Posts

Is Yoga just for Chics?

Ummm NO.

One of the most prevalent yoga myths is that yoga is only for women. This is honestly one of the craziest myths – especially considering that ancient yoga was a male-dominated practice. It was created for 14-year-old boys people!! Women were not even able to practice it. Now that being said, the West has changed yoga in a plethora of ways; some may say it better, some may say it has lost its way.

I digress…

Why do men believe this idea that yoga is just for women? I don’t know, maybe it has something to do with mainstream media highlighting women in fancy yoga poses. I see why men have the idea it must be for skinny young chics but come on, we know what you see in social media is not reality.

A few other reasons they may have not boarded the yoga train: yoga isn’t a good enough workout for men; it’s too touchy-feely; you have to be flexible beforehand, and men’s bodies aren’t naturally built for these poses.

Let me make this very clear: yoga offers a tremendous array of benefits for everyone. That certainly includes our dudes.

Unfortunately, this myth leads to a disappointing statistic: of the 20 million Americans who practice yoga, less than 18% of them are men. At Yoga Fever, we have plenty of men who show up on their mats day after day. But if you’ve never given it a try, I urge you to read on to discover the many benefits of overcoming this myth. Then, pop in to try your first yoga class!

3 Great Reasons to Give Yoga a Try

Yoga extends your muscles’ range of motion: Men typically target a select group of muscles at the gym, including hamstrings, glutes, abs, and shoulders. However, these muscles can only be trained so far. And, when exercised too heavily, they can become injured. However, yoga uses your natural body weight and resistance to build lean muscle mass, which improves blood flow and helps your muscles recover faster. I highly recommend complementing your gym exercises with a regular yoga practice.

Yoga provides a full spectrum of health: Unlike most male fitness regimes, yoga views health as more than visible muscle strength. And that’s because yoga strengthens more than just the physical body. It also teaches you to calm your mind and open your heart, leading to pain-free movement, increased flexibility, and decreased symptoms of anxiety, depression, and rage.

Yoga melts away your damaging competitive spirit: While this is certainly common in women too, men are often especially haunted by an intense spirit of competition. Yoga teaches you to keep your eyes – and focus – on your own mat. All that is asked of you is that you show up willing to respect the needs of your body, knowing that your worth has nothing to do with the person next to you.

Tips for Men Starting Yoga

Don’t force the movement: Many men have a gift of strength, but a tendency to work their body too hard, ignoring pain and discomfort. When you step on your mat, I encourage you to identify the difference between sensation and pain, learning when to modify to protect your body.

Focus on what’s working: You may not feel comfortable in certain poses, but powerful and masterful in others. Know that yoga is a practice where you have permission to take what you need. There will be no drill Sargent barking orders or requiring you to do anything you’re uncomfortable with!

Set aside your competitive spirit: As I mentioned before, know that you might not be the best yogi in the room. It’s time to get accustomed to that. The only thing you should be worried about is improving your own practice. And, sometimes, you may have to take a step backward before making progress.

Dump your belief that you must already be flexible: 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.

Yoga truly is a strong, energetic, and challenging workout. But too many men never make it past that first-class or even show up at all. You may enter your first class as a skeptic, but I promise if you give it a few tries you’ll leave a sweaty convert! Oh, and one more tip—— yoga will improve your golf game by a mile. Now……who’s with me?

photo courtesy of wandering soul collective

How to Avoid Dehydration During Hot Yoga

“Make sure you drink lots of water.” I’m sure most of you have heard this at Yoga Fever as you’re rolling up your mat and packing to leave class. In fact, you hear this tip frequently, whether you’re training for a race, practicing yoga in heated rooms, or simply maintaining a healthy life.

The statement itself sounds simple enough, but I often notice dehydrated students in our hot yoga classes. Recognizing this problem up a list of other questions: What is the best way to hydrate? How do you know if you’ve had enough water? What are the key signs to look out for to avoid dehydration?

Tiredness, dizziness, cramped muscles, or no sweat – even in our incredibly hot room – are a few symptoms of dehydration. For yoga newbies, it’s totally acceptable to require a few classes for your body to acclimate to the heat, but continued struggle can be a sign of not enough water.

We’ve talked before about the best tips and tricks to nourish your body before a hot yoga class, but I want to focus on the critical importance of hydration.

Prepping for Your Hot Yoga Class

Enter the hot yoga studio already properly hydrated. It’s simply too hard to do it once you’re already in the room, as it takes your body about 45 minutes to process water. Hydration before yoga is essential to avoiding stiffness and cramping. Ideally, the bottle you bring will simply be for refreshment.

