Building Heat in the Body with the Practice of Yoga

When we’re cold, our circulation decreases, which leads to constriction in the muscles and joints. Though I know how tempting it can be to avoid the snowy roads and stay snuggled up on your cozy couch, winter weather is actually one of the best times to keep up a consistent yoga practice. Through our practice, we develop an internal heat to keep us warm, happy, and healthy.

I suggest focusing on four specific practices this season: develop strong, consistent breath; work those abs until they burn; consume Ayurveda-friendly warm, seasonal foods and get yourself to the nearest hot yoga room.

Strong Breath

Kapalabhati is a cleansing breath technique in which you start in a comfortable seated position with a tall spine. Draw in a long inhale, then exhale forcefully from your lower belly. Continue pushing breath outward in this way without inhaling – the inhale happens naturally, I promise!

Focus on exhaling over and over again, starting with a steady pace before moving faster. After about 20 repetitions, exhale all your air out and draw in another deep breath. Slowly sigh it out. You can repeat this breathing style twice more, allowing for that important rested breath between rounds.

This breathing style removes carbon dioxide from your lungs and brings energy into your body.

Core Strength

Heat is created from your body’s furnace, located in the belly center. In yoga, we call this area the Manipura chakra, which is connected to the element of fire. Any work done in your core area will provide warmth. In the winter, we like to spend time prepping the body before diving into the more difficult core exercises.

We may start with abdominal exercises that keep the spine fully supported by the floor. We’ll move into a couple rounds of Locust pose, while focusing on a very regulated breath. You’ll often find yourself in navasana (boat pose) later in class. Seated forward folds are sometimes used in the cooling portion of class, as we focus on contracting the belly on each exhale.

Nutritional Support

The sister science of yoga, Ayurveda, states that “like attracts like.” This means that the kapha and vata doshas tend to become aggravated during our dark, cold Michigan winters. The climate is simply too similar to their natural qualities. If you’re finding yourself experiencing many colds, poor circulation, joint pains, or negative emotions, try some of these tips.

Definitely eat plenty of soups, stews, cooked vegetables, and grains. Avoid cold salads and sandwiches.

Start your day with a hearty, warm breakfast to feed your digestive fire. Oatmeal is a great option.

Season your foods with warming spices, such as cinnamon, black pepper, cumin, and nutmeg.

Drink warm teas, hot water with lemon, or dry red wine to encourage circulation and stimulate digestion.

If you naturally tend to eat warmer, heartier foods in the winter – like soup, stir fry, casserole, quiches, pasta – you’re on the right track! While our bodies are designed to eat more in the winter, it’s still important to select your food carefully.

The cold, dry, and dark winter months can certainly tempt us away from our practice – and excercise in general. If we fall victim to that temptation, though, we’ll experience a number of negative consequences. I challenge you this winter to use your yoga practice as a means of caring for your entire being. Challenge yourself to practice a certain amount of days each week. For at least 60 minutes, you’ll be incredibly warm and fiery!

If you would like to learn more about building heat in the body using the sister science of yoga, Ayurveda, please visit Laura Burkett at Real Food Wellness.

Hot Yoga Studio

The hot yoga studio creates a sauna like atmosphere that will naturally detoxify the body while warming the external sheath, bones, muscles, ligaments and joints. Hot yoga raises your heart rate and core temperature, which dilates blood vessels and increases circulation in your muscles—a total win when muscles are stiffer in the cold weather months. Essentially, hot yoga helps build the heat from the core to the periphery and the periphery back to the core.

If you’re interested in learning more about our hot yoga studio, please call(616) 805-3603 and speak to Brittany Sanagustin or anyone on the Yoga Fever staff. We can help guide you into a safe, cozy practice designed to keep you warm all year long!

How to Choose the Right Mat for Hot Yoga 

Yoga mats are a game changer when it comes to a sticky, sweaty yoga practice. Recently, I was far from my yoga home and decided to test out another hot studio. However, I did not have my favorite mat with me as I was out of town. I figured no big deal, I’ll just rent one. The studio in and of itself was fabulous. It hit most of the checks on my “list” as to what makes a great hot space.

