This is a love story about myself and yoga. If you knew me in my teens, you’d think it an unlikely love story, as I was lazy and regularly tried to get out of PE at school by ‘forgetting’ my kit. But in my mid-20s I did a full 180 on exercise and fell in truly, madly, deeply in love with yoga.

The reason I love yoga is simple: its benefits are both physical and mental. After a few months of practice, I grew not only stronger and more flexible in my body, but also in my mind.

Knowing what I know now, I wish I’d got into it sooner. I’ve long suffered from anxiety, fretting incessantly about exams, homework, friends (you name it, I’ve probably hyperventilated about it). But yoga gives me some headspace. It doesn’t solve my problems or make them disappear, but it pushes my anxiety to the edge of my mind for an hour or so – meaning I leave with fresh perspective.

You may have heard about meditation, which is where you switch off your worries by focusing on the here and now (the present), usually through deep breathing. Well, yoga is basically moving meditation. You’re encouraged by the instructor to think so precisely about different postures (positions) that you put your body in – how your feet are placed on the mat or whether your shoulders are tense – that you can’t help but switch off from your day’s worries.

Most yoga classes start off slow, building up to a more challenging standing or balancing posture and then winding down again to more relaxing postures, ending in ‘shavasana, where you lay outstretched on the floor with your eyes closed. Sometimes you can lay there for five minutes and it’s so relaxing after all that exertion that I’ve even fallen asleep and, ahem… definitely snored. This part of the class is really important, instructors say, because it allows you some downtime to reflect on the class and face the world with a calmer, more balanced approach.

Spending an hour on the yoga mat focusing on myself has helped me through some really tough days when I’ve felt stressed, lost and inadequate for a multitude of reasons. I wish I’d tried it sooner so I could have used it at school, and coped better with the pressure I was feeling.

Intrigued? Here are five things you need to know about yoga before you get started:

1. You don’t need to be able to get your leg behind your head to do yoga

It’s a common misconception that you need to be super flexible to do yoga. You don’t. Our bodies are all different and we will all have different strengths and weaknesses. Yoga is all about learning about your body and working with what you’ve got. It will help with flexibility – to open your hips and shoulders – but it will also help you to become stronger and develop better balance.

2. Not all yogis are chilled-out hippies.

If you think all yogis are sat under a tree meditating somewhere you’re mistaken –loads of us are sat on the sofa eating pizza. People who practise yoga come from all walks of life: from Premier League footballers to the elderly woman sat next to you on the bus. There’s no ‘right way’ to be a yogi; all types of people practise for different reasons.

3. It doesn’t matter how good you are.

Yoga is a non-competitive practise, so it doesn’t matter if you can’t contort like the yogis on Instagram. All that matters is what you do on the mat. Trust me, you’ll be so preoccupied with whether your feet are in the right place or trying not to topple over completely, that you won’t even notice other people.

4. You don’t have to spend a fortune.

Yes, some yoga classes cost a bomb, but you needn’t splash the cash. Just buy a yoga mat and pair of cheap leggings (look at the activewear range from Primark, Forever 21 or H&M) and watch a video on YouTube for FREE (try Yoga with Adrienne). Note: If you plan to practise yoga in a class rather than at home, yoga mats will usually be provided – but always check ahead.

5. There are lots of different types of yoga.

Do your research and try a few YouTube videos out to find out which is best for you. My advice is start Hatha yoga (good for beginners as it teaches postures) and then try out something like Vinyasa Flow (which is based on fluid movements from one posture to another) or Restorative (which involves staying in very relaxed and nourishing postures for an extended period of time and is great for stress relief).

See – aren’t you feeling more chilled already?

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Made a new year’s resolution? Congrats! Now, here’s how we all know what’s probably going to go down…

1. Hope

5-evangelising

This year, everything will be different! You will develop a will of iron. You’ll become one of those people you hear about who runs a marathon up a mountain before breakfast and pretends not to like cake. You’re going to emerge brighter-eyed and bushier-tailed and cleverer and more successful as a person, and it’ll all be because you gave up or took up this one thing as a new year’s resolution.

2. Motivation

You’re a new year machine! Bring on the resolution revolution. You’ve made a spreadsheet and bought equipment and watched five hours of YouTube tutorials. You’re going to NAIL this.

4-determination

3. Anticipation

You almost wish January 1st would come quicker, tbh. Finishing off the Quality Street and fancy cheese under a blanket is frankly getting tedious.

4. Determination

Here we go! Off the blocks! New year: activated! You’ve only been awake four hours so maybe it’s a bit too early to say but you’re calling it: 2017 is the year you became a better human.

