How to Avoid Dehydration During Hot Yoga

“Make sure you drink lots of water.” I’m sure most of you have heard this at Yoga Fever as you’re rolling up your mat and packing to leave class. In fact, you hear this tip frequently, whether you’re training for a race, practicing yoga in heated rooms, or simply maintaining a healthy life.

The statement itself sounds simple enough, but I often notice dehydrated students in our hot yoga classes. Recognizing this problem up a list of other questions: What is the best way to hydrate? How do you know if you’ve had enough water? What are the key signs to look out for to avoid dehydration?

Tiredness, dizziness, cramped muscles, or no sweat – even in our incredibly hot room – are a few symptoms of dehydration. For yoga newbies, it’s totally acceptable to require a few classes for your body to acclimate to the heat, but continued struggle can be a sign of not enough water.

We’ve talked before about the best tips and tricks to nourish your body before a hot yoga class, but I want to focus on the critical importance of hydration.

Prepping for Your Hot Yoga Class

Enter the hot yoga studio already properly hydrated. It’s simply too hard to do it once you’re already in the room, as it takes your body about 45 minutes to process water. Hydration before yoga is essential to avoiding stiffness and cramping. Ideally, the bottle you bring will simply be for refreshment.

Then, make absolutely sure that you hydrate after class. I know many of you lead busy lives and are running off to the next thing after class, but don’t ditch that water bottle! Nutritionists recommend drinking at least 20 ounces of water after class to replace the fluids you burned off during class.

Sneaky Tips to Getting the Right Hydration for Hot Yoga

When practicing hot yoga, you simply cannot hydrate properly with water alone; you need the right balance of water and electrolytes. However, I advise against the many sports drinks out there, as they often have too much sodium and sugar. Coconut water, though, cannot be beat! With five key electrolytes, along with vitamins and potassium, it’s an ideal alternative. In fact, coconut water is so similar to blood plasma that it can be used as intravenous fluid in emergency transfusions – crazy, right?

Eat your water. The right foods can help you stay hydrated. Fruits and vegetables – especially lettuce, broccoli, grapefruit, cucumber, and watermelon – will increase your metabolism.

Spike your drink. Sometimes water needs a little boost of flavor. If you’re growing tired of your water intake, enhance your water with a kick of flavor – whether it’s a natural remedy like cucumbers, oranges, or lemons or a flavored powder.

I want to challenge each of you to embark on your own personal hydration challenge. Sip on water all day, even when you don’t feel thirsty. Fill your reusable bottle as soon as you finish it. Slowly drink a bottle of water over the course of the hour leading up to yoga class. And drink another in the 30 minutes after class. Stock up on produce high in water volume. Give it a week and see how your yoga practice is transformed!

The Power of Yogic Breath to Reduce Anxiety

Think back to the first time you stepped into a hot yoga studio. Likely, there were a lot of new experiences and sensations, but perhaps what you noticed the most was the military-like regimented breathing style of your neighbors. You probably heard loud, even breaths throughout the practice and your teacher likely aligned each movement with an inhale or an exhale.

And, maybe, you wondered “Do I have to do this too?” “Is it truly important that I listen to my teacher?” “I’m sure I can practice just as well if I breathe normally.”

If this was you, you’re certainly not alone!

But, yes, it is absolutely crucial that you practice a strong yogic breath throughout your practice. Not only does it help cool your body throughout a heated class, but it also instills a valuable habit that you can rely upon both on and off your mat.

In fact, many studies now confirm what we yoga practitioners have always found: regardless of the type of stress we’re dealing with, yoga is a powerful tool to calm our nervous systems and relieve anxiety. And the most basic component of yoga – breath control – can be practiced anywhere, by anyone.

The quickest way to a panic attack is taking short, sharp, shallow breaths with no focus on your exhale. Our breath is the gateway to our practice and the factor that most powerfully shapes our experiences – on or off the mat. It is intimately connected to our nervous system, so rapid breaths can increase our symptoms of anxiety. However, yoga increases our awareness of the need to slow and deepen our breathing.

Here are four simple ways in which you can ease your anxiety and enhance your mood by managing your breath.