  1. Beautiful and clean studio and lounge
  2. Adequate space to flow and breathe
  3. A teacher who was clear, creative, and enthusiastic
  4. Knowledge of alignment and body mechanics
  5. The heat was seriously on point

But one major thing missed the mark: their rental yoga mats did NOT provide appropriate grip and safety. This completely changed my practice from stellar to super disappointing.

I suppose I’ve been blessed to practice on great mats in my hot yoga practice, which has led me to take for granted the superior traction that’s necessary to have an out of body hot yoga experience. So when I tried practicing on a lesser quality mat, I was unbelievably distracted by the possibility of my downward dog being split in two from my slippery hands and feet! Let’s just say: that hot yoga experience was not my usual “you’re Wonder Woman” experience.

If you’re going to practice hot yoga, and feel like a superhero the entire time, invest in a yoga mat and/or towel that is intentionally designed to manage intense heat and sweat. Otherwise, you’re only cheating yourself because your practice will be so distracted from holding on for dear life, that you won’t be enjoying the practice (which is clearly the point).

A couple tips: Just because it has a famous brand name, doesn’t mean it’s the best for hot yoga. And resist the urge to buy a yoga mat from your local pharmacy, home goods store, or supermarket.

So, what should you look for in a hot yoga mat? 

Consider the Thickness– The weight of your yoga mat has a lot to do with how comfortable it will be. Too thin and your knee may experience pain during low lunge; too thick, you may feel a weakened connection to the floor – making you more wobbly in balancing poses.

Standard yoga mats are about ⅛ inch thick, which is a great option for hot yoga. If you know you have sensitive knees, go thicker so your yoga experience isn’t uncomfortable. If you’re always on the go, try a wafer-thin mat that you can fold up and fit in a suitcase.

Go for the Grip– There’s nothing worse than slipping and sliding around on your yoga mat during an intense, hot class. This is the exact opposite of what the practice is supposed to be doing for you. We want to take ourselves out of the world of frustration and become one with the experience at hand, not over effort to stay in place. When you shop for your perfect mat, be sure to check the material. You’re looking for a closed cell mat or one with a microfiber towel on the top and rubber base. This will keep you grounded while also absorbing your sweat. Make sure the mat description says it is used for ‘hot yoga’ and if it doesn’t do the trick (after the break in period), return it or send it back.

Don’t Skimp on the Cost– Though I’m all about saving money when possible, a high quality yoga mat is worth the splurge – especially when you’re committing to a consistent hot yoga practice. If you choose the cheapest option, it will not hold your dog and will quickly become a slip and slide. Keep the inexpensive mats for the traditional yoga room or your at home practice, not the hot space. In the hot space, it will absolutely deem useless as the minute you sweat, all grip is lost.

Choose Support- At the end of the day, your yoga mat is your safety net and your right hand man. You carry it everywhere, it rides shotgun in your car, and you shed a lot of negative energy on it. It will always catch you when you fall (unless you bought it at CVS). Choose one wisely, one that supports you 100% through every down dog and every life changing experience.

If you have any questions at all, let’s talk! Seriously, email me, call me, or stop into the studio. We sell some amazing sweaty yoga mat options at Yoga Fever that will 100% hold you in place. No, I’m not trying to sell you on a product. I’m simply trying to show you the stress-free, blissful hot yoga experience that comes with a great mat. Happy sweating!

7 Common Yoga Mistakes & How to Fix Them

Our goal is to guide you throughout your yoga journey, helping you grow in strength, flexibility and mindfulness while preventing you from facing injury or discouragement. In this week’s blog we offer tips to help you avoid seven common yoga mistakes. Are you ready to get the most out of your yoga practice?

Mistake #1: Comparing yourself to your neighbor

One of the most effective ways to get injured or discouraged is looking at your neighbor and trying to mirror their pose or stretch. All of us have different body types and skill sets. The person on the mat next to you might be a former ballerina or athlete; they might have years of yoga experience under their belts; or they might be naturally flexible. Yoga is a personal journey, so there’s no reason you should be comparing yourself to anyone else.

