180 days of yoga

Last week, I completed my 6th yoga challenge. Each challenge lasts for 30 days, so that adds up to 180 days of yoga! I was quite surprised to realize that I had done 180 online yoga sessions this year. I can say that this has become a new routine in my life and no longer requires much effort. This got me thinking: why did this change succeed while others don’t always? Is there an interesting lesson or message about how to sustain change? I explored this and would like to share my experience with you.

During the first lockdown in March, gyms suddenly closed, and I couldn’t attend my regular yoga class. Additionally, I started working from home instead of the office, and my daily movement was reduced to a minimum. I quickly felt that this was not very healthy for me—I became stiff, tired, and got headaches. A friend and I came up with the idea of doing the 30-day Yoga with Adriene challenge. This meant doing a yoga session every day, ranging from 20 to 45 minutes. So, we started this together. To motivate each other, we agreed to text each other when we completed a session ✅. Yes, it creates a sense of guilt if you skip it, and as soon as the other person completes it, it provides extra motivation. Now, we are four friends and have our own yoga challenge WhatsApp group.

The first challenge wasn’t easy, with many planks and other challenging poses that were quite painful for my not fully recovered shoulder. However, the beauty of yoga is that it’s not about performance; it’s more about being and doing what suits you. I soon noticed results, not only physically but also mentally. I usually start the day with a yoga session, making me much calmer in my mind and more relaxed when starting work. Additionally, I had started with healthy eating, and I found myself wanting to eat only healthy foods, resulting in a weight loss of 13 kilograms during this period.

In the summer, the challenge arose when restaurants reopened, and social life started to resume. Less time at home meant less time for yoga, and we occasionally started skipping days. This didn’t motivate us much and gave a feeling of failure. So, we reduced the frequency from 7 lessons per week to 5. This way, we had 2 ‘joker’ days per week and still stayed on track. From there, things went well again.

The most significant difference was observed in the first few weeks, especially seeing how quickly there was a difference in strength and flexibility. Even the shoulder was nearly pain-free after a few weeks. This is incredibly motivating! The challenge was to remain motivated after that initial period because you don’t notice as much difference. So, maintain the focus on what it brings rather than feeling obligated to get on the mat. Interestingly, I found that if I skipped yoga for two consecutive days, I immediately felt more stiffness and eagerly wanted to return to the mat!

Another significant milestone was achieving the ‘crow pose,’ an advanced yoga pose. I had thought that I would never be able to do it. Naturally, I’m not strong in my arms, and this pose seemed too complicated in terms of balance. But hey, nothing to lose, so I tried calmly each time and also accepted that if it didn’t work, that was okay too. Suddenly, after 165 days of yoga, I succeeded! It felt like a beautiful reward, and secretly, I was a bit proud of myself.

Source: yoga with adrienne

But what is the secret to sticking with it? I was curious myself, which is why I wanted to write this blog. Clues naturally came up:

  1. Do it together! It makes you feel more obligated to do it on days when you don’t feel like it. It’s also fun to share experiences.
  2. Opportunity: Due to the lockdown, there was a lot of opportunity to do yoga, making it easier to stick to.
  3. Motivation: Feeling stiff and lacking movement motivated me to start.
  4. Focus on the progress you make. Celebrate your successes instead of focusing on what (still) hasn’t worked.
  5. Realistic goals: Initially, doing 7 days a week was manageable, but when ‘normal’ life resumed, it became challenging. Instead of getting frustrated that the 7 lessons per week weren’t achieved, we reduced them to 5. If you then do 6, it feels like a bonus rather than having done 1 too few.
  6. Accept what is: This is perhaps the most important and aligns with the yoga philosophy. I wasn’t so focused on achieving results; I found it more important to take care of myself and do something that suited me. Often, certain exercises didn’t work, and that was fine; then, I looked at the things that did work. In other words, it couldn’t go wrong, at most, it could be different than expected.

In conclusion, I highly recommend everyone to start doing yoga. It’s not esoteric, and your body does get stronger, as does your mind! Since group classes are currently not possible, and we spend a lot of time at home, I would say, give it a try. Namaste 😉

New Year’s Resolutions

It’s a new year again! For many people, it’s a new round, new opportunities. People make resolutions; lose weight, quit smoking, exercise more. The gym is crowded, and diet products are flying off the shelves. Soon, many give up, and after a few weeks, those resolutions fade away, and people fall back into their old patterns.

I can relate to this all too well. How many times I’ve tried to quit smoking, lose weight, go to bed earlier, eat healthier, and so on. And preferably all at once! No one can sustain that! I haven’t smoked for years now, and the diet books are in the recycling bin. But how do you bring a positive change into your life? Often, we set out unprepared, without a clear goal in mind. Remember, “a good start is half the battle.” So, make a plan and don’t randomly pick a resolution. To shape this well, you can make your resolution S.M.A.R.T. Here’s an explanation of what that means:

S = Specific

Make your goal or resolution specific. What do you want to do? Why do you want to do it? Where will you do it? Who is involved? It’s a matter of clearly and concretely describing the goal.

Also, state your motivation for your resolution. When I quit smoking, I could list many reasons why I wanted to live smoke-free. This makes you more driven and stronger to achieve it.