5. Evangelising

In your new role of better human, it is your duty to help others be their best selves too. Therefore you should probably tell as many people as possible about your resolution, and how great you’re being at sticking to it. That way they can all applaud and look admiring, and tell you how inspiring you are.

6-the-smug-zone

6. The Smug Zone

Several days in now and you’re still going strong. In quiet moments you find yourself daydreaming about the book you will write about your resolution, and how it changed your life forever. Then the speech you’ll make when the book wins the Nobel Prize.

7. The Slightly Less Smug Zone

It’s all still going brilliantly, it really is, except that for some reason you can’t stop thinking about that thing you gave up. All of a sudden the days feel very long and not very fun. Other people keep taunting their lack of willpower in your face and tbh it looks like they’re having quite a lovely time.

8. The rebrand

The thing is, and you’ve thought about this carefully for a long time and not just decided it this second because you really want a biscuit, moderation is actually the key to life’s happiness. So maybe your resolution shouldn’t be a rule as much as a serving suggestion for better living. Like on a cake packet. Though you’re still sticking to it, of course, because you have a will of iron.

8-the-rebrand

9. The top of the slippery slope

If you only have a will of softer metal, is that such a bad thing? A will of aluminium? That’s still fine! You’re strong but flexible, and useful for leftovers.

10. Cheating

Quick, just create a distraction and take the biscuit. Shout “OH LOOK, A DOG!” If nobody sees then it’s fine, it doesn’t count. Except in your heart, but that’s not important.

11-defensiveness

11. Defensiveness

While it might LOOK as though you’re watching QVC in your pyjamas at 2pm instead of taking the dog for a brisk five mile walk, what you’re actually doing is an important part of the resolution strategy. The… um, the recharging part. Also you never specifically said it would be a five mile walk with your legs, rather than a five mile walk with your mind. Also shut up.

12. Denial

Failed? You haven’t failed! You’re just having a bit of a break from the resolution. Everyone needs a break sometimes. Also, traditionally resolutions don’t count on Fridays because… reasons.

13-rebellion

13. Rebellion

“You’re not the boss of me, New Year! If I want a cookie instead of a kale juice I will HAVE a cookie instead of a kale juice. YOU’RE NOT MY REAL DAD.”

14. Acceptance

You’re brilliant just the way you are. Nobody likes change. Giving things up isn’t your style anyway; you’re no quitter! Nope, better to embrace every inch of your true personality and stand firm against the pressure of society. To thine own self be true! Who said that? Shakespeare? Or Dumbledore? You really should watch less TV and read more – NO, WAIT.

14-acceptance

15. Deflection

“Resolution? Noooo, no that wasn’t me. Nope. Nuh-uh. Must have been someone else. OH LOOK, A DOG.”

16. Hope again

You know, for next year. Next year everything will be different.

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Hate January? There’s a club for that! It’s called ‘everybody’ and we meet on the sofa, weeping quietly into a chocolate orange.

But while the whole month can feel full of pressure to change yourself, put more effort into life and generally become a better, shinier human, there is another way – and it’s what we at betty like to call the ‘anti-resolution’. The lazy gal’s resolution. The kind that goes: do less, be happier! Sleep more! And while there’s obviously much more to life than your beauty routine, it’s as good a place as any to start.

Here are our five anti-resolutions to give your hair and face a fabulously chill 2017. Zzz.

1. Put. The tweezers. Down. 

Sure, plucking has been a rite of passage for every teenage girl since humans evolved to have hair above their eyes (seriously, check out the Mona Lisa’s bald brows) – but ‘permanently surprised forehead tadpoles’ is nobody’s idea of an on-fleek beauty look, let’s be honest. And thanks to Cara D and Lily Cole, luscious caterpillar brows have never been, um, bigger… so maybe skip the pain session and let them grow like the beautiful face gardens they are.

Or at least follow the golden rules: only tweeze below the brow, never above it, don’t take too much from the inner corners (this is the voice of experience and I’m here to tell you: brow growth serum is expensive), and step away for a little break every few hairs to stop yourself going the full alien. There’s a reason Lisa was a moaner, you know.

2. Give your hair a holiday

And we don’t mean from washing, guys, even though dry shampoo is the true elixir of life and we all know it. We mean from the drying and curling and straightening and relaxing and tonging and straightening-a-bit-more because your fringe is doing that weird flicky thing again. Your signature ‘do could be a massive don’t when it comes to your poor frazzled ends. So let’s make 2017 the year we have a lie-in and embrace our natural hair a few days a week, shall we? Let’s own our weird flicky bits! Master the messy up-do! And if all else fails, this is why hats were invented.

