Do I have to be flexible to practice yoga?

This week, I’m starting a series on common yoga myths. Ask any yoga teacher, and they’ll easily share a handful of questions or excuses they often hear as to why new students think yoga isn’t right for them.

Perhaps the most common one is the belief that you have to be flexible before ever setting foot on a yoga mat.

And I really can’t blame you for thinking this! Take a look at any Instagram account or magazine cover and you’ll see yogis bent into ridiculously perfect poses.

Enough.

Thinking you have to be flexible to try yoga is like saying you have to be in shape to go to the gym or know how to cook to take a cooking class. The truth is, practicing yoga regularly will help you become more flexible over time.

But it’s called practice for a reason. You have to start somewhere!

I simply ask that you give it a try, commit to a regular practice (2-3 times per week to start), and stay patient. Also, take the following pieces of advice to heart.

Tips for building flexibility through yoga

Befriend your props: Props – including straps, blocks, and blankets – are not just for beginners. Smart yogis use them on any given day for a number of reasons. One is to bring the ground closer to you to release strain on your hamstrings. A second is they allow you to rest in restorative poses to tone down the intensity of certain shapes. Make it a habit to grab props before each and every class.

Develop a stretching routine: Everyone has certain body parts that are far tighter than others. Maybe it’s your hamstrings, hips, shoulders, or neck. To avoid common yoga injuries as you build flexibility and strength, identify which body parts are your weaknesses. Then target those daily with a small handful of stretches. Learn to identify the difference between sensation and pain.

Breathe through your muscles: Even and sustained breathing brings oxygen into your muscles. I’ve found that many new yogis notice the loud, even breaths of their neighbors throughout class and wonder “Do I have to do this too?” Yes, absolutely! A strong breath practice not only keeps you energized throughout class but also sends oxygen into the places you need it most.

Feel the heat: While you can certainly practice yoga anywhere, the reason we crank the heat in our studio is that it loosens your muscles, making it easier to build flexibility without causing injury. This means two things. One, don’t push too far in a heated space, as your muscles might be deceiving you. Two, accept the fact that you won’t feel quite as flexible in a colder space as you do in our studio.

Very few yoga students walk into their first class wildly flexible. But that’s okay because flexibility isn’t the main goal of yoga anyway. Yoga helps you practice mindfulness, live in the present, and increase your self-confidence.

Flexibility is certainly a perk of steady yoga practice, but it shouldn’t be a fear that keeps you away from ever stepping onto your mat.

10 Reasons Why we Step on our Yoga Mats

If you’re new to yoga or have never practiced before, you may be wondering: why the heck do people submit themselves to this crazy yoga practice? And if you’re a seasoned yogi, it’s always worth reminding yourself exactly why you step onto your mat each day.

Most people start practicing yoga hoping to gain a combination of flexibility, strength, and stress relief. But most yogis experience a change of heart regarding why they do yoga – most often pointing to self-compassion, spirituality, and community as the lasting benefits.

Let’s look at 10 different reasons why people do yoga, starting with the physical and moving into the deeper reasons.

1. Yoga provides better flexibility and mobility. Over time, even the stiffest muscles can stretch and lengthen. But one of yoga’s biggest strengths as an exercise form is the functional flexibility it offers to make it easier to complete everyday movements – such as kneeling, bending, or reaching.

2. It builds full-body strength. Yoga is a full-body workout. In any given class, you’ll touch on just about every muscle group in your body with both long, static holds, and fluid, dynamic movement. By supporting your own body weight and intentionally pulling each muscle up and in, you’re building functional strength right where you need it.

3. Yoga relieves stress. Yoga balances your body, mind, and nervous system, helping you relieve tension, ease your frantic mind, and steady your breath. Perhaps most importantly, it forces you into mindful awareness of the way you react to difficult situations, preparing you to respond more positively in the face of future stress. Read more about relieving anxiety through the power of the breath here: The Power of Yogic Breath to Relieve Anxiety

4. It detoxifies your body. Twisting poses and backward bends help give your body’s natural rhythms a boost. When you move in these poses, you squeeze your organs, pumping fresh blood throughout your body and removing waste from your cells.

5. Yoga reminds you to breathe. In class, you’re continually reminded to inhale deeply and exhale slowly, allowing you to notice when your breath is suffering – whether from physical exertion or emotional toil. I can’t tell you how many times this practice has helped me cool down off my mat – either by offering physical relief or preventing me from saying or doing something I would regret.

6. It helps increase concentration. I believe most of us today have concentration troubles, resulting from this digital age and the many tasks constantly tugging us in different directions. Yoga teaches you to continually observe your body, breath, and emotions. It focuses your mind on one pose at a time – often for much longer than you’d prefer! Over time, this practice can increase your ability to focus off the mat – boosting creativity and energy.

