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The Power of Yogic Breath to Reduce Anxiety

Think back to the first time you stepped into a hot yoga studio. Likely, there were a lot of new experiences and sensations, but perhaps what you noticed the most was the military-like regimented breathing style of your neighbors. You probably heard loud, even breaths throughout the practice and your teacher likely aligned each movement with an inhale or an exhale.

And, maybe, you wondered “Do I have to do this too?” “Is it truly important that I listen to my teacher?” “I’m sure I can practice just as well if I breathe normally.”

If this was you, you’re certainly not alone!

But, yes, it is absolutely crucial that you practice a strong yogic breath throughout your practice. Not only does it help cool your body throughout a heated class, but it also instills a valuable habit that you can rely upon both on and off your mat.

In fact, many studies now confirm what we yoga practitioners have always found: regardless of the type of stress we’re dealing with, yoga is a powerful tool to calm our nervous systems and relieve anxiety. And the most basic component of yoga – breath control – can be practiced anywhere, by anyone.

The quickest way to a panic attack is taking short, sharp, shallow breaths with no focus on your exhale. Our breath is the gateway to our practice and the factor that most powerfully shapes our experiences – on or off the mat. It is intimately connected to our nervous system, so rapid breaths can increase our symptoms of anxiety. However, yoga increases our awareness of the need to slow and deepen our breathing.

Here are four simple ways in which you can ease your anxiety and enhance your mood by managing your breath.

1. Take inventory of how you feel. We often begin with this concept in yoga class. Teachers will ask students to rest either on their backs, seated, or in child’s pose as they take note of how their bodies, minds, and emotions feel that day. However, you can check in with yourself this way anywhere and anytime. Place one hand on your heart and the other on your belly. Inhale deep into your belly for five seconds before exhaling slowly for another five. Gradually increase the count to seven or even ten, taking special note of how feel afterward.

2. Practice sun salutations. Whether you prefer seated or standing, practice a few mini sun salutations. While you’re resting between rounds, be sure to soften your shoulders down your back and slow your breathing down. In these active poses, it’s easy to lose track of our breath – but quite simple to regain when you focus on calming and restoring it.

3. Rest in legs up the wall pose. When your anxiety manifests itself as jitters or restlessness, try taking legs up the wall pose. Since it can be done anywhere, it can be especially helpful after long stints of sitting at a desk or traveling.

4. Be mindful of what you consume. Too much caffeine, sugar, screen time, loud music, or work can contribute to an extra-anxious mind. The concept of self-care is real and valid. It’s not simply a luxury; it’s essential. Incorporate calm activities and healthy habits into your life, like a relaxing bath, a silent meditation, an outdoor walk, and a nutritious diet.

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!

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.~