3. Go easy on the exfoliating.

Sloughing away dead skin cells (yum) is an excellent way to keep your skin looking smooth, bright and healthy. But there is a big difference between proper exfoliating and battering your face like it’s an old bit of floor that needs sanding. Stick to gentle face scrubs a couple of times a week, or use a muslin face cloth to cleanse with – and resist the urge to rub it raw. FYI, you can’t scare spots away with aggression. That’s not a thing.

4. Embrace the actual shape of our faces

Ahh, 2016. The year of contouring. The year no make-up routine was complete (supposedly) without painting on fake cheekbones in the shade of that stuff your parents use to weatherproof the garden fence. And while we love the transformative magic of makeup (also: mesmerising YouTube tutorials of people turning themselves into Kardashians), it might be time to remember that faces are allowed to look round, rather than hollowed out like an apple core. Cheeks are meant to be soft and pillowy. It’s kind of their deal. Plus: think of everything you could achieve with all that blending time.

5. Have fun

It’s far too easy, living in the Age of the Everlasting Selfie, to get hung up on creating flawless perfection and forget that beauty is supposed to be fun. Messing around with hair and makeup should be a joy, not a chore. You’re like Picasso with a lipstick, not Michelangelo painting God on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. So go wild! Be creative! Try that blue lipstick!

And if it stops being fun? Just don’t bother. That’s the lazy gal’s beauty law.

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Way back in 1967, hippies gathered in San Francisco for their Summer of Love. But why just have one season of love? In 2014, I decided I wanted a whole year dedicated to love, so I chose this word as my ‘theme’ for 12 months.  

Whenever I faced a decision, big or small, I tried to think about how I could create the most love. Rather than dismissing a date as unnecessary hassle, I agreed to go because I hoped that maybe love would follow – and it did! We’re still together three years later. I realised that I didn’t have many pictures of the people I love so I began taking more photos of them, and looking through those snaps still makes me so happy. I also started listening to the little voice in my head that whispers ‘I’d love to do that’ and found myself having more adventures, however silly – like going on the Emirates Skyline cable car in London for no reason other than I’d always thought ‘I’d love to ride on that’.

I’ve already picked my buzzword for 2017: ‘no limits’ (ok fine that’s two words, but it’s allowed).

‘No limits’ challenges me to dream big, and not to assume that I can’t do something. Too often I restrict myself, worrying that I’m not clever enough or brave enough before I’ve even tried. This year is going to be different because rather than turning down an opportunity that might be difficult for me, such as taking on a new job or signing up to the next course (I’m trying to learn Italian), I can say to myself ‘No limits!’ and then at least give the challenge a go.

If I get a bit scared and don’t manage to follow my phrase all the time, it doesn’t matter. Not succeeding all of the time doesn’t make you a loser. The best part about having a theme for the year is that you can keep coming back to it – that’s why having a word of the year is so much better than a typical new year’s resolution. Resolutions tend to be specific, like ‘lose weight’ or ‘stop biting your nails’. This means that once your efforts have failed (usually by mid-January) then you feel you have to wait until next year to begin again. Not so with a buzzword: it can just inspire and guide your behaviour throughout the year. 

The other great thing about a word of the year is that it doesn’t expect you to be a different person. Lots of new year’s resolutions require us to change who we are, but trying overnight to become someone who doesn’t love chocolate will just make us feel rubbish about ourselves (and probably eat a whole heap of chocolate, tbh).  Buzzwords, on the other hand, allow us to be exactly who we are already but encourage us to strive after a new feeling, whether that’s braver or happier or calmer.

Maybe you’re feeling a lot of pressure because of exams and it’s making you stressed? A theme for 2017 could help you in different ways. If you went for ‘chill’, this could cover everything from treating yourself to ice cream when you’ve finished your homework, to having Netflix downtime every Sunday, to repeating the word to yourself before you enter the exam hall.  Or you might go in the opposite direction and pick ‘fun’, looking for ways to make revision more enjoyable (such as doing quizzes with friends), going to the funfair to bring out your inner kid, or practising nail art so your hands make you smile while you’re studying.

You might find your chosen buzzword comes up in other ways than you had expected, which makes it even more special and inspiring. Wondering how to pick your buzzword for the year ahead?  Here are three tips on choosing the right theme for you:

1. Love a song lyric or line from a film? If you find yourself repeating a phrase a lot, then that could be a big clue. In 2015, for instance, one Swiftie picked ‘Shake it off’ as the buzz phrase for her year. Who wouldn’t feel better channelling Taylor?

2. Is something big happening in your life this year? You could think about related words that might be helpful, like my exams example.

3. How would you like to feel in 2017?  This is a great way to find the best word for yourself. Maybe you want to feel less stressed (how about ‘relax’?) or maybe you want to take something more seriously (how about ‘committed’?).

Once you’ve picked your word, go ahead and try to live it. Have a fun/love-filled/powerful/relaxing/limitless year.