1. Take inventory of how you feel. We often begin with this concept in yoga class. Teachers will ask students to rest either on their backs, seated, or in child’s pose as they take note of how their bodies, minds, and emotions feel that day. However, you can check in with yourself this way anywhere and anytime. Place one hand on your heart and the other on your belly. Inhale deep into your belly for five seconds before exhaling slowly for another five. Gradually increase the count to seven or even ten, taking special note of how feel afterward.

2. Practice sun salutations. Whether you prefer seated or standing, practice a few mini sun salutations. While you’re resting between rounds, be sure to soften your shoulders down your back and slow your breathing down. In these active poses, it’s easy to lose track of our breath – but quite simple to regain when you focus on calming and restoring it.

3. Rest in legs up the wall pose. When your anxiety manifests itself as jitters or restlessness, try taking legs up the wall pose. Since it can be done anywhere, it can be especially helpful after long stints of sitting at a desk or traveling.

4. Be mindful of what you consume. Too much caffeine, sugar, screen time, loud music, or work can contribute to an extra-anxious mind. The concept of self-care is real and valid. It’s not simply a luxury; it’s essential. Incorporate calm activities and healthy habits into your life, like a relaxing bath, a silent meditation, an outdoor walk, and a nutritious diet.

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!

AVOIDING YOGA-INDUCED INJURIES

Doesn’t it always seem that just as you’re getting really comfortable and strong in your yoga practice, an injury comes along that knocks you off your feet and requires you to slow down? Whether it’s a strained muscle or a broken bone, the lesson is simple: time to rest and heal.

Thankfully, yoga is a form of exercise that thrives off of alterations, changes, and meeting you where you are each time you step on your mat. It offers plenty of variations for those needing to ease up, and it actually can help you prevent or recover from injuries.

When You’ve Gone Too Far

As a general rule, you should never feel pain in your joints. If you do feel pinching sensations, it’s an indication to stop and relearn your technical approach.

Muscles are a different story. Muscular soreness is an unavoidable sensation caused by any physical activity: running, biking, weight lifting, dancing. This kind of soreness is natural. But if you start feeling pain in your joints – such as in the vertebrae or shoulder joints – while attempting complex movements, it’s time to modify.

Wave your yoga instructor down and ask for a few pointers. At Yoga Fever, we do our best to help students right during class, but if we can’t answer all your questions, please grab us before or after class!

Conquering the Ego

If you are experiencing an injury, one of the hardest things to face is your own ego. You’ll begin to cringe when you have to back out of a pose or rest in child’s pose rather than following the sequence you used to easily flow through. I’ve got some blunt honesty for you: let the ego bleed itself to death. This is exactly what you’ll need to free yourself from the whiny voice in your head that thinks your value is tied to your success.

Then, you’ll be able to reframe your mind. Injury demands you to ask what your priority in yoga really is. When you can no longer do the “cool” poses, you must identify whether your motivation is finding inner peace or simply mastering advanced poses.

Injury Prevention

1. Sudden or Acute Pain– Do you know the difference between stretching within your limits and pushing beyond them? Often, we slip into the latter and our body gives a shout of pain.

What to Do: Speak up if something doesn’t feel quite right when your instructor makes an adjustment. Give yourself some compassion when you have the desire to force or contort yourself into a posture that’s just not happening today!

2. Connective Tissue Tears– Occasionally, your joint may take on too heavy of a load, such as your knees in Chair Pose or your elbows and wrists in arm balances.

What to Do: Stop what you were doing immediately before making the injury worse. You may want to take a few days off, but when you do return to your mat, remember to focus on stability rather than stretching; this way you’ll stay within your limits.

3. Repetitive Stress Injuries– Dedicated yogis occasionally experience stress injuries – like tendonitis – from repeatedly doing the same movements.

What to Do: Though you may have a favorite style of yoga, mixing things up and trying not only different yoga classes but also other forms of exercise, is a great way to shift the frequency away from overused body parts.

