4 Tips for an Easier Holiday Season

Oh, the holidays. The most wonderful time of the year! That, somehow, also becomes a time of stress and chaos for most of us. What should be a relaxing time with family often becomes a mess of getting everything done, trying to eat right once in a while, and making sure everyone is enjoying themselves – yourself included. Fewer hours of daylight, unpredictable weather, poor travel experiences, and social events filled with insane amounts of food and drinks can leave us feeling way off balance.

However, this is an excellent time to slow down and put into practice the lessons you’ve learned through yoga this year. If this seems impossible, check out our four tips for surviving (and thriving!) the holiday season and beyond.

4 Tips for an Easier Holiday Season

Set an intention to care for yourself. For many people, “the most wonderful time of the year” becomes “the most stressful time of the year.” Our regularly busy lives become aggravated due to additional expectations like hosting parties, baking cookies, and shopping for gifts. Just as we set intentions before yoga practice, I suggest you set an intention for self-care and self-love this holiday season. An intention is not just a thought – it’s a powerful commitment that begins the process of change. The commitment may be small – like five minutes each day of deep breathing – or it may be something longer like a daily yoga class. Whatever you choose, keep it doable.

Notice – and let go of – your expectations. We all fill our minds with expectations about how our lives should operate. For example, some of us strongly appreciate order and punctuality. Obstacles like traffic jams and long lines at the grocery store drive us crazy. Life – especially around the holidays – simply does not go according to schedule. At any moment, a canceled flight, out-of-stock gift, or any number of things can ruin our expectations. Part of overcoming stress around the holidays is simply learning to accept what comes before us. Yoga does a great deal of teaching along these lines. Each time you step on your mat, you challenge yourself to accept where your body and mind are that day and give yourself what you need – whether that’s a challenge or restoration.

Take a purposeful pause to focus on breathing. When we feel threatened or overwhelmed, our nervous system dumps stress hormones into our bloodstream. One of the quickest ways to diffuse this stress is through intentional breathing. While this certainly won’t feel easy at first, as you slow down your exhalations, you’ll begin to relax and recalibrate your body. I suggest taking a purposeful pause occasionally throughout your day. It’s important to let this come naturally so that taking a break is not yet one more thing on your hamster wheel of tasks and commitments. Perhaps it’s a few extra minutes of deep breathing in the shower or a deep breath before you walk in your house. The important point is to create small spaces in your day where you can hit the reset button.

Practice gratitude. While it may seem difficult to feel grateful in the midst of stress, it is possible. Consider starting a gratitude journal, where you write down small things that bring you joy each day. Maybe you notice the sunshine peeking out just once during a stretch of gray, Michigan days – or maybe you notice that for one small moment you’ve stopped obsessing over your overly long to-do list. What seems like a silly exercise can do wonders in helping you recognize the beauty around you.

Most importantly, practice compassion and kindness with yourself this season. Don’t push yourself too hard. Spend some quiet time alone when you need to unwind – and make time for friends when you’re feeling social. Reflect on the good things and let go of the rest. Realize that everyone is really doing the best they can. Make time to breathe. And visit us at the studio whenever you need an escape!

We do have some limited hours near the holidays, so please check out our online schedule before showing up for your favorite yoga classes!

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.

Tips for Creating Your Ideal Meditation Space

Interestingly, one of the main reasons we practice an active form of yoga is to help our bodies become capable of doing the opposite: sitting in stillness and meditation. This time of year, as we enter the busyness of holidays, parties, shopping, and cooking, I always find myself craving a quiet and meditative outlet.

As a small business owner, I know as well as anyone the challenges of finding a time and space to rest. To breathe, to think, to relax, and to unwind. I know that adding time into your daily life for stillness sounds daunting, if not downright impossible.

Yet, spending time in stillness each day provides the opportunity to pay attention to our own, individual experience. This, in turn, lets us bring intentional awareness into our daily activities. Think of your formal meditation sessions, whether in studio or at home, as the training that allow us to be more present in our own lives.

So, today I want to share some of my tips for creating a meditation space that you can call home in both the good days and the bad ones, whether you’re seeking joyful meditation or a place of solace.

Find a place that feels secure.

What I’ve found absolutely critical to successful meditation is finding a place where you feel secure enough to open your mind to this practice. Whether that’s a designated room in your house, the floor of your bathroom, a corner with a folding screen, or your yoga studio, find a place that feels sacred to you.

