How to Express Gratitude Every Single Day

Thanksgiving is almost here! The time of the year where we gather with family, make plates full of delicious food, and count our blessings. Yet, this practice of gratitude is often saved solely for certain times of the year: the holidays. We think about how lucky we are to have our families, friends, good food, and everything else that brings us joy. 

But how can we cultivate gratitude every single day? 

The practice of gratitude improves health and happiness, builds a positive outlook, and doesn’t cost a thing. Even in the stressful, unclear times of our lives, we all have something to be thankful for. And if we choose to live as if everything is a gift, we live with deep appreciation and gratitude. 

So as I prepare for Thanksgiving this year, I’m reflecting on 9 simply ways we can cultivate gratitude in our daily lives – on or off the mat. Will you join me?

On the Mat:

Set Grateful Intentions– I’ve written before about the importance of setting intentions for your yoga practice. And while these can vary tremendously, why not try setting one related to gratefulness for a few weeks? Make your goal throughout your practice be to appreciate every moment – every drop of sweat dripping down your body, every muscle stretching, and every deep breath that moves through you. 

Meditate Daily– The practice of meditation can take many forms, but the goal is always the same: to quiet our busy minds and help us find some internal peace. While it can be tough to settle into a time of stillness, this is where you’ll find the ability to reflect on the people, places, and things in your life that serve you. If you’re religious, prayerful meditation is a great way to honor the aspects of your life that bring you joy.

Count Your Blessings, Not Your Breaths– This one is nearly impossible to do throughout an entire yoga session, but why not try it during one long pose – half pigeon, anyone? Instead of spending your time wishing you could leave the pose, try thinking of one thing you’re grateful for with each round of breath.

Never Skip Savasana– I don’t know about you, but I find it quite easy to be grateful when I move into savasana at the end of class. The intensity and heat are finally over and my tired muscles can melt into corpse pose. Whether in the studio or in your personal practice, always ensure you make time to spend 5-10 minutes in this final, resting pose. 

Off the Mat:

Move Your Body– Yeah, yeah. You know this one, right? But there’s a difference between exercising just to lose weight and exercising because you love and want to honor your body. Find whatever method you enjoy and do it! Whether that’s yoga, long walks, biking, swimming, kayaking, running, or lifting weights, take time to appreciate and respect your body’s need for movement.

Read– Ditch your screens, crack open a physical book, and get lost in it. Allow yourself to absorb new ideas, learn about different cultures, or discover inspirational quotes and poetry. I promise you’ll experience gratefulness for a world outside your own.

Write It Down– This tip is simple, yet extremely effective. Find the time of day that suits you and jot down three things each day that bring you joy. Sometimes your entries will be short and sweet, while others may include great detail. See if you notice a pattern of the people or things that you’re thankful for, and find ways to incorporate them into your daily life.

Self-Care– Show your whole being – body, mind, and soul- some gratitude by starting some self-care habits. Create a skin-care routine or fuel your body with wholesome nutrients. Get a massage or take daily walks to clear your mind.

Give Back– Once you have begun this journey toward thankfulness, it’s time to give back. Maybe you choose to donate to a favorite charity or volunteer with a cause near to your heart. Or perhaps it’s simply by teaching a loved one how to live gratefully every single day.

Join us for a gratitude Thanksgiving Flow at Yoga Fever 9am – 10am. This is an $8 Community Hot Flow suitable for all levels. This Thanksgiving let’s bring our breath and bodies together as one. Sign up soon. It’s almost a full class. XO – S
 

4 Reasons Why Yoga Reduces Stress

You’re in the middle of a big project at work, your child needs to be picked up from school, and your cell phone is ringing. Not to mention the fact that you need to make dinner, clean the house, and maybe just maybe find a minute for yourself. Seriously, when can we get a darn break from this total catastrophe of life?

Stress and anxiety exist in each of our lives. It’s unavoidable and part of the human experience. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to manage or reduce the impact that stressful situations have on us. Our daily responsibilities and worries don’t need to overwhelm us. And that, friends, is where yoga comes in. 

Let’s talk about four ways that yoga reduces stress and anxiety in our lives. 

4 Reasons Why Yoga Reduces Stress

Yoga balances our body – The practice of yoga actually counteracts the influence of stress, which often drains our energy and leaves us tense, tight, and tired. Instead, yoga does wonders in reducing tension – almost like a massage does. Child’s pose is, perhaps, the quintessential example of the way yoga helps us decompress. It’s often used as a resting pose or counter-pose to backbends and inversions, allowing our spinal column to relax and inducing a sense of both physical and spiritual surrender. Each time our forehead rests on the earth, it signals the body it’s time for rest, peace, and quiet.

