On the back of a wildly impressive 640-day Yoga 15 streak, I asked Helen a couple of questions about how she made it happen.
- Do you practise yoga at the same time every day?
I do. During the week, I practise yoga shortly after I get home from work. My job is largely desk-based and can be high pressure so if I’ve had a tough day, I find I need some stress reduction. At the weekends, it tends to be either first thing in the morning or after my ride/run. I’m currently in triathlon training.
- What mat do you use?
If the weather is nice enough to get outside or I’m in the pain cave/isolation chamber, I practise on a thick mat that evens out the lumps on the ground. If the garage is too cold, I use a thinner mat on the middle of the kitchen floor. I don’t know the brand. They’re both from TX Maxx!
- Do you practice in a dedicated space in your home?
My preferred space is out in the garden on the decking. I like listening to the birds. But I live in the middle of England, so you never know what the weather is going to do and it’s not really possible to practise outside during the winter. If the garden is not an option, I use the garage. And if that’s too cold, I move to the kitchen!
- Do you have any clothing tips?
I like to wear shorts or jogging bottoms and a t-shirt—clothing that allows me to move and stretch freely. And to paraphrase Edna Mode, no socks!!
- Do you use props?
Yes. Knee pads and a block. The front of my right knee is very sensitive to pressure, due to reconstructive surgery, and I’m not able to kneel on it. The surgery also reduced the amount that I can bend my right leg. I use pads under both knees to stay level and balanced and a block to support my hips in some of the poses.
- How long did it take you to establish a daily habit?
I started practising yoga to earn a challenge badge on the Sufferfest App. I earned the badge and then stopped, which I soon regretted as I lost all the benefits I’d gained over the previous 30 days. Then another challenge came along and I earned that badge too. This time, I decided to see how many sessions in a row I could manage. I got to around 50 days, then a race came along and I missed a day, and that was the end of that run. I had about a week’s recovery then the real streak started.
I just got into the habit of having 15 minutes to myself, to look after myself, and take care of my needs.
- Do you remember what obstacles you came up against before you started practising yoga regularly?
Before I started using Abi’s videos, my main issue was trying to understand where to start, how to breathe, how to fit a sequence together and what the different poses would do for me.
- What advice can you give to aspiring students?
My advice is to keep it simple and enjoy it! Don’t try to force it, either the positions or trying to fit in a session if you’re struggling either time-wise or physically. Be prepared to adapt your plans. If you can’t do a planned session, due to time, injury or your head isn’t in the right place, do a different session.
And don’t be afraid of the Guided Meditations. I’m a fidget. I have borderline adult ADHD and I find a long guided meditation tough to do, but it helps me to learn focus. Also, don’t feel guilty about having 15 minutes to yourself and telling others not to disturb you. And don’t be self-conscious if somebody is nearby!
One other thing, when Abi says “Nothing else matters”, try not to think of Metallica. Personally I think she’s secretly a metalhead!
- What are the most significant benefits that you have experienced?
The main benefit I have found, is that it has helped reverse some of the issues with my knee. For 20 years, I compensated for weakness in my right leg and with some of the poses, you can’t do that. I can now hold poses on the right side that I couldn’t do a year ago. My back, arms and core are much stronger, and this helps my swimming, cycling and running.
I also find that I have fewer aches and pains after training and racing, and my injuries are definitely fewer and farther between!