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.

What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda: The Sister Science to Yoga

Ayurveda is India’s ancient system of health and healing. It differs from modern medicine in that every individual is considered unique – and there is no common diet or lifestyle routine that will work for everyone.

Ayurveda is based on the principles of three doshas: Pitta, Vata, and Kapha. Doshas are the energy patterns that make up each individual person. This science teaches that each individual contains specific mental and physical traits that compose our constitution.

Although we’re born with all three of the doshas, they form differently in each of us, creating a unique combination that makes us exactly who we are! Generally, one dosha tends to influence us most heavily.

Characteristics of Each Dosha

VataThis represents cold, dry, and light. It is the force that controls our movement, regulates our nervous system, and oversees the elimination of waste. People with strong vata dosha are creative, quick to learn and grasp knowledge. They are excitable but tend to tire easily.

However, when this energy is out of balance, they may experience fear, anxiety, and impulses. They generally have dry skin and hair.

Pitta- This represents hot, wet, and combustive. It is the force that controls our digestion and metabolism. People with a predominance of pitta tolerate most foods, but can’t handle missing a meal. They tend to have an average body build, are good speakers, organize well, and are ambitious.

If their pitta gets out of balance, they lean toward irritability, outbursts of anger, and perfectionism. Typical physical problems include rashes, heartburn, insomnia, or dry eyes.

Kapha- This represents cold, wet, and heavy. It is the protective force that governs stability, structure, and moisture in our mind and body. Kapha types are usually affectionate, loving, and nonjudgmental. They tend toward slow speech, which reflects their deliberate thought process. They are calm and strive to maintain harmony in their relationships.

A lack of balance can lead to feelings of envy, insecurity, and depression. Their physical problems can include colds, congestion, and respiratory problems.

What are the Benefits of Ayurveda?

For all doshas, asana practice complements the positive aspect of our dosha while teaching us what we need to do to bring it into balance. For example, daily routine connects Vata types to the earth, boosting strength and stability. For Kapha individuals, it brings light and warmth to increase your energy and reduce lethargy. For strong Pitta types, it offers breath awareness to bring peace to your mind.

Are you ready to learn more? Join us on Saturday, September 22 from 12:00-3:00 p.m. for a fun, life-affirming class on Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga. Together we’ll explore how Ayurveda helps us uncover self-care and nutritional practices that honor our uniqueness. You’ll discover ways to improve your sleep, digestion, weight regulation, and natural detoxification.

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.

Yoga for Weight Loss?

Yoga for Weight Loss: Does it Work?

Let’s break it down. Yoga is a form of physical and mental exercise. Increasing your physical and mental exercise will benefit you on several levels. If the goal is weight loss, then picking a yoga style that is challenging, powerful, and gets your heart rate up is the way to go. The more vigorous the yoga practice, the more you will sweat and increase your caloric burn.

Cardio, cardio, cardio

We know cardio is the way to a slimmer self and we know toning the muscles is the way to a flatter belly and a toned body. This is what makes yoga a wonderful complement to any weight loss program. Vinyasa classes or momentum style classes will give you a cardio kick by getting you moving. Traditional yoga classes where you hold poses will help with added strength and endurance. Finding a yoga class that incorporates holding poses and momentum will help you shed a few pounds. At  Yoga Fever, we offer this style of yoga with dynamic/flowing postures and holding/static poses.

We can actually make our yoga class as easy or as hard as we want. We have the control to activate all of the muscle groups by “hugging in” or hugging the muscle to the bone. This creates an activation of the muscular energy of the body. If we want to make it easier on ourselves, we can choose to not hug in and take a more relaxed version of the pose. It’s that simple.

Can I lose more weight with hot yoga?

Hot yoga not only promotes weight loss but it helps to sculpt your body. The heat guarantees your body will sweat and work harder than in a traditional yoga studio. You will shed a lot of superficial water weight right away by sweating like a fiend in hot yoga. Hot yoga boosts your metabolism and promotes overall cleansing by flushing out your lymphatic system.

Overall wellness plays a role in weight loss

There are many different types of yoga practice that will help you gain more awareness of your body, your food choices, and acceptance of yourself just as you are. The more mental clarity and positive energy we gain from a regular yoga practice the higher our quality of life. Ultimately, yoga will change your life not just on a physical level, but on a physiological, emotional, psychological, and spiritual level.

Moral of the story: DO YOGA. FEEL GOOD, DO BETTER.