerned with doing the yoga poses properly that I wasn't honing in on how my body felt. I was moving through the videos, at times, without thinking about what it was doing for me, which is what Adriene stresses the importance of.
My absolute favourite self-affirmation came from Day 5: Stability, which was all about, you guessed it, core stability. It challenged my abdominal muscles with a lot of plank work, and the best part was when you're intructed to push up onto your hands and toes into that plank, you whisper to yourself, "I am strong." This happened a number of times in the practice, and I didn't expect it to affect me like it did. The affirmation was quiet yet mighty, and I appreciated the fact that when I was met with difficulty — repeating plank sequences was hard — those three words, "I am strong," helped.
I don't know how you are with needing motivation during a strenuous workout, but taking even just seven days out of this 14-day course taught me that there are little things I can do — small adjustments to my attitude or simple affirmations — that might prove useful. This is the biggest takeaway I learned and something that, to be quite honest, speaks more to me than if I'd simply fine-tuned my breathing, improved my hip flexibility, or gotten my splits down flat for longer than a few seconds. I am strong.