7. Yoga increases self confidence. Beginners and experts alike struggle, sweat, and fall over quite often in yoga class. But, guess what? No one is here to judge you on your performance. So, learn to laugh at yourself and keep showing up on your mat. Because, dedication to your practice will bring improvement – even if it’s not in the way you expected.

8. It helps you live in the present. If you spend much of your days planning, worrying, or regretting your actions, yoga can help you unplug and focus on what’s going on in your body and mind in this moment. Give it a try if for no other reason than setting technology aside for 75 minutes. Through breathwork and experience, you’ll learn to live in the present off your mat too.

9. It encourages playfulness. How often as adults do we get to practice new things, like balancing on our head or flipping upside down? Yoga brings you back to that child-like mind, where you explored and approached new situations with curiosity and playfulness, rather than anger and ego.

10. Finally, yoga builds community and connection to an ancient lineage. When you practice yoga, you become part of a four thousand year old tradition. You’ll discover a multitude of tools for enriching your lives – from meditation to health tips, and much more. Yoga can provide an amazing opportunity to discover new friendships, teachers, and communities. I can tell you that I’m continually inspired by the teachers and students who walk through these doors.

The truth is that yoga is not about simply changing your brain or your body. It transcends those goals and helps you connect to what you already have – and who you already are.

So, why do you practice yoga? I’d love to hear some of the reasons you step onto your mat each day!

Common Yoga Injuries and How to Prevent Them

Last week we covered seven basic, overarching ways to avoid yoga-related injuries. Now, let’s dive deeper into some of the most common body parts that yogis injure – and learn practical ways to protect yourself.

Hamstrings: One of the most common body parts that can get injured due to yoga is your hamstrings. Forcing your legs straight into any pose – whether you’re standing, sitting, or lying down – can damage your hamstring muscles. This kind of injury often builds up gradually, turning into hamstring tendonitis.

How to avoid hamstring injuries: Avoid forcing your legs into any stretches and you’ll find these injuries quite easy to avoid. If hamstrings are not your most flexible body part, apply added focus on contracting the front of your body (quads and lower abs) when you fold forward to let your hamstrings feel safe letting go. Don’t use your hands to pull your body deeper into forward folds. Those of you with a lot of mobility in your hamstrings need to be cautious and focus on engaging your outer hips, as it’s possible for you to overstretch and cause injury.

Shoulders: Yoga can cause shoulder injuries as a result of improper overuse. Poses like plank, chaturanga, cobra pose, and upward facing are common culprits. I’ve also seen shoulder injuries arise due to students not listening to their bodies’ signs of fatigue. Don’t push through chaturanga when your body is screaming for a modification or a rest.

How to avoid shoulder injuries: Avoid putting heavy weight on the joint by keeping the shoulders locked into the back on the poses listed above. Be sure to hug the elbows into the side body as you lower down through chaturanga and drop your knees down if this is hard to accomplish. Nail the elbows grazing into the ribs as you lower first – then try to lower down in one line with knees lifted. In your updog and cobra poses be sure to expand into the collar bones and externally rotate the shoulders and pull them down into the back pockets.

Wrists: Much like elbow injuries, wrist pain is a result of repetitive stress. This small joint is often already aggravated by too much computer usage. Those of you with weaker upper arms and forearms are at a higher risk because you won’t be able to press your palm firmly enough into your mat to relieve the weight placed on your wrist.

How to avoid wrist injuries: Supplement your yoga practice with some basic arm exercises designed to tone and strengthen. Use dumbbells or resistance bands when you visit the gym. The stronger your arms are, the less pressure you’ll place on your wrists. Alternatively, I recommend placing your knees on the ground to modify poses, like chaturanga, while you build wrist strength.

Lower back: Among the most frequent yoga injuries, lower back pain is often caused by rounding your spine in forward folds or downward dog. Rounding and overstretching is a recipe for injury and irritation, as it causes your spine to flex the opposite way it is supposed to.

How to avoid lower back injuries: Don’t shy away from bending your knees in forward folds; this allows your back to decompress and relax. Engage your lower belly in most poses – especially chair – as core strength contributes to a strong, healthy back. Keep a small bend in your knees throughout practice and remember to tuck your pelvis under your spine.

Knees: Knee injuries are often related to a lack of flexibility, especially in poses that target your tight hips. Other times, they’re the result of your knees falling out of alignment in poses like Warrior or triangle pose.

How to avoid knee injuries: When bending your knee in a pose like Warrior 2, always check that it is tracking over your middle toe. You never want it to cave inward because it adds unnecessary strain. When your knee is straight, avoid locking your knee joint. Additionally, avoid spending long periods of time in deep hip openers until you build flexibility there.