Pro-Tip: When you find yourself trying to bend into a pose that your neighbor can do, take a moment to close your eyes, focus on your breathing and center yourself again. Remember, yoga is not about measuring your level of performance. It is about harnessing the energy to tame the mind and shedding our negative behavior and patterns.

Mistake #2: Comparing your body to the way it was 20 years ago, 2 weeks ago, or even yesterday

Remember when you were eight years old? You could practically do a cartwheel and wheel pose in your sleep. Your body moved where you wanted it to without even thinking about it. But that was when you were younger – before you sat in a desk for hours straight, or had a child of your own, experienced an injury or had a life full of stress, bills and interpersonal relationships. We carry stress and trauma deep within the tissues of the body. Limiting our movement and our mind.

Pro-Tip: Take a moment before class to meditate on the phrase: “Here I am. This is where I’m at with my body and strength today.” Always try to meet yourself where you are at – in the now.

Mistake #3: Pushing your body to do too much

Yoga beginners often mistakenly think that it will be a piece of cake. Maybe they’ve been exercising or playing sports for years. Although certain yoga poses seem simple, it’s best to listen carefully to your teacher’s instructions and ease into the practice without looking for an edge. Going slow and moving to the point of sensation as a newbie. It’s easy to fall prey to questions like “Why can’t I touch my toes yet?” or “Why is this not getting any easier?” The beauty of yoga is that it benefits you on many levels. Maybe you can’t touch your toes yet, but instead you’ve learned to modify to a better plank or breathe more effectively.

Pro-Tip: Take the most modified pose you can do correctly, in order to create strength and proper alignment rather than creating negative habits. Engage as many muscles by hugging the muscles to the bone throughout the entire practice. Instead of going deep, go strong.

Mistake #4: Practicing inconsistently

You know that feeling right after you finish a yoga class? You feel open, relaxed and focused – you can’t wait to come back for another one. But all of us lead busy lives and eventually our work, social life and family responsibilities begin to interfere. When you finally do return to class, you’ve lost what you thought you had gained. Don’t worry!! The mat is always there for you to build your strength and flexibility. The key is being ready. When you are ready to get consistent, your body will gradually open up, strengthen and move further into the poses. It just takes time and patience.

Pro-Tip: Commit to practicing yoga twice a week, even if that occasionally means rolling the mat out in your own basement and sitting in a seated position for meditation. Build a relationship with your mat. It can quickly become a good friend, guide and safe zone.

Mistake #5: Holding your breath

We often see students failing to let their breath lead them through the sequences or even holding it completely, especially during the more advanced poses. Forgetting to breathe consistently is a negative habit that causes anxiety and stress, exactly the opposite effect we seek in yoga.

Pro-Tip: Focus on your slow, deep inhales and exhales throughout the whole yoga class. (PS: read our recent blog post on how to breathe in yoga)

Mistake #6: Taking classes that are too advanced

If you’re a beginner to yoga, you really should look into trying a few slow or gentle flow classes first. These offer the opportunity to learn the poses, discover yogic breath and become comfortable within the practice. However, even the more advanced students would benefit from remembering the positive effects of slowing it down once in awhile.

Pro-Tip: Mix a few slow, gentle or restorative classes into your yoga routine. Check out our Restorative Workshop April 30, 2017 – Align & Relax – 90 minutes of restorative yoga for $20

Mistake #7: Failing to disclose medical/physical conditions

When you visit many of our classes at Yoga Fever, you’ll hear your teacher ask if there are any injuries or medical conditions he or she should be aware of. Students often feel embarrassed or too shy to speak up here. Your teachers want to know these issues so they can craft a restorative practice that won’t endanger your body.

Pro-Tip: Yoga is therapeutic. An experienced, intelligent teacher will help you overcome these injuries. Speak up!

What is the Significance of 108 in Yoga?

Why the number 108?