Last piece of advice today: give yin yoga a try. This is a new class to Yoga Fever, being held Sunday evenings from 7:30-8:30pm. From healing injured shoulders to little toes, yin yoga is the answer. It focuses on long, passive holds, stretching and nourishing your connective tissue. This is where the action is and where injuries are healed. Give it a try!

Mastering Chaturanga

Ever heard your yoga teacher call out “chaturanga” and wonder if you’re doing it correctly? We feel you. Chaturanga Dandasana – or four-limbed staff pose – is the one yoga pose yogis love to hate. Most of us do it incorrectly or half-heartedly for years before finding the light!

Because this is such a physically and emotionally challenging pose, there’s a tendency to rush through it to get it over with. But a lack of attention is perhaps the biggest problem. While chaturanga can be a great way to tone your arms and core, your alignment needs to be spot on. Otherwise, you’ll risk shoulder or back injury.

The Benefits of Chaturanga:

Why do we put ourselves through this tough pose? There are several reasons why yoga instructors sprinkle chaturanga dandasana throughout their classes. Here are some of my favorite reasons for using chaturanga to transition between your yoga sequences.

  1. It makes your wrists stronger and more flexible.
  2. It builds muscles in your back, shoulders, and arms.
  3. It tones and stretches your core muscles.
  4. Add all of this together and it’s a great preparatory pose for arm balances and inversions

The upper-body and lower-belly strength you acquire by practicing chaturanga translates wonderfully into the power and core consciousness you need for arm balances like crow pose and side plank.

Where Most of Us Go Wrong:

It’s challenging to know when you are doing your chaturanga correctly. And since it’s a pose of repetition, it can lead to injury when performed incorrectly over and over again. Here are a couple ways even the best of us mess up our chaturangas sometimes.

  • Our hands are too close to our shoulders, causing our elbows to bend further than 90 degrees.
  • Our bodies either collapse to the ground with a saggy back or we stick our butt out toward the ceiling putting too much pressure on our shoulders.
  • Our elbows fall outward instead of hugging our core.
  • We lazily move through chaturanga, barely bending at the elbow before quickly rushing into upward dog.

How to Make Chaturanga More Accessible:

One option is to practice the pose with your knees on the floor – there’s no shame in this, friends! Closely monitor your elbow alignment. Next, recognize how deep you go as you lower yourself toward the floor, catching yourself before you begin to sag. Finally, share the strength of the pose between your upper and lower body so that your legs can ease the burden.

Still Confused?

Whether you are a seasoned yogi or a novice, each of us can benefit from stripping this pose down to its basics once in a while. So, whether you know you’re doing chaturanga wrong or you’re so darn comfortable in it that you’re starting to think you could use an extra challenge, we’ve got you! Join us at Yoga Fever for our next Chaturanga Clinic on March 18th from 1-2:15pm to learn the proper alignment, explore preparatory poses, and even how to take it to the next level by hopping or floating back into it! Sign up now – your shoulders will thank you!

Why are So Many Yoga Poses Named after Animals?

Photo by BenGrantham/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by BenGrantham/iStock / Getty Images

Cats, cows, and cobras – oh my! Do you ever feel like you’re at the zoo during the middle of yoga class? Yoga asanas (or poses) include crow, eagle, downward dog, pigeon, lizard, dragon (okay, maybe that’s not a real animal), and so many others. This may lead you to ask: why are so many yoga poses named after animals?

While there is no foolproof answer, most theories revolve around the idea that ancient yogis mimicked what they saw around them. In those simpler times, it’s understandable that they would have had many encounters with various live animals. Maybe they were hunting them, avoiding them, or simply observing them. Regardless, it’s not just animals that they learned from. A number of other poses exist that resemble items around them. Think: tree, wheel, and mountain.

It appears that the ancient yogis found imitating animals to be an enlightening experience for both the body and mind.

Animals have ample opportunity to release their emotions and tension through hormonal changes in their bodies. We often call this the “fight or flight” response. For instance, snowshoe hares often face multiple predators at a time – any of whom might make them their dinner that day. Yet, they don’t get sick, they don’t die, they don’t become depressed. They continue living and reproducing. 

As humans, we often struggle to keep ourselves aligned – we do fall victim to that sickness, worry, and depression. The busyness and high stress levels we place on ourselves prevent us from becoming aware of our bodies’ sensations. 