Neck: Any time you apply pressure to your neck – such as during a headstand – you’re compressing your neck. This can lead to pain in your cervical vertebrae. Your neck is one of the scariest places to harm since it takes so long to heal properly.

How to avoid neck injuries: Never put pressure on your head in any kind of inversion – including when you prepare for full wheel. Don’t force yourself into poses that the rest of your body (shoulders, wrists, abs) isn’t prepared to support you in.

Given all the proven benefits of yoga, but also the many potential risks, what should you yogis do? My biggest advice to avoiding yoga injuries is a combination of gradually easing into each practice, noting when your body feels pain over sensation, and mixing yoga with other exercise forms to strengthen weak areas.

At Yoga Fever, it’s our mission to teach an anatomically-sound yoga practice that keeps your bodies safe and strong! If you ever start noticing pain or discomfort, let your yoga instructor know so we can help adjust you or modify your pose.

7 Tips for Avoiding Common Yoga Injuries

Many yogis love the practice because it reduces the tightness in their necks, loosens their lower backs, and releases tension in their hips. But, like any kind of sport or activity, injuries can – and do – happen in yoga.

Some injuries occur due to overuse and inaccurate alignment on repeat. Others come about from thinking you’re more flexible than you really are. And sometimes, they’re a complete slip, accident, or fluke.

Thankfully, I have seven pieces of advice to help you avoid common yoga injuries. Because the most important thing to Yoga Fever instructors is keeping you safe and your body healthy.

1. Know the difference between sensation and pain

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: leave your ego at the door. Do NOT compare your flexibility, your strength, or your body in general to that of your neighbor. Everyone’s body is different, which means that the “perfect pose” may not be possible for you – right now, or ever. That’s okay. We’re here to guide you toward your best possible expression. But if anything ever starts feeling uncomfortable, please listen to your body and back off.

2. Get the green light from your doc if you have any pre-existing injuries

If you’re new to yoga and have any pre-existing injuries, please talk to your doctor or physical therapist for guidance first. While we instructors are trained in anatomy and are skilled in helping students avoid new injuries, we don’t know what aches and pains you might be dealing with already. Discuss which postures or movements might be risky based on your current or ongoing limitations.

3. Chat with your instructor before or after class

That being said, we also want to hear from you – about existing injuries or any new pains you’re noticing. When we know what’s going on with your body, we can help cue modifications to help you avoid doing more injury to yourself. While we try our best to move around the studio and help students right during class, we can’t always make it to everyone. We warmly welcome you to chat with us before or after class, so we can help you protect your body.

4. Gently stretch tight areas

Stretching and other dynamic movements should always be done mindfully and gently. Take your time loosening tight areas – especially during the beginning of class or when you’re practicing outside of our heated studio. It’s natural to feel some resistance, but you should be able to tell the difference between that and pain. Overstretching will only ever set you back by worsening existing injuries or leading to muscle tears.

5. Regular strength training

If you know you’re weaker in certain parts of your body – say, glutes or hamstrings – try to build strength there gradually. This helps you reduce putting too much pressure on other body parts as they try to compensate. Focus on regular cardiovascular or resistance-training exercises several times per week to build up the strength you need to stay safe in the yoga studio.

6. Use props for support

You know those blocks and straps at the back of our yoga studio? Yes, we really do want you to grab one of each for every class. Blocks can easily bring your mat closer to you if you don’t reach the floor in a certain bend or twist. They relieve pressure on your precious hamstrings. A rolled-up blanket or towel placed under your knee or hip is another great way to protect vulnerable parts of your body. Props are not something to be ashamed of. In fact, some of the strongest yogis are those who rely on their props to support them when they need it.

7. Consider trying various styles of yoga

Beyond the physical injuries, you might immediately think of, certain vigorous styles are not meant for beginners. Ease your way into the yoga practice by attending some of our gentle yoga, warm (not as hot) classes or even our yin yoga classes, which move at a slower pace. Learn the foundations of yoga from our experienced teachers, and read up on how to prepare your body for the Power Vinyasa Classes. Choose the appropriate class for your skill level and work your way up.

Next week, we’ll dive deeper into some of the most common yoga injuries, teaching you practical ways to avoid falling victim to them yourself.

In the meantime, I hope you take these tips to heart. It’s easy to forget that the ancient practice is about so much more than contorting your body into unique, impressive physical shapes. But at the end of the day, no one wants to lose out on days or weeks of yoga practice because they’re nursing an injury that could have been avoidable.

Introducing Kundalini Yoga

Have you heard of Kundalini??

We’re excited to announce an Intro to Kundalini workshop, coming to Yoga Fever on Friday, November 2 from 7:00 – 8:10 p.m.

What is Kundalini Yoga?