Then, make absolutely sure that you hydrate after class. I know many of you lead busy lives and are running off to the next thing after class, but don’t ditch that water bottle! Nutritionists recommend drinking at least 20 ounces of water after class to replace the fluids you burned off during class.

Sneaky Tips to Getting the Right Hydration for Hot Yoga

When practicing hot yoga, you simply cannot hydrate properly with water alone; you need the right balance of water and electrolytes. However, I advise against the many sports drinks out there, as they often have too much sodium and sugar. Coconut water, though, cannot be beat! With five key electrolytes, along with vitamins and potassium, it’s an ideal alternative. In fact, coconut water is so similar to blood plasma that it can be used as intravenous fluid in emergency transfusions – crazy, right?

Eat your water. The right foods can help you stay hydrated. Fruits and vegetables – especially lettuce, broccoli, grapefruit, cucumber, and watermelon – will increase your metabolism.

Spike your drink. Sometimes water needs a little boost of flavor. If you’re growing tired of your water intake, enhance your water with a kick of flavor – whether it’s a natural remedy like cucumbers, oranges, or lemons or a flavored powder.

I want to challenge each of you to embark on your own personal hydration challenge. Sip on water all day, even when you don’t feel thirsty. Fill your reusable bottle as soon as you finish it. Slowly drink a bottle of water over the course of the hour leading up to yoga class. And drink another in the 30 minutes after class. Stock up on produce high in water volume. Give it a week and see how your yoga practice is transformed!

Let’s Get Fierce in Chair Pose!

Utkatasana, or chair pose. It’s one of the poses that emits the most exhausted sighs and nervous glances. Not many yogis will claim it as their favorite pose, but putting in consistent work will reap amazing results.

Chair pose looks deceptively easy and straightforward, yet you’ll find it requires great flexibility in the shoulders, stability in the core, and strength in the legs.

Utkatasana truly is a fierce position. When you hold it for several breaths, you’re going to feel your heart rate increase, quickly building heat in the body. But how do we move past the frowns and moans to truly understand the full-body benefits of this sneaky little pose?

Let’s Break This Down

The name ‘utkatasana’ comes from the Sanskrit word ‘utkata,’ which means fierce, superior, or difficult. In English, we call it chair pose because you look like you’re sitting in an invisible chair or throne.

What are the Benefits?

Most of you have probably heard about the consequences of sitting for too long, such as obesity and high blood pressure. But this type of “seat” is a different story altogether! Utkatasana is no lounge chair. It’s more like an air squat – a powerful pose that strengthens your thighs and ankles, while toning your glutes and core. It also stretches your shoulders and opens your chest.

How Can I Modify My Chair Pose?

Make It Simpler, Please: Whether you’re new to yoga or simply experiencing some pain or tightness, try squeezing a block between your thighs. We always recommend this modification to anyone who experiences lower back pain while holding chair pose. This trick also helps protect your knees, keeping them moving toward your midline rather than splaying open to the sides.

I’m Ready for a Challenge: To take the pose even deeper, draw your hands down into prayer at your chest. Take a deep inhale, lengthening your spine. Exhaling, twist your torso to the right. Bring your left elbow to the outside of your right thigh and lift your gaze to the sky. Make sure your knees stay aligned as one usually has the tendency to move too far forward.

Are you ready to get fierce with us? Sign up today!

The Story Behind Yoga Fever

The Love Story Behind Our Studio

For some, Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to spend quality time with their significant other. For others, it’s a reminder to demonstrate love and vulnerability toward friends and family members. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I want to share my honest, vulnerable story behind the creation of Yoga Fever – and the tremendous community we’re building together.

The Story of Yoga Fever (the abbreviated version)

This story starts in 2014 when my sister passed away unexpectedly. It was definitely the toughest time of my life. It took a lot of soul searching, contemplation, forgiveness, and letting go to move out of that state of constant grief. About a year later, when I was beginning to recover and rebuild, I knew I had to do something meaningful with my life. No longer could I coast along doing things I didn’t love; I felt inspired – and almost obligated – to do more, to make my sister proud and to make a real difference. Life is too damn short to not be happy. I was on a quest to find internal bliss by creating a life of purpose.

One afternoon, I happened to drive by a commercial space available for rent. I immediately was struck by the thought: “What if?! Could I possibly open a studio?” Of course, I pulled over and the light bulb continued to get brighter as I planned my perfect studio in my head (in under 5 minutes. Ha!). Every open commercial space caught my eye and got me thinking. Even at the very beginning, I knew I had to create a studio that captured the philosophies and traditions of yoga, paired with the modern hot yoga style. I hadn’t really experienced a studio that did both in the midwest, but I assumed there had to be other like-minded individuals like me who wanted to mix classical yoga with modern hot vinyasa.