The number 108 is considered a sacred number in Hinduism, Buddhism and yogic tradition. Malas or Japa beads come in a string of 108 and are used for devotional meditation, mantra and prayer. With each bead a mantra or prayer is repeated to meet a total of 108. The Meru bead is the larger bead or tassel on the mala and is not part of the 108. This is the guiding bead and marks the beginning and end of the mala/chant/prayer/mantra.

Yoga Fever will offer 108 Sun Salutations or Surya Namaskar A to celebrate our transition into Spring. Spring is a season of phenomenal renewal. The earth awakens from its slumber and blossoms into new life, new beginnings and new awareness. It is a great time to reflect on health and well being. Together we will flow and breathe to become one body, one heart and one mind.

Here are a few interpretations of the significance of the number 108.

  • Sanskrit alphabet has 54 letters. Each letter has a masculine (Shiva) and feminine (Shakti) energy 54 X 2 = 108
  • Desires. There are said to be 108 earthly desires in mortals.
  • Time. It is said we have 108 feelings. 36 related to the past, 36 related to the present, and 36 related to the future.
  • Astrology. There are 12 constellations and 9 arc segments. There are 12 houses and 9 planets. 12 X 9 = 108
  • The diameter of the sun is 108 times the earth.

Please join us in studio to become one. One Mind. One Body. One Spirit. Check back for more offerings of 108 Sun Salutes

What To Expect At Your First Yoga Class

Yoga for Beginners

So you’ve decided to start a new chapter and take your first yoga class. Good for you! We admire steps toward positive change. Jumping on the yoga train can be scary, we know it. We’ve all been there. Not only are you chartering new territory with your first yoga class but also jumping right into a heated class! Whoa, now that is a big deal.  There are several questions that you may be asking yourself regarding your first class. Let’s highlight a few Q & A’s, with some great tips to set your mind at ease.

Can I handle the heat?

We won’t lie, the heat will feel pretty intense your first time around. Be prepared to sweat! The atmosphere is controlled to be a toasty 99 degrees in our hot classes and 85 degrees in our warm classes. Know that you can step out of the room at any time if you feel it necessary. The heat helps heal and nourish the muscles, joints and the mind. It is there to help guide you into a smooth practice, not make you suffer. After class, you will notice a sense of peace, energy release and an overall sense of well being. We like to say that you can shed skin on your mat in a heated class…leaving behind the residue that doesn’t serve you.

Will I be awkward with everyone looking at me?

You may feel slightly awkward as you learn about creating new and creative ways to shape your body and your mind. This is totally normal. Go with the weirdness. No one is judging you. The goal in a yoga space is to check your ego at the door and go inward. You may have other fellow beginners looking around for guidance but nothing to take too seriously. As you progress and grow into other classes, no one is looking around to check you out. This is an internal practice and each experience is personal and unique.

What should I wear?

You don’t need to buy expensive clothing to hit your first warm or hot yoga class. There is no point in investing a lot of money on outfits for your first time in. We believe form-fitting clothing that will not interfere with the movement of the body is best. Keep running shorts and t-shirt for the gym or your morning run. Tight clothing that breathes will help you stay focused on the yoga practice and not your clothes riding up in all the wrong places.

Please check your shoes at the door. Yoga is best performed with bare feet as it will help you maintain grip. Some folks do like to try with their socks on. Do what feels best for you!

Am I flexible enough to do yoga?

Every hot yoga studio will tell you the phrase they hear most is ‘I’m not flexible enough to do yoga’. There is a common misconception attached to yoga due to images in society that you must have a ballerina type body that can twist into a pretzel or the splits on demand. Not true! Yoga is good for every “body”. We have all shapes, sizes, and age groups in our hot yoga classes.

Long story short… Yes, you are flexible enough to do yoga! In fact, no flexibility is required to take a yoga class. With time, patience, and consistent practice, you will become more flexible in your body and in your mind (which is the true goal of yoga anyway).

What should I bring with me?

Please bring a water bottle with you so you can stay hydrated. We also sell Essential H2O water with electrolytes to help replenish the body before, during and after your class. We may not always cue you to grab a drink, so listen to your body and sip your water anytime you need nourishment and hydration. We provide complimentary hand towels so you can wipe down during your class. If you have a yoga mat, bring it with you or rent one of our yoga mats or large mat towels for your first time. Our mats are specific to hot yoga so they will provide more grip and traction on your mat.