“The primary objective of Kundalini is to awaken the full potential of human awareness in each individual; that is, recognize our awareness, refine that awareness, and expand that awareness to our unlimited Self. Clear any inner duality, create the power to deeply listen, cultivate inner stillness, and prosper and deliver excellence in all that we do.” – Kundalini Research Institute

Yoga itself has dozens of variations in philosophy and style. Some are structured as a physical workout while others put a strong emphasis on meditation. Kundalini is a little of both – an uplifting blend of spiritual and physical practices that incorporates movement, dynamic breath, meditation, and chanting of mantras. Its aim is to awaken higher consciousness in its practitioner by activating energy centers throughout the body.

In Sanskrit, the word “Kundalini” means “coiled snake.” Early Eastern religions believed that everyone possesses a divine energy at the base of the spine. It’s something we’re born with, but we each must strive to uncoil it. Through Kundalini, we turn potential energy into kinetic energy, awakening our Higher Self.

3 Practical Reasons to Try Kundalini Yoga:

Often referred to as the “yoga of awareness,” Kundalini focuses on the expansion of your sensory awareness. It is one of the most powerful and complete yoga practices you’ll encounter, as it creates an aligned relationship between the body, mind, and soul.

Building Awareness Will Expand Your Life: Kundalini yoga is designed to strengthen your intuition and willpower. As you unravel the energy within you, you’ll gain awareness and an improved presence in the world, resulting in new opportunities and experiences.

Discover the Magic Outside of Your Comfort Zone: Kundalini combines so many elements, from stretching to breath work to sound meditations. The spontaneous nature of each class will keep you light on your feet and ready for anything.

Find Your Voice and Share with the World: Kundalini yoga helps us find our voice and discover the courage to use it kindly and effectively.

Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of, or practiced, this form of yoga before. As always, Kundalini asks that you honor yourself, move at your own pace, and listen to your body’s needs – asking for adjustments and modifications when necessary.

You don’t want to miss this exciting workshop! Join us on Friday, November 2 from 7:00 – 8:10 p.m. for our Intro to Kundalini class. You’ll engage in a short movement practice with various Kundalini exercises, finishing with a healing sound meditation to relieve stress and anxiety.

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.

Why Do We Use Sanskrit in Yoga?

AUM or Om  ( Sanskrit : ॐ) is a sacred sound or vibration from which all the manifest universe emanates.

Whether you’re new or a seasoned yogi, chances are you’ve heard at least a few Sanskrit words. Sanskrit is the ancient language the first yogis spoke and the language in which many historic yoga texts were written.

At Yoga Fever we teach Sanskrit in our teacher training courses, but we also use it often throughout our classes (not ALL of our teachers use it!). I personally love teaching Sanskrit, as it connects us to the history and origins of the practice, helping students better understand where the practice came from.

More and more, people are coming to understand that there’s a deep and rich philosophy beneath yoga practice. Sanskrit is the language by which that philosophy lives, breathes, and flows.

Why Do We Use Sanskrit?

Sanskrit literally connects us to the classical form of yoga that has been orally repeated for thousands of years.

When we use Sanskrit in our classes, we help students like you not only follow our directions but also get the most out of each session. Each Sanskrit word is believed to have its own consciousness, and pronouncing the word allows you to tap into that consciousness.

Through Sanskrit students are able to understand spiritual concepts that aren’t readily available in English. No other language can translate the mystical, transcendent, and divine as effectively.

It’s important for all of us, both teachers and students, to remember to be patient. We teachers repeat certain Sanskrit pose names often throughout class, as it often takes up to seven repetitions of a word for most people to remember it. Learning a foreign language takes a long time, but understanding some of the roots and most common words is a great first step! Read on my studious yogis.

Sanskrit Crash Course

Asana– This word refers to the poses that compile the physical practice of yoga. Maybe you’ve noticed that each individual pose ends in “asana.” For example:
Sukhasana- Easy Pose (the cross-legged, sitting position usually taken at the end of class)
Balasana- Child’s Pose

Ardha– A word which means “half,” ardha is used in poses like Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon pose).

Namaste– The universal greeting, namaste is a combination of two Sanskrit words: nama, which means “bow” and te, which means “you.” It can be translated a number of different ways, but I often explain it like this: “the light within me recognizes and honors that very same light within you.”

Kona– This component means “angle,” or “corner.” Examples include Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle pose) and Trikonasana (Triangle pose). I bet you can think of more!

Supta– This component means “reclined” and is used in many poses that ask you to lie on your back, such as Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe pose).

Ujjayi– You’ll hear us refer to this yoga breathing technique as “ocean-sounding breath.” It’s practiced with a slight constriction in the back of the throat so that an audible sound can be heard.

Now that you have a basic understanding of a few Sanskrit words, come attend one of our yoga classes. You’ll be excited to discover how much of our yoga practice includes these simple components!

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!
 

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.