M = Measurable

Make your goal measurable. An example of a non-measurable goal: “I want to go to bed earlier in the evening.” What does that mean, going to bed earlier, and how will you measure it? It’s better to say, “I want to be in bed every night by 11:00 PM.” This is clearly measurable.

A = Acceptable

Phrase the goal positively and ensure you accept it. For instance, if you want to quit smoking but deep down, you’d rather remain a smoker, then you don’t accept your resolution, and it’s doomed to fail. If you notice this, better search for the reason you still want to smoke. This is better than tormenting yourself with withdrawal symptoms and eventually giving in to smoke again.

R = Realistic

Ensure the goal is realistic. For example, wanting to lose 10 kg in two weeks is not realistic. Or going to the gym every day. It might be manageable for a while, but eventually, it becomes too much, and you might stop altogether (exceptions excluded).

T = Time-bound

Provide a clear start and end date or the moment when the goal is achieved. So, determine when you’ll start and when it will be finished (if applicable). For example, losing 5 kg. This is done when you’ve shed the kilos. Also, you have permanent goals that have no end date. Still, it’s essential to set a start date.

A few good examples:

  1. I will start exercising at the gym every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday from today.
  2. I will start eating at least 2 pieces of fruit every day from January 15.
  3. I will start doing something enjoyable for myself, like going out to dinner, watching TV on the couch, or dancing, at least once a week from next month.

Good luck with your resolutions!

Eye Opener

The past 2 weeks, I’ve been on vacation in Japan. One of the good things about a vacation is that you break free from your daily routine, allowing you to view things with a fresh perspective. Over the last few months, I’ve been feeling tired, sluggish, and often found my energy levels depleted. I was greatly in need of this vacation, and I found that quite noteworthy. While in recent years, I made sure not to let my battery run low, this time around, I felt a strong need to recharge. So, it was a good moment to reflect on why I was feeling so drained.

Round trip
During my journey through Japan, I suddenly realized that I had fallen into some pitfalls. Days were jam-packed with plans, no breaks, not engaging in activities that give me energy, and there are more factors to mention. This also impacted my travel. On some vacation days, I had so many things planned that there was no time for breakfast or lunch. I would quickly buy a sandwich and eat it on a platform waiting for the train. I was so focused on ticking off my checklist that I forgot to enjoy and plan things in a way that made the day pleasant and relaxed, rather than a race against the clock.

Relax mode
Sitting still on the train was also a challenge, often without wifi. It was confronting how many times I wanted to message, check my Facebook or Instagram, and so on. Why not just look outside and enjoy the surroundings or grab a good book? This was a real eye-opener! Fortunately, during the vacation, I managed to get into relaxation mode and clear my mind. Now, the goal is to maintain this feeling!

In conclusion, I can say that I was in a kind of ‘stress mode’ where you just keep going. To hold up a mirror to myself, I took out my own energy checklist and set a few concrete goals that I will reintroduce. One of them is writing about my own experiences and learning moments to inspire others, as I derive a lot of energy from this. How great would it be if we could all be energetic, happy, and vital! I’m happy to contribute to that.

Energy Management

Time management has been a concept for years—planning your activities better to avoid chaos. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it. However, time is not a stretchable concept; there are 24 hours in a day, some of which we need to spend sleeping, leaving us with a fixed amount. What if the things you want to do don’t fit into the hours you have? What if every Friday night, you find yourself exhausted on the couch, wondering why you have no energy left?

I’d like to replace the term “time management” with “energy management.” It’s about achieving a good balance between activities that give you energy and those that drain it. If you have a busy week, it’s not a problem if there are enough activities that serve as an energy source. For example, an evening on the racing bike is intense, but it also provides me with a lot of energy. And what about a dinner with friends? Often, I wake up the next day with a smile, ready to face the day with renewed energy.

If you find that you have few of these energizing activities and most of your activities are energy-draining, it might be a good time to consider eliminating some of those energy drainers. Think about the activities that put a smile on your face. Can you schedule more of these activities to boost your energy? I often encounter people who realize that they don’t gain any energy from their job. This is a significant time investment. It’s worth considering why you are still in this line of work and whether there might be other possibilities. It’s not something that can be resolved overnight, but being aware of it is the first step towards something new.

Wishing you lots of energy!

You Win The Tour In Bed

It’s been several weeks since the whole of the Netherlands was captivated by the “Tourstart” in Utrecht. Even TV commercials were tailored to fit, and last week, I was reminded of a commercial from a specific mattress brand that was airing daily on TV. They used the quote from Joop Zoetemelk: “The Tour is won in bed.” A beautifully meaningful statement. When I participated in Alpe d’Huzes for the first time last year, I initially thought only about training, training, and more training. However, rest is just as important as exertion. No performance without rest. So, I had to get used to building “rest weeks” into my training schedule. It made me a bit restless, and I had thoughts like, “Oh, now I’m losing my fitness.” When the regular training week resumed, I suddenly noticed that my legs felt much stronger, and I could cycle faster. A beautiful confirmation of the importance of rest!

This principle doesn’t only apply to sports. Taking a breather and embracing rest are essential in daily life as well. Often, we keep running without pausing to consider what we are doing. We go on vacation stressed out, spending the first few days exhausted. By the time we get into the vacation flow, it’s time to return to work. How great would it be to experience this rest in workweeks too? And as soon as you go on vacation, you’re immediately back in the flow. Good night’s sleep would be a great start. It’s not just the Tour that you win in bed!