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!

 

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
 

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?
 

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!
 

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.

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.

5 Tips for Teaching Yoga to Your Kids

Today we’re thinking about all our parents, educators and anyone who works with children. Have your kids ever tried to climb on your mat with you, or watched with eager eyes as you practice yoga? If you’re a teacher, do you ever find yourself in need of a way to help your little ones release some stress in a controlled fashion? If you’ve never tried teaching your kids a yoga pose, now’s the time!

Children live in the fast-paced world of busy parents, school pressures, after-school hobbies, competitive sports and more. Encouraging them to develop a yoga practice can help counter these stressors. Starting yoga early is a wonderful habit for children. Yoga encourages self-esteem and body awareness with a non-competitive physical activity. It helps them feel more focused, calm and confident. From antsy five-year-olds to exhausted fourteen-year-olds, yoga offers a handful of benefits that help kids re-energize, release stress and increase their self-awareness.

5 tips for teaching your children yoga:

  • Focus on the basics– Start with simple poses, such as Downward Dog, Tree Pose or Warrior II. Show them the proper form, but expect quite a bit of wiggling and mistakes as they learn. If you have a group of children you’re teaching, try a form of duck-duck-goose to quiz them on the names of a few poses.
  • Get them their own yoga gear – Let them pick out a fun pair of leggings or a yoga mat. This way, they can begin making their practice their own – they’ll be excited to roll out their own mat and get jiggy with their down dog.
  • Play with animal poses– At young ages, children are naturally quite flexible. Ask them to go further in their poses (when they’re ready). To get started try Butterfly, Cobra, Happy Baby and Tree as these will likely resonate with children. They have the chance to be more playful and silly as they try to maintain balance, roll around, giggle, and try again.
  • Share mindfulness techniques– Allow them to find the present moment and engage with the surroundings around them with their eyes closed. Notice sounds, scents, tastes, energy points etc. they see if they can find deeper breathing without straining or trying to hard.
  • Keep it lighthearted– For young children, you can’t expect their attention spans to last as long as yours. (We’re sure you already know this) Aim for five-ten minute intervals, mixed in with some fun breathing and mindfulness training.

Once you teach your children the basics of yoga and mindfulness, they can begin to incorporate the beloved practice into their own daily lives. Help your little ones realize that movement and mindfulness is a great release from frustrations at school or in their relationships. Show your older children the value of yoga as a stress reliever from the competitive nature of school, sports and clubs.

If you have additional questions about how to best teach your children about yoga, stick around after class and ask our amazing teachers – or send us an email (info@www.yogafevergr.com) or Facebook message!