Add beauty into your space.

Meditation at its core is about removing the barriers and obstacles that keep our minds in a state of frenzy. So, I highly recommend that you keep your area simple and uncluttered, like our peaceful and clean space at Yoga Fever. Choose a few items that bring peace and serenity. Some great options include: a pillow, statue, artwork, mat, throw rug, curtains, or natural light.

Create a lovely aroma.

Incense, essential oils, or candles not only help you stay focused but also provide beautiful and soothing energy. In the studio, we often will waft an essential oil throughout the room during savasana. Additionally, candles offer the extra perk of providing a meditative flicker of the flame. Try our Wednesday night candlelit yoga class if you don’t yet understand the beauty and peace of this particular idea!

Soothe your soul with music.

While this piece isn’t necessary, and won’t fit everyone’s preference, I love playing soothing music during my time of meditation. Really, any style of music that brings you tranquility and peace will do. Alternatively, you could consider adding a small fountain if you’re practicing at home.

If you think about it, the spaces in our homes are often classified by the activities that we do in each of them. We have spaces for eating, cooking, sleeping, and playing. Some of us have other areas for entertaining, exercising, reading, or painting. But sometimes it’s important to have spaces in our homes that we create simply to be in them.

Perhaps we can think of our meditation space, whether in studio or at home, as simply our being room. It’s a safe, sacred retreat on bad days and a place to center ourselves each morning. I challenge you to identify some space, anywhere, that you can dedicate to meditation. The more time you spend there, the more you’ll want to return.

3 Reasons to Become a Yoga Teacher

If you’re interested in the yogic path, yoga teacher training is the best thing you can do for yourself. I know there’s usually not an ideal time to launch into this experience. But is there ever a perfect time to do anything? Nope. Sometimes you just have to lead with your heart and trust in the process.

I’m incredibly excited to launch our fifth Yoga Teacher Training Program this in September of 2019! Upon completion of our Yoga Alliance 200 hour program, you’ll deepen your practice and understanding of yoga, learn accurate body alignment and master the art of teaching yoga with confidence and authenticity. 

Besides these lessons, you’ll also learn the incredible power of self-love, confidence and body awareness. Below we have highlighted just a few of the many reasons to take the plunge.

Reason 1. You’ll Learn Self-Love: Accepting ourselves exactly as we are can be pretty darn impossible. Many of us struggle with jealousy in our friendships, families, and work settings – partly because we live in a comparative world where we can find pictures of other people’s lives at the touch of a button. Our inner judge can be a critical and demanding taskmaster, causing us to speak to ourselves with harsher words than we would ever direct toward others.

Through our teacher training program, you’ll learn to accept yourself for who you are – all flaws, insecurities, and doubts included. You’ll discover the power of a positive mentality, which will help you narrow in on the aspects that make you uniquely you! But we won’t leave it up to you to figure this out; we’ll arm you with the tools and mental strength to fight societal pressures.

Reason 2. You’ll Build Self-Confidence: Building and maintaining self-confidence is one of the toughest tasks we’re asked to do. Without self-confidence, we stay home and avoid certain events; we fail to chase our biggest dreams; we let fear conquer us. 

Our teacher training program will play an influential role in boosting or restoring your self confidence by giving you a reality check: there are some tasks and activities we’re capable of performing and others that aren’t meant to be. For example, some of my students have incredible balance, while others have immense flexibility. In the same way, we each have a variety of talents in our lives. The meditation and breathing exercises you’ll master as a yoga teacher will help you grasp the concept that our limitations are not downfalls; there are simply some things were better at than others. As you continue to grow your teaching skills, your confidence and self-awareness will intensify.

Reason 3. You’ll Gain Awareness (and Appreciation) of Your Body: It’s incredibly difficult to love our bodies as they are. In a world of highly-edited advertisements and instant social media access, it’s understandable to have a hate-filled relationship with your bodies. So, how does becoming a yoga teacher help us move past these fixations and have an appreciation of our body? The answer: give up the notion that yoga is a get-thin-quick routine and, instead, embrace the practice of yoga on a much deeper level.

Through my experience as a yoga teacher, I’ve realized that yoga helps me appreciate my body as a whole, not in segments. It focuses on strength, flexibility, balance, and breath, rather than on appearance. For example, when I do a balance pose I rely on my entire body to support me, even the parts that I dislike. All of the repetitive practice in body mindfulness you experience in teacher training will carry over into your regular, off-the-mat life, helping you proactively care for your body.