So, it makes sense that the ancient yoga masters would have chosen to model their practice after the animals they observed – in the hopes of learning to balance their emotions and stress patterns. When we enter an animal-named pose, we both endure a physical exercise and experience a psychological exercise of embodying the symbolism of that particular animal.

Consider the cat, an expert in relaxation. On awakening from sleep, they instinctively stretch and arch their spine in both directions before softening and moving onward. Doesn’t it make sense, then, that we generally use cat as an “awakening” pose at the beginning of practice, gradually loosening our body?

Or think about the cobra as it slowly prepares itself for action. A rather vulnerable animal itself, the cobra cautiously readies itself for attack by raising its head. We, too, practice awakening our dormant energy in this pose, often using it as a prelude to a full chaturanga. 

When you think about it, many of our animal poses really do resemble the creature they’re named after. Next time your instructor calls out an animal pose, try to put yourself in that animal’s shoes (so to speak!) and consider why they do what they do. For example, dogs enter downward dog position when waking from a nap as a way to stretch. 

What’s your favorite animal pose?
 

Simplify Your Sleeping Pigeon

Pigeon pose was actually designed to be a back bend with a ton of variations to chose from. The west decided to add the sleeping variation which can be a bit of a love/hate relationship. It’s amazing for runners, cyclists, or anyone with tight hips. But the problem is that many of us don’t understand the proper alignment of the pose, which can really compromise the safety of our knees and SI joint. 

We’ll walk you through a few ways to modify this pose to make it the restorative wonder it’s meant to be – rather than the pose you endure with clenched teeth toward the end of your practice.

First, what is Sleeping Pigeon pose and why is it so beneficial?

Yoga treats stiff hips in many ways, but the most common is through a collection of poses known as hip openers. Sleeping Pigeon pose is an extremely effective hip opener that works your front leg into an external rotation, while stretching your psoas muscle (it connects your groin to your lumbar spine) in your back leg. 

English please? It’s really, really, good for those of us who sit at a desk all day. And when you practice it consistently, you’ll notice significantly more ease in your lower body as you sit, walk, run and stand.

The problem is that many of us tend to thoughtlessly fold into Sleeping Pigeon, which dumps tons of stress onto our knees and sacrum. If you’re eager to improve upon this pose, read on yogis.

4 Tips for a More Pleasant Pigeon

Ease into the pose- Begin in Downward Facing Dog. Extend your right leg behind you, then bring the knee up to replace the right hand. You want a 45 degree angle from right hip to knee. More than likely, your shin is not parallel to the front of the mat (yet). With time and patience, you may get there. The heel will be close to the body and that’s A-OK. The top of your left foot is resting on the earth behind you with the toes reaching straight back to avoid sickling of the ankle. Gently melt your hips down to the ground. You want to avoid dumping all of your weight into the right side of the body. 

You can choose to stay here or, for a more intense stretch, extend your arms and chest to the ground in front of you. To fully experience the pose, keep the spine long versus rounding.

Use core muscles to square your torso- Once you’re in the pose, be sure to keep your hips squared to the front of your mat. This isn’t a twisty pose, so do your best to keep both hips facing the front. How do you do this? Engage and activate your core muscle to shift your front hip back toward your extended leg.

Take up space- At this point, you may be able to descend a little deeper into the pose. With your hands planted firmly in front of you, try scooching your back leg further toward the back of your mat. With every inhale, back out of the fold a bit, seeing if you can gather just a smidge more length through your spine. Then you can take up even more space as you fold forward on your exhale.

Modify when needed- It’s always okay to utilize the props found in the studio! Slide a yoga block or rolled up towel under your hip (the bent one) for extra support. There’s nothing to be ashamed about – even the most flexible yogis have days where they need some added cushion to protect their bodies. 

Finally, keep in mind that Sleeping Pigeon may not be your thing. No matter how many alignment refinements you make, this just may not be the pose for you. That’s totally fine, you guys. Ask your Yoga Fever yoga instructor for some alternatives, such as sucirandhasana (thread the needle) or lying pigeon (where you’re on your back and pull your thigh toward you). It’s always okay to skip or modify a pose.

