I did yoga every day for a month for the first time in 10 years — here's what happened to my body

Man doing a yoga class at home
(Image credit: Getty Images)

My first experience with yoga was a decade ago, attempting a month-long challenge in my cramped college dorm room. I didn't keep up the practice, but I wanted to start the year with a renewed focus on flexibility, so I decided to give it another shot with a new 31-day challenge. 

As I was basically starting again, I checked out the top tips for yoga beginners and found myself one of the best yoga mats with plenty of grip to support me in all the various poses. That should do, but I also used a yoga block to help ease into several positions. 

I decided I was going to do the challenge at home since that meant I was more likely to stick to it each day, so I found Yoga with Adriene's 31-day Flow series on YouTube and got started. Here's what happened.

I did yoga every day for 30 days — here's what happened

Compared to my college years, I was expecting the experience to be a bit different this time around, but that wasn't the only change. I managed to see the program through and used a different routine from Adriene's playlist to add some variety to the proceedings. 

Week 1

After the first few days, I noticed a renewed tightness in my core and the muscles around my stomach. This improved as the month went on, but I was impressed at how quickly I felt the impact, thanks to the practice's focus on balance and stability

Towards the end of the first week, a big core-focused practice that might have previously left me really suffering found me far less sore than I would have been before. This is also one of the benefits of regular practice, as you continually challenge the muscles. 

However, it wasn't all plain sailing. I found that my legs caused a few issues. I try to ensure my hips are flexible, but I regularly ended the classes with low-level pain and soreness around my hips — a feeling usually reserved for post-leg day recovery. 

The most significant benefit I found in that first week was surprising. Yoga's focus on form meant that I was starting to feel the impact of my practices in other workouts, and not just because I was strengthening my muscles.

Strengthening my mind-body connection during yoga meant that I could concentrate more effectively in the gym — that first week of downward-facing dog definitely made itself known in back workouts like lateral pulldowns.

Week 2

I've spent a lot of time over the years building muscle in my leg. However, the endurance required to hold certain lower-body yoga poses was challenging my quads and hamstrings in a very different way from the squats, curls, and extensions of my normal leg days.

You often imagine you need a set of weights to work out effectively, but as I found, yoga can still build muscle. And this is why it did get easier to hit and hold these poses over this second week, and, as a bonus, I was finding more flexibility around my hips.

Another unexpected benefit was the desire to make more time for exercise generally. Putting time aside for a yoga session every day meant that I was also more likely to try and find time for a quick run, which is handy, as runners can benefit from a regular yoga practice too. 

Combined with quicker recovery and extra flexibility around my lower back and hips in particular, beginner poses that I'd had to concentrate on were becoming increasingly instinctive, and I was feeling generally much fitter.

Man doing holding the warrior yoga pose

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Week 3

By day 15, I was noticeably more flexible, and stepping into lunges seemed a lot easier than it had two weeks ago. On the first day, it was a multi-step process, but this started to resemble a more fluid motion from standing through to getting into position. 

As I was still a yoga beginner, I quickly realized that focusing on your breath plays a big role, and it became easier to hold positions like chair pose and balance-focused positions. And as my endurance increased, I became more confident. 

I was also starting to feel the benefits of daily yoga across the rest of my body. I felt stronger, with the benefits readily apparent in the gym — upper-body exercises like lat pulldowns and shoulder presses benefited from the amount of time I'd spent in downward dog.

I had a better awareness of my body, so I could more accurately sense when I needed to make small adjustments in each pose to improve my form or concentrate on specific muscles. This focus on form carried through to my resistance training workouts.

Week 4

Coming into the final week of the 31-day challenge, the most notable benefit was a lot more strength in my core. The regular plank poses that have made up the foundation of these classes were much easier, and it was more natural to pull my core into place to better support other poses.

My general flexibility was also notably better. There are still poses that need work, especially those around my hips and lower back, but I was getting increasingly able to get deeper into positions like child's pose and to add extra intensity into those exercises. 

31-day yoga challenge verdict

Core strength and flexibility were two things I'd somewhat expected to improve throughout this challenge, but an added benefit was a general improvement in my fitness level.

Perhaps that shouldn't have come as a surprise after 31 days of daily exercise. After all, if I ran for a month, I'd expect my cardiovascular fitness to improve. I also began to see my breath as a tool. 

Changing the way I breathe, or even just focusing on my breath, made it easier to hold difficult poses. This resilience is also known as mental strength, and can work wonders in your training and everyday life. 

At the beginning of the month, a difficult pose would have made me tense (physically and mentally), but as I closed out the final class, I realized I had gained the strength and technique to hold the poses for longer periods and rely on the correct muscles too. 

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