What should I do if I feel lost or overwhelmed?

We love this question! We guide you through a safe and soft practice your first time around and in every beginner class (Our Gentle Flow, Yin Yoga, or Slow Flow is a great place to start). Know that yoga is very visual as a beginner. Look around, see what everyone else is doing. Your teacher will also guide you through the demonstration. It’s always good to listen to your body if you need a break. Childs pose is what we call a ‘rest pose’. To come into this pose bring the knees down to the mat, bring the great toes together, slide the hips toward the heels and sink the torso in between the inner thighs. The forehead touches down and the arms can be stretched long in front of you or down by your sides. You will see many yogis at ALL levels taking this pose for a break for their body. We recommend using this pose frequently as a newbie to the practice. Here you can come back to your breath and surrender until you are ready to rejoin the class. At Yoga Fever, we meet you where you are at.

Let’s get started!

What Are The Benefits Of Hot Yoga and Hot Pilates?

Have you ever wondered, what’s with the heat in hot yoga and hot pilates?

Being a hot yoga and hot Pilates studio in Grand Rapids, we have had several people comment about the heat or ask questions regarding it. “I feel so good after a hot class and I don’t know why!” No worries, we have the skinny as to why. “What are the benefits of adding heat to yoga and Pilates?” Well, how much time do you have?

At Yoga Fever, we keep our heat at 99 degrees for hot yoga and hot Pilates classes in the winter and 90 degrees in the summer. Our warm classes range from 80 – 85 degrees and are residual heat from the classes prior. The added temperature helps keep the muscles, the core, spine, and joints warm. This helps the body build internal heat naturally and quickly while also cooling down quickly and easily which helps relieve the body of added stress. Our humidity is set to 40 – 45% (this, of course, goes up with more bodies in the room) which encourages healthy perspiration. Our energy recovery ventilation system helps circulate fresh oxygen into the space to keep air flow current and active.  No stinky studio here!! All hot studios have a preferred method on heat. This is what works best for us at YF.

Heat allows you to go deeper into the practice

Heat allows you to go deeper and safely into postures. Along with the proper warm-up, the muscles heat up rather quickly in a heated space. When the muscles heat up, they release the grip they have on the bone and begin to soften and lengthen with the proper guidance.

Heat increases cardio

Heat increases the heart rate which increases your caloric burn and your metabolism ( the balance and harmonious breakdown and rejuvenation of cells). Practicing yoga in a heated space asks the body to turn up the volume. Essentially, it makes the work out more intense and the bodywork harder.

Heat relaxes the mind

Heat relaxes the mind and creates a relaxed state. In Grand Rapids, we know how it feels to be cold. The body contracts and tightens up in the cold winter weather. Seeking out heated spaces creates a sense of peace for the body and mind.

Heat creates sweat

Heat creates sweat. Sweating promotes overall health by detoxifying the largest organ of the body, your skin. Healthy sweating increases your desire to drink more water which helps to flush the system.

Heat is very therapeutic

Heat therapy has been used for decades to help combat pain and discomfort with minimal side effects. It helps heal the body from a long list of ailments including arthritis, low back pain, muscle strains, stiff joints and more. It works by increasing circulation in the involved area. Blood vessels dilate when subjected to heat, in turn promoting more blood flow. Because blood flow is increased,  toxins are pulled out of injured tissues more effectively.

Yoga Fever promotes safe and proper alignment.  We combine the old school traditions of yoga with contemporary hot vinyasa and hot Pilates classes. Our hot yoga and hot Pilates are safe for beginners as well as seasoned practitioners. The teachers on TeamFever are some of the best Grand Rapids has to offer. They are extensively trained in the 8 limbed philosophy of yoga, alignment, and the body as a whole. We pride ourselves on staying true to the practice and trusting the process. Grab a friend and join the hottest place in town. You’ll be glad you did.~