Yoga balances our mind – In addition to treating our body with care, yoga teaches us to befriend and quiet the dancing/monkey mind. As we cultivate presence and compassion, we’re able to hone in on the actions we can take right now, in this moment. Yoga allows us to ease our frantic mind, and forget about our long to-do lists for the duration of the class. Whether we’re holding a pose or flowing through a sequence, yoga teaches us to focus.  We become as some athletes call in ‘the zone’. In other words, everything else fades away and we become one with the task at hand — i.e. yoga.

Yoga balances our nervous system – Whenever we experience stress, our nervous system begins to act up, stimulating high adrenaline and blood pressure levels. While necessary in some dangerous scenarios, this reaction can be chronic when triggered repeatedly. We use the breath as our guide in yoga. Instructors constantly remind their students (and themselves) to steady and deepen their breath, through controlled, and sometimes numbered, breath patterns. The process of learning to steady and deepen our breath allows our whole nervous system to calm down and feel peace. As yogis, we know the quickest way to the present moment is through the breath. This is a great lesson we can apply outside the studio when tough situations arise; focus on awareness of breath. Use the breath to calm yourself down and find the present moment. Even when we are facing the eye of the storm. 

Yoga helps us understand how our mind works – In my opinion, this is the most important point when it comes to long-term stress management. Most of our anxiety results from the way our minds operate to various challenges. The mind can help heal us or it can help cripple us. Yoga practice forces us into mindful awareness of the way in which we react to difficult situations. For example, when you find yourself in a tough place on your mat, do you immediately pull out of the pose? Do you push yourself harder? Do you get angry at the teacher? None of these responses are wrong or right. The point, rather, is that once you identify the way you respond to stress, you’ll be able to consciously choose a different response in the future – preparing yourself to fight back against stress and anxiety. 

As you see, yoga allows us to slow down and really tune in to our bodies, our mind, and our breath. By simply focusing on one thing, we’re able to decompress and relax. 

If you’re eager to reap these stress preventative benefits, why not try one of our gentle flow classes, which are our restorative and therapeutic classes – often meditation-based. But don’t think that you can’t learn to balance your body, mind, and nervous system in a hot flow class – because you absolutely can! 

If you’re new to the world of yoga, you could even try our NEW Wednesday night (9pm) community class for $5 to see what this whole stress-reducing practice is all about. Come on in and try a couple different classes – you totally flipping deserve it!
 

Savasana: The Sponge Pose

Savasana might look like a nap at the end of your yoga practice. But it’s actually a fully conscious pose aimed at being awake, yet completely relaxed. This makes it one of the most challenging poses in yoga because it asks you to become perfectly still and quiet in your body and mind without drifting off into snoozeville. Yes, it’s possible. Don’t be discouraged – read on.

Its Sanskrit name, “Savasana” (shah-VAHS-uh-nuh), comes from two words. The first is “Sava” (meaning “corpse”), and the second is “asana” (meaning “pose”). We like to refer to this pose as the “sponge pose”. It’s where you absorb all of the benefits and the mental imprint of the shapes you just created with your body. In Savasana, you lie completely on your back with your eyes closed. You gradually relax one body part at a time, one muscle at a time, and one thought at a time. This my friends, is FREEDOM.

Practicing Savasana stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system, which is the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system (that “fight or flight” concept) that’s activated during the rest of yoga practice. Relaxing your physical body offers numerous benefits, including lowered blood pressure, a decreased heart rate, and less muscle tension. Furthermore, it results in reduced occurrence of headaches, improved concentration and memory, and relief from anxiety and panic attacks.

Unlike active, physically demanding poses, Savasana requires a conscious decision to soften the dialogue in your mind and surrender fully into a state of presence. We move from a state of “doing” yoga to a state of simply “being” yoga.

And, folks, this is hard.

We must not only relax our muscles, but also become equally skilled at letting our mental chatter (chitta) vanish for the benefits of this pose to occur. Unfortunately, our bodies and minds often throw us a number of distractions. And that’s okay!! Just become the witness and observe each distraction for what it is. Allow it to flow into your mind and watch it leave just as quickly as it entered. This is part of the process. A few examples of distractions may be you have an itch or your body might feel sweaty, especially after our hot yoga classes. Your mind might think: “Did I ever send that email?” or “What’s for dinner?” Perhaps you think: “Come on, relax already!” or “Zzzz…”

So, don’t underestimate the art of relaxation. Many yoga students who can easily balance, bend, and twist throughout class, struggle when it comes to lying on the floor. You can’t demand relaxation – anyone who’s ever had trouble falling asleep at night knows this. That’s why we thought we’d share five simple steps that can help you improve your Savasana practice.