Now let’s do this.
 

3 Out-of-the-Box Intentions that will Revolutionize your Practice

Picture it: You’re in a child’s pose at the beginning of class. You tune your attention toward your breath, building awareness and peace as you prepare to move into your yoga vinyasa sequence. You’re feeling great until…wait, a second. Your instructor asks you to set a silent intention for your practice. What the heck is an intention and how do I set one?

An intention is quality or virtue you hope to cultivate both on and off your mat. Intentions help us live more mindful and intentional lives.

For beginner students, it often helps if you examine why you stepped on the mat. What do you hope your practice will help you achieve? Are you seeking health and wellness or hoping to build strength and flexibility? Do you want to restore balance and peace or do you desire to cultivate more love and kindness?

Intentions can be simple and straightforward, such as those related to your physical practice: strength, flexibility, or breathing. Or they can be a bit more abstract, such as persistence, patience, and love.

Don’t think you have to stick to one-word intentions, people! Some of my favorites are little phrases like “I am enough” or “I will accept where I am today without judgment.”

Avoid specific goal-related intentions, such as “I will hold Crow’s pose for five seconds.” Try to allow yourself to go into something deeper; something that you can cultivate off your mat and outside the yoga studio.

So, how does your intention translate into your life off the mat?

Your intention is a powerfully energetic tool. By throwing all of your concentration at it for 60 to 75 minutes on your mat, you are cultivating a tremendous amount of energy. It builds a bridge between your work on your mat and your life off the mat, as you begin to uplift and embody this positive energy in all aspects of your life.

Now that you have a full grasp on what intentions are, take a look at these three out-of-the-box types of intentions that will rock your world.

1. Gratitude- What are you grateful for? Even in the stressful, unclear, tough times of our lives, we each have something to be thankful for. Food, shelter, friendship, a job, sunshine…the list goes on. These are the little things that make it possible to get out of bed and keep moving each day. Your intention could simply be an item or abstract concept (like friendship) that you wouldn’t want to live without. Focus on the people, things, and situations that bring light to your life. All things around us and within us are miracles. If we choose to live as everything is a gift, we are living our lives with deep appreciation and gratitude. It will change your perspective and attitude (yes, I guarantee it!!).

2. Forgiveness- I hate to break it to you, but, uh, you’re not perfect. Neither am I. None of us are perfect. We’ve made mistakes, hurt people near and dear to us, and sometimes we don’t even realize it. Not all of our wrongs are intentional, but that doesn’t mean we can’t benefit from some forgiveness. For this type of intention, you could select an instance where someone wronged you and send some positive thoughts toward that person. The cool thing is, this positive meditation really works! When you repeat it over and over again, you’ll begin to truly forgive and move on. When you learn to forgive yourself, you can forgive anyone.

3. Guidance- if you’ve ever felt filled to the brim with worries and overcome by the amount of items on your to-do list, you’ve realized that we can’t always do things on our own. Sometimes in life, we need help, and coming to this realization is often half the battle! Your intention could be an aspect of your life that needs a little assistance from an outside person or resource. For example, maybe you need some support in making a big decision. Maybe you’re looking a little deeper and need guidance on how to build patience or confidence.

Taking the time to set an intention at the beginning of each practice will honestly revolutionize your practice, moving from a great physical workout to the full mind, body, and spirit experience that we lovingly call yoga.

Give it a try, it can only make you stronger, happier and more fulfilled!

Nourishing Your Body Before and After Hot Yoga

As you know, yoga involves movement, twisting, and turning. The last thing you want when you’re busy flowing through a new sequence is to experience a stomachache, bloating or gas (EEK!). But it’s really hard to fuel our bodies correctly. Sometimes we accidentally eat gassy veggies before class and other times we forget to drink an adequate amount of water.

As yoga instructors, many of our students ask what to eat, when to eat, and how to hydrate properly in order to enjoy a successful yoga workout.