Those of you who enroll in our Yoga Teacher Training Program will spend a lot of time with myself, Shannon Austin, Owner and Operator of Yoga Fever. I am looking forward to fully supporting each trainee on their journey toward all things yoga. After the program, TeamFever works hard to keep your teaching skills going by connecting you with possible teaching positions at the studio and within the community (if you’re ready). You also receive a free unlimited membership at the studio for the duration of the program ($400 value). I am really proud of this program and cannot wait to show you the ropes.

If you’re even slightly considering signing up for Yoga Teacher Training at Yoga Fever, let’s connect. I’d love to hear from you. Please call us at 616-805-3603, email us at info@www.yogafevergr.com, or stop by the studio. The time is now yoga-teacher-wanna-be. You can do it, and I are here to guide you every step of the way. 

 

XO – S

How to Form Habits that You’ll Keep for Life

As the new year approaches, many of us begin thinking about the resolutions, goals, or intentions we want to set for 2018. And I don’t know about you, but I used to be hesitant about setting resolutions, because, midway through the year, my motivation would drop and I’d start slipping away from the behaviors I had so eagerly envisioned in January.

Commitment is hard, people, especially when it comes to life-changing habits and behaviors, like eating a vegan diet or consistently exercising. Whatever you repeatedly do forms the person you become, the things you believe, and the personality you portray. So if you want to improve, or form new habits, how should you go about it? 

Over the years, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks for creating habits that endure past the last snowfall.

The 3 R’s to Forming New Habits:

Reminder– this is the trigger that initiates the behavior you’re trying to enact. Several weeks into your commitment, it can be easy to start slipping back into your old ways. Set a reminder to execute your habit every day. It doesn’t matter whether this is a phone alert, a physical cue, or something else – what matters is that you see or hear a reminder that prompts you to take action.
Routine– this is the behavior itself, or the action you take. Commit to 30 days of whatever habit you’re trying to form, whether it’s eating vegan, flossing your teeth, or practicing yoga. Three to four weeks is all the time you need to make a habit automatic, and a month is a good amount of time to commit to, since it easily fits in your calendar!
Reward– this is the benefit you gain from doing the behavior. If you’re committing yourself to creating a new habit, it most likely is because you want to improve on some aspect of your life. Therefore, there are usually innate benefits to forming the habit, such as a healthier immune system, stronger teeth, or a more toned body. But it doesn’t hurt to personally reward yourself, as well! It’s important to celebrate because we like continuing actions that make us feel good. Whether you quietly tell yourself “Good job. You made progress today!” or physically reward yourself with some form of treat, what matters is acknowledging your progress.

A Few Other Helpful Tips:

Find a Buddy: Find a friend who will join you in the pursuit of this new habit. There’s nothing like an accountability partner to keep you motivated if you feel like quitting.

Be Imperfect: You can’t expect your attempt to change huge lifestyle behaviors to be successful immediately. You might fall astray during your 30 day commitment, or it might even take longer to fully form. No worries, friends! Just expect a few bumps along the way.

Be Consistent in Your Timing: For habits like exercising and yoga (or flossing!), being consistent in the time you choose to practice is key. During your 30 day challenge, commit yourself to practicing your new habit at the same time each day, whether that’s morning, evening, or right after work. 

Ready to Give this Habit Thing a Try?

At Yoga Fever, we’re ready to practice what we preach. This coming January, we’re hosting a 30-day yoga challenge – and those who successfully complete it will get their name entered into a drawing to win one year of unlimited yoga! The rules are simple: starting January 2nd, you must practice at Yoga Fever 26 out of 30 days, with those four rest days designed to allow the body time to heal. To encourage you all to give this habit-forming thing a try, we’re even offering a one-month, unlimited package for only $69. (promocode 69 upon check out of one month of unlimited yoga)

The heart of this 30-day challenge is commitment. Make a promise to yourself to practice each day and follow through on it. Grit, habits, excellence; whatever you call it, positive, consistent behavior only occurs through repetitive practice. The woman next to you in yoga class doing a headstand wasn’t born being able to do that, it took her months to develop the strength to perform that pose. Habits are powerful, unconscious patterns of behavior that play a role in influencing the direction of our life. Essentially, our lives go where our habits take us!

 

Good luck!