Steps to a Successful Savasana:

  • Set yourself up for success– Stretch out on your mat, making sure you’re completely comfortable. Wipe your sweaty face with a towel. Place a blanket under your head or lower back for additional support if needed. The more relaxed and comfortable you are as you begin your Savasana, the more you can easily surrender your thoughts and mind.
  • Take one large, cleansing breath– This last, audible exhale signals to your body to release into Savasana and gives you a sense of accomplishment for showing up and doing your best. It also is a detoxifying breath to let go of any remaining stress or negative residue.
  • Scan for tension– In your mind, run through each part of your body and draw it closer to the ground. Evaluate places of tension, especially those hiding in your jaw, temples, shoulders, and hips. Stress often accumulates in these areas.
  • Notice your thought patterns– Some days will be easier than others. That’s okay! Try to be at ease, trusting the power of your breath. Look out for the peaceful moments of quiet between your thoughts. Gradually, these will become longer and longer – and you’ll discover more inner quiet.
  • Exit gently– To leave the pose, first begin to wake your body by slowly wiggling your fingertips and toes. Continue by rolling your wrists and feet. Then, roll gently onto one side in the fetal position, cradling your head with your arm. Take several breaths here before pressing your hands against the floor and lifting your torso into a seated position with your eyes closed. It’s important to exit Savasana gracefully, allowing your body the time and space to return to reality.

In our rapidly moving world, cultivating the art of Savasana is more valuable than ever. While our society tends to place great value on speed and productivity, learning how to do nothing is a skill that can help you become more productive when you need to be.

Spice Up Your Yoga Practice

Have you ever felt like skipping right to savasana before yoga class even starts? Do you find your mind wandering during class or that you’re anxious to get to the next pose? You may need a yoga reboot.

Spring is officially here, my yogi brothers and sisters. And that means new life is everywhere. It’s the perfect time to spice up your yoga practice and return to that place where yoga is the highlight of your day. We have a few suggestions on how to breathe new life (literally) into your yoga practice. Read on and then get moving!!

Bring a Friend

Though yoga isn’t necessarily a social activity, finding a yoga buddy is a great way to add some fun to your practice. Whether you already have a friend interested in joining you, or you find someone who tends to go to the same weekly classes as you, your yoga pal can hold you accountable to show up on the mat several times each week and even enhance the bond you have with one another. Afterwards, grab a local brew or smoothie and discuss what you enjoyed, struggled with, or would like to try next time.

Set Goals

An easy way to break the monotony of your yoga practice is to constantly set new goals, whether physically or mentally. If you’re finding yourself dragging, maybe it’s time to experiment with a pose that’s always frightened you (always honoring your body’s ability, of course). One of the challenges of life is really to conquer our fears so why not bring that aspect to our mat? Take baby steps, but you may be surprised what your body can do once you set your mind to it. We are good at what we do a lot of, so practicing the goal pose once a day will not only begin to build your confidence, but it will enrich your overall yoga practice. Maybe your yoga goals are more breath and mind related. If so, spend time each day practicing breath techniques and meditation using guides, focal points, or just a good ol’ fashion sit and watch – sit in a crossed legged position and watch what thoughts enter your mind.

Move your Mat

It may sound silly, but simply practicing in a new part of the studio can change your practice and your perspective. Most of the population loves routine; we sit in the same desks at school, eat lunch at the same time at work, and drive the same roads to our house. When we place our mat in a new location, we can activate different physical and mental reactions to certain poses or find a new line of sight to our teacher.

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change” – Dr. Wayne Dyer

Challenge your Intention

If you’re a yoga veteran, you’re used to the teacher asking students to set an intention before class. Often this is a positive word or phrase that serves as your motivation for the practice. For example, you might set your intention as “determination.” You’ll then try to stretch a little farther in each pose or hold plank just a bit longer. You might also use your breath to focus on the negative things in your life that you can’t control. With each exhale, give yourself the permission to surrender that worry, doubt and fear and let it go. When we let go of things we can’t control, we reserve valuable energy, time and space for new creativity, awareness and life.

If you are seasoned, and are ready to move past a simple intention, you could set  what we in the yoga world call a ‘sankalpa’. A sankalpa is a specific intention written by you, for you and used before, during and after your practice (or really whenever you want to find time to focus on your hearts desires). The idea of repeating a sankalpa is to create the life we are meant to enjoy and embrace. The sankalpa is impressed on the subconscious, planting the seed of manifestation in our soul. It must come from your mind,  your heart, and your hopes and dreams.