We think this is a great question and hope we can show you some simple tricks to staying healthy and energized throughout your yoga practice. Especially in the heat of summer (hello 95 degrees, Grand Rapids – we feel you!), it can be tough to keep our body full of the nutrients we need to make it through intense work outs and hot yoga classes. So let’s use this summer season to practice being intentional about what we put in our bodies before and after yoga class.

Why is this so important? Glad you asked. When you have the right amount of food and water in your body, you’re able to build and tone your muscles. But when you fail to do so, your body finds itself in “preservation” mode, too busy trying to provide basic energy and unable to create new muscle.

6 Tips for Nourishing Your Body the Right Way

Time It Right: So, when’s the best time to eat before yoga class? Ideally, we ask you not to eat 2 hours prior to yoga. However,  it doesn’t hurt to load up on a 200-300 calorie healthy snack an hour or so before class. This will keep your stomach from rumbling obnoxiously while also providing enough time for digestion.

TIP! Bring some apple slices and peanut butter with you to work so you can munch on them before heading to class or grab an orange. Oranges are 87% water content and are loaded with vitamin C. They’re perfect for adding some quick hydration. 

Avoid Fatty Foods: You probably already know this one, but before any workout, you should stay away from fatty or greasy foods (Duh). Focus instead on foods with fast-acting carbohydrates or lean protein. Your body can use this energy immediately to provide the boost you need.

TIP! Carrots and hummus is a light, easy snack that will give you the energy and nutrients you need. Save the tofu burger & fries for a once-in-a-while thing (and not before you hit class). Although I must admit, I am a bit of a french fry addict!! I do stick to eating them after class (pinky swear).

Bring an Eco-Friendly Water Bottle: At Yoga Fever, we strongly encourage you to bring an environmentally friendly water bottle to each and every class. We also sell Essentia H2O with electrolytes at the studio in the event you forgot to pack one along. Bring water into the studio with you and remember to drink it whenever necessary (even during the class). We won’t always remind you to hydrate so be conscious of your intake before, during and after.

TIP! When your instructor offers the opportunity to skip chaturanga and go straight to a downward dog, use the extra time to hydrate if needed. Listen to your body – it’ll tell you when the time is right.

Snack Smart before AM Class: It’s hard enough to drag your sleepy a** to an early morning yoga class (we get it), let alone trying to throw in eating properly before the crack of dawn. We recommend eating as lightly as possible before class, then consuming a solid breakfast afterward.

TIP! For your sunrise yoga session, opt for half a cup of oatmeal, half an avocado, or a small handful of avocados. A cup of tea works well, also.

Befriend your Blender: Oh how I heart my blender!! Some of the best pre-workout snacks are healthy, protein smoothies. These fruit and veggie-filled drinks are all the rage these days, so it won’t take you long to google a recipe you like. If you head to yoga straight from school or work, mix it up in the morning and keep it in the fridge during the day.

TIP! Hydration is super important before yoga, so try adding ingredients like green tea, oranges, pineapple, or mango. The antioxidants will also prevent muscle soreness.

Hydrate and Replenish: The first thing you’ll want to do after rolling up your mat is to drink some H20 and maybe even add some electrolytes to your water. Electrolytes help you replenish the much-needed nutrients, sodium and minerals your body lost during your sweat sesh. We keep Emergen-C electrolytes at the studio for our staff to sip on between classes. You can purchase it at Costco or any local pharmacy. Whatever you do, just be mindful to keep your water bottle near you for at least an hour after class, although your body may crave extra water for the rest of the day.

TIP! You can also add in some other, naturally-hydrating drinks like fruit juice or coconut water. Even foods like cucumber, watermelon, and pineapple (all chilled) are a great post-hot yoga treat.

Remember, these are only suggestions. There are certainly additional food items you can add to the list. And it’s important to note that everyone’s body is different. Listen to yours to decipher which foods it can digest well and which are better left for an off-day. And after hot yoga, stock up on your lean protein by eating yogurt, drinking low-fat milk, or snacking on turkey and hardboiled eggs. We’ve also heard chocolate milk is a great way to rehydrate after extra muscle building (who knew?).

Most importantly, remember that these tips are designed to help you focus on your practice. We want our yogis to be fully invested in each hot yoga session, not worried about becoming dehydrated or depleting their adrenals.