@rae_ritchie_

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We’ve finally seen the end of what was, for loads of people, a long and hard year. It was all just A Bit Much. And while lots of us couldn’t wait to shut the door on 2016 and jump into 2017’s arms, the pressure of January is big and real. We’re talking about… *whispers* New Year’s Resolutions.

Why are we whispering? Well, we’re *looks around* hiding from having to make New Year’s Resolutions, of course. They’re scary, right? They mean commitment and looking 365 days ahead and expectations and pressure and… and… and… OH GOD LET’S JUST STAY IN 2016 INSTEAD.

And breathe. No. New Year’s Resolutions don’t have to be scary at all. They’re just a chance to make you and your life that little teensy bit better. New years are about possibilities, excitement, and opportunities. So, instead of trying to think of grand, expensive, mind-bogglingly extravagant resolutions, how about you try some of these more simple, healthy, and achievable resolutions instead?

1. Drink more water

There are so many ‘rules’ dictating how much water you should drink, but let’s just all agree to drink MORE of the stuff in 2017. It’s healthy, prevents headaches, keeps you awake and lively, can do wonders for your skin, and helps keep your body and mind nice and regulated. And it’s literally on tap, so no excuses.

2. Explore more

Exploring doesn’t have to mean travelling the world. It can mean day trips to the seaside, exploring your own town, trying new foods, dabbling in new hobbies, and exploring yourself. Explore your own body, and your wants, loves, and needs. You don’t have to travel to the other side of the world to ‘find yourself’.

3. Keep yourself at number one

You can’t be a good friend without looking after yourself. In 2017, remember to stay at the top of your own priority list (here’s how). You’ll be a better friend, student, worker, and overall awesome human being if you’ve got yourself in tip top shape.

4. Not worry what others think

The most important opinion in your life is YOURS, as you are (newsflash) the one living it. It can be so easy to get caught up in what others think about you and your life choices, but does it affect them? Probably not. Can they be a better you than you can be? Nope. Do they know your life better than you? No. You do you, and let them do them.

5. Banish unhealthy friendships and throw yourself into GREAT friendships

You may not be able to make toxic friends disappear, but you can certainly learn to accept an unhealthy friendship. That doesn’t mean just getting on with it, but it means not letting them get to you anymore. 

Then have a think about what makes a good friend to you, and LOVE THOSE FRIENDS WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT AND DON’T LET THEM GO.

6. Have goals but enjoy the experience

Having goals is so great. They keep you determined, motivated, and bettering yourself. But don’t forget to enjoy the journey. Draining yourself to achieve a goal won’t make it enjoyable. You’ll end up a tick list and you’re way more than that.

7. Stop putting so much pressure on yourself, ‘kay?

And if you don’t achieve a goal, that’s ok! You’re not a failure! If you tried, that’s more than enough. Putting too much pressure on yourself takes all the fun out of resolutions – and of life, tbh. 

Anyway, you shouldn’t need a new year to want to do exciting, achievable, healthy, and self-bettering stuff. You should want to do it anyway, because you deserve to have nice things and be the best version of you that you can be.

So create your healthy resolutions with you in mind, not everybody else. You’re going to have the best year, alright? We say so.

@louisejonesetc

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Change can be a good thing. Changing your hair. Changing your bedsheets. Changing the world. The change in your pocket that helps you buy a doughnut.

But sometimes, and especially at new year, the pressure to change yourself can be a massive pain in the arse. “Make a resolution! Make another one! Join a gym! Run 10 miles! Eat more kale! Eat less everything else! Learn French! Learn to contour! Go out more! Stay in and do yoga! Get more sleep! Stop sleeping, you lazy slob!” After the lovely, cosy, sugar-topped fun of Christmas, January can feel like a big old pile of ‘you’re not good enough, loser’.

And to that, we say: nah. Shut up, nagging voices. Pipe down, people who believe that we need to overhaul our bodies, minds and lives just because the calendar flicked over a page. We’re fine as we are thanks – just as we were in December, and we will be the rest of the year too.

Instead, our January mantra on betty.me is ‘New year, same you!’. We’re going to be all about celebrating yourself – the actual you, not the perfect fairytale fantasy version – and spending time on stuff you really love, instead of the stuff you think you ought to be into. We’ll have ideas to celebrate staying in (mm, staying in), the most glorious geekery, exercise for people who really cba, and hacks to make the most of the wardrobe you already have – plus all our usual tips and funny tales from the coolest girls we know.

Shake things up, but don’t beat yourself up. Pick positive, realistic #goals, or just carry on doing exactly what you’re doing… because you’re doing it damned well.

Also nobody needs to eat any kale. Unless you actually want to.

Leslie Knope vegetable gif

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Katie Edmunds