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!

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.

What Are The Benefits Of Hot Yoga and Hot Pilates?

Have you ever wondered, what’s with the heat in hot yoga and hot pilates?

Being a hot yoga and hot Pilates studio in Grand Rapids, we have had several people comment about the heat or ask questions regarding it. “I feel so good after a hot class and I don’t know why!” No worries, we have the skinny as to why. “What are the benefits of adding heat to yoga and Pilates?” Well, how much time do you have?

At Yoga Fever, we keep our heat at 99 degrees for hot yoga and hot Pilates classes in the winter and 90 degrees in the summer. Our warm classes range from 80 – 85 degrees and are residual heat from the classes prior. The added temperature helps keep the muscles, the core, spine, and joints warm. This helps the body build internal heat naturally and quickly while also cooling down quickly and easily which helps relieve the body of added stress. Our humidity is set to 40 – 45% (this, of course, goes up with more bodies in the room) which encourages healthy perspiration. Our energy recovery ventilation system helps circulate fresh oxygen into the space to keep air flow current and active.  No stinky studio here!! All hot studios have a preferred method on heat. This is what works best for us at YF.

Heat allows you to go deeper into the practice

Heat allows you to go deeper and safely into postures. Along with the proper warm-up, the muscles heat up rather quickly in a heated space. When the muscles heat up, they release the grip they have on the bone and begin to soften and lengthen with the proper guidance.

Heat increases cardio

Heat increases the heart rate which increases your caloric burn and your metabolism ( the balance and harmonious breakdown and rejuvenation of cells). Practicing yoga in a heated space asks the body to turn up the volume. Essentially, it makes the work out more intense and the bodywork harder.

Heat relaxes the mind

Heat relaxes the mind and creates a relaxed state. In Grand Rapids, we know how it feels to be cold. The body contracts and tightens up in the cold winter weather. Seeking out heated spaces creates a sense of peace for the body and mind.

Heat creates sweat

Heat creates sweat. Sweating promotes overall health by detoxifying the largest organ of the body, your skin. Healthy sweating increases your desire to drink more water which helps to flush the system.

Heat is very therapeutic

Heat therapy has been used for decades to help combat pain and discomfort with minimal side effects. It helps heal the body from a long list of ailments including arthritis, low back pain, muscle strains, stiff joints and more. It works by increasing circulation in the involved area. Blood vessels dilate when subjected to heat, in turn promoting more blood flow. Because blood flow is increased,  toxins are pulled out of injured tissues more effectively.

Yoga Fever promotes safe and proper alignment.  We combine the old school traditions of yoga with contemporary hot vinyasa and hot Pilates classes. Our hot yoga and hot Pilates are safe for beginners as well as seasoned practitioners. The teachers on TeamFever are some of the best Grand Rapids has to offer. They are extensively trained in the 8 limbed philosophy of yoga, alignment, and the body as a whole. We pride ourselves on staying true to the practice and trusting the process. Grab a friend and join the hottest place in town. You’ll be glad you did.~