STAY HYDRATED GRAND RAPIDS.

Building a Toned Body through Yoga

Summer is here and that means ice cream, gorgeous sunsets, and…bathing suit weather. EEK!! Some of us are ready to show off our bikini-ready bodies, while others downright dread bathing suit season and just opt for the one-piece with the cover-up instead. What I notice is that the older I get, the harder it is to shape my midsection. Due to metabolism slowing down as we age, it takes extra attention on my part to eat healthily, and work out my body as a whole. For this reason, I LOVE teaching quintessential core strength practices and I love practicing them as well. If you long for a lean, graceful body, there’s no better way to achieve it than through a consistent yoga practice (keyword being consistent).

Many of us desire a strong, toned body. Contracting our muscles over and over again can cause the DOM’s (delayed onset muscle soreness) and pain if we don’t train mindfully. Beginners, as well as people who have never practiced, often think of yoga as a way to stretch and relax. This is partially true, of course, depending on the type of class and practice you are taking; however, a number of poses in Vinyasa classes require you to lift your own body weight. Think: Crow, arm balances and Plank poses. Yoga is the ultimate release and realignment tool because it not only builds strength but also sculpts a toned, sleek physique.

To build leg muscle:

Focus on poses that require standing for a longer amount of time. The Warrior poses (Virabhadrasanas in sanskrit) all strengthen your hamstrings and quadriceps, while also working on the rotation of the thighs, which is a serious challenge. Goddess pose (squats) build strength in the glutes & knee joint. Chair pose works your core, hip flexors, ankles, and calves (try chair up against a wall – -prepare for a super burn in the quad!). Tree pose stretches your thighs, while also strengthening your ankles.

To build core strength:

There are plenty of yoga poses that work your abdominal muscles. Plank pose and core planks are some of the best exercises for your core, especially as you work to hold it longer and longer. One of the most important tips to building strength in your core center is keeping the core engaged through the entire practice. Think of your 2 hip points like headlights shining forward. Now, it’s as if you were trying to draw those 2 hips points together to allow the headlights to cross at the navel. The abdominals draw toward one another and remain engaged throughout practice. We will continue to remind you to find a strong center as we often get lost with the other technicalities of the pose. Boat pose (Navasana in sanskrit) and low boat pose (Ardha Navasana) are also classic core yoga poses. Try mixing it up with some boat variations like twisting side to side or rocking your legs lower and higher, straightening your legs for a teaser. Power chair, leg raises, bicycle crunches and Locust are also great core poses. There’s seriously SO many core exercises to utilize in a yoga practice that it would be impossible to list them all.

To build arm strength:

When you’re ready to train your arms, try these poses. Side Plank (Vashistasana in sanskrit) requires you to support your body weight with only one arm, which works your shoulders and wrists. Crow pose is the one many people consider scary or impossible. With practice (and guidance) you’ll be able to master this fun asana. In fact, it is usually the first arm balance that we learn as beginners. The first time you reach Crow successfully, it’s like-whoa. — I can’t believe I didn’t face plant!

Each of these poses may feel like it’s targeting a specific part of your body. However, they actually require the use of multiple muscles at the same time. For example, side plank may make your arms quiver, but your obliques will hurt the next day too. Compound movements filtered into our Yoga Fever classes make building strength a more efficient reality because we encourage alignment and muscular engagement. It’s truly key to building strength and flexibility quickly. If you’re just moving your body from pose to pose without being cued how to engage and where, you are missing the Navasana (boat)!

As you can see, yoga is a great practice for building a lean, toned body. And all of these benefits are yours for the taking. But, don’t forget that like any exercise regimen, it takes work and commitment. Practicing yoga once or twice a week is just not going to cut it. Sadly, you’ll lose the physical advantage you gained and will take a step back if you miss too many days.

So if you’re still hoping to work on your summer beach bod, good for you! It’s definitely not too late. All you gotta do is check out our yoga class schedule to find the days and time slots that you can commit to. We can’t wait to help you build strength and physical fitness – along with the many other benefits of this glorious practice that we call YOGA.