Specific intentions and sankalpas give you something to focus on other than what you’re making for dinner or the to-do list you still have to tackle later that day. They’re something you can come back to whenever you find your mind drifting or you want to center yourself.

Try a New Class

If you’re like me, you probably attend the same vinyasa yoga class(es) weekly because they fit your schedule. Maybe you swing by after work or once you drop your kids off at school. It’s easy to get in the routine of only attending the same time slot or style of class. Try switching it up whenever possible by mixing in our Hot Flow, Gentle Flow,  Slow Flow or a Warm Lunch Flow (with less sweat & humidity/heat). Try a new teacher, or substitute. Their style, energy, and lesson plans will force you to hone in on the instructor’s cues. The key ingredient is you are forced to pay attention. When you pay attention, you permeate the membrane of the present moment and you are here now (YES!!).

At Yoga Fever, we also offer private lessons designed specifically to meet your needs. Maybe you need to learn to modify your practice while recovering from an injury, or want some extra guidance either because you’re a beginner or experimenting with a new pose. In a private lesson, you receive one-on-one attention right from the owner or a teacher of your choice. There’s a ton of flexibility to practice what you’re interested in – with a heated or non-heated class. If an individual class isn’t for you, grab a group of friends for one of our private group classes or check out one of our workshops.

Yoga Fuel: The Importance of Breathing

If we breathe automatically and hardly think about it during the day, why is breath emphasized so much during yoga class? And how is it even possible to breathe incorrectly?

These questions are common among beginner yogis, and they’re worth discussing! Awareness of breath, as well as synchronizing breath to movement, is an integral part of yoga,  – rather than gymnastics or any other physical exercise.

Mechanically speaking, the act of breathing can be either automatic (an unconscious, involuntary behavior) or deliberate (a conscious, voluntary behavior). By making an automatic behavior deliberate, we begin to affect our neurological programming through a state of intentional awareness. This conscious breathing affects us biologically, emotionally and physically.

Biologically:

During most of the day when we’re breathing unconsciously, our breath is controlled by the medulla oblongata (the primitive part of the brain). When we switch to conscious breathing, it stimulates the cerebral cortex (the more evolved areas of the brain). It’s in that moment that the magic starts to happen! Activating the cerebral cortex has a relaxing and balancing effect on our emotions, which leads us into the next benefit of intentional breath.

Emotionally:

When you begin to tune into your breath like this, emotional stress and random thoughts vanish. Your whole system gets a break. Your body’s energy begins flowing freely, disrupting any emotional and physical blockages and freeing your body and mind. This results in that “feel good” effect you experience after a yoga practice.

Physically:

In our physical yoga practice, the breath works side-by-side with our structural alignment. Our natural tendency is to hold our breath or use stress-induced breathing (short and shallow) while holding a posture, especially in a challenging pose. This creates stress and tension in the body. That’s why you always hear yoga teachers reminding students to continue breathing intentionally during the toughest poses and sequences.

Now, you’re probably wondering exactly how you’re supposed to breathe…. In yoga, there are a variety of different breathing styles. We’ll highlight one here called Ujjayi (ocean sounding breath). When done correctly, it calms the mind, creates internal heat and gives an uplifting boost of energy. Like most aspects of yoga, it requires practice, patience and an open mind and heart. To do this type of breath, try the following sequence:

With your mouth open, try exhaling the sound “HAAAAH” – similar to the sound you make when you’re trying to fog up a mirror. Get comfortable with this sound to get the hang of the practice.
Close your mouth and attempt a similar sound, feeling the outflow of air through your nasal passages. If you’re doing this correctly, you should sound like waves in the ocean (or Darth Vader!).

Generally, you should incorporate a positive resolve or mantra into every yoga session. This can be a single word or phrase that serves as a goal for your practice. This mantra should be integrated into your breathing process. When you inhale, gather up the stress or worries in your mind; when you exhale, imagine that stress flowing out of your entire body.

We’re willing to bet you had no idea how important – and complex – your breath is. What seems like an automatic process is actually critical to mindfulness, stress removal and energy creation.

If you’re ready to practice the art of yogic breathing, come join us for a hot yoga class!!  And don’t forget to incorporate conscious breath into your daily life. When you’re feeling stressed or tired at work, school or home, spend two minutes focusing on deep inhales and exhales. You’ll be surprised how great you’ll feel after.

“A yogi measures the span of life by the number of breaths, not by the number of years.” -Swami Sivananda