While these thoughts were beginning to permeate my mind, I was busy teaching corporate yoga at Steelcase, teaching at local studios, and working my day job doing marketing. I come from a long line of persistent entrepreneurs – but I certainly wasn’t wealthy. I had a small savings account and a big dream; great role models and my angel beside me.

So, I spent weeks drafting a business plan. Looking back, this was an incredibly tough time for me. I couldn’t eat, sleep, or do anything besides work on this plan. Finally, with the help and advice of my family members, I pitched my plan to local banks – all of whom turned me down. Losing steam and about to give up, I ended up at a non-profit in Grand Rapids that helps women and minorities in business. This incredible organization believed in me when no one else did. I was able to sign a lease on my ideal studio space and officially launch into this journey. I opened Yoga Fever on January 18, 2016, and we still have students with us who came to our very first night. To say that is an amazing feeling is an understatement. Every time I feel the weight of business owner on my shoulders I remind myself of my purpose, my reasons why I signed up for this and feel grateful that I am so blessed to have been given this opportunity.

Yoga Fever has surpassed all of my expectations and grown into such a beautiful community. But I couldn’t do any of this without the help and support of Team Fever. I try to remain humble, as I rely on several family members, mentors and colleagues to guide me in my decisions for the studio.

We just celebrated our third birthday, and the outpouring of love and support for Yoga Fever was simply overwhelming. Every single class was sold out. And our horizon is still incredibly bright! In this past year, we’ve introduced Yin Yoga and added Buti Yoga to our full-time schedule. We have seen three brilliant classes of yoga teacher training graduates, some of whom now teach in the studio! Inspiring guest teachers have taught prenatal yoga, The Teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, Live Music with Girish, and Ayurveda workshops. We have donated several proceeds to organizations such as Toys for Tots, West Michigan Humane Society, and more. My goal is to continue working together to create new workshops and events that allow us to practice in innovative ways.

To all of you who make the choice to practice with us, to learn about yoga, and to heal your body and mind, thank you and a HUMONGOUS NAMASTE.

How to Choose the Right Mat for Hot Yoga 

Yoga mats are a game changer when it comes to a sticky, sweaty yoga practice. Recently, I was far from my yoga home and decided to test out another hot studio. However, I did not have my favorite mat with me as I was out of town. I figured no big deal, I’ll just rent one. The studio in and of itself was fabulous. It hit most of the checks on my “list” as to what makes a great hot space.

  1. Beautiful and clean studio and lounge
  2. Adequate space to flow and breathe
  3. A teacher who was clear, creative, and enthusiastic
  4. Knowledge of alignment and body mechanics
  5. The heat was seriously on point

But one major thing missed the mark: their rental yoga mats did NOT provide appropriate grip and safety. This completely changed my practice from stellar to super disappointing.

I suppose I’ve been blessed to practice on great mats in my hot yoga practice, which has led me to take for granted the superior traction that’s necessary to have an out of body hot yoga experience. So when I tried practicing on a lesser quality mat, I was unbelievably distracted by the possibility of my downward dog being split in two from my slippery hands and feet! Let’s just say: that hot yoga experience was not my usual “you’re Wonder Woman” experience.

If you’re going to practice hot yoga, and feel like a superhero the entire time, invest in a yoga mat and/or towel that is intentionally designed to manage intense heat and sweat. Otherwise, you’re only cheating yourself because your practice will be so distracted from holding on for dear life, that you won’t be enjoying the practice (which is clearly the point).

A couple tips: Just because it has a famous brand name, doesn’t mean it’s the best for hot yoga. And resist the urge to buy a yoga mat from your local pharmacy, home goods store, or supermarket.

So, what should you look for in a hot yoga mat? 

Consider the Thickness– The weight of your yoga mat has a lot to do with how comfortable it will be. Too thin and your knee may experience pain during low lunge; too thick, you may feel a weakened connection to the floor – making you more wobbly in balancing poses.

Standard yoga mats are about ⅛ inch thick, which is a great option for hot yoga. If you know you have sensitive knees, go thicker so your yoga experience isn’t uncomfortable. If you’re always on the go, try a wafer-thin mat that you can fold up and fit in a suitcase.

Go for the Grip– There’s nothing worse than slipping and sliding around on your yoga mat during an intense, hot class. This is the exact opposite of what the practice is supposed to be doing for you. We want to take ourselves out of the world of frustration and become one with the experience at hand, not over effort to stay in place. When you shop for your perfect mat, be sure to check the material. You’re looking for a closed cell mat or one with a microfiber towel on the top and rubber base. This will keep you grounded while also absorbing your sweat. Make sure the mat description says it is used for ‘hot yoga’ and if it doesn’t do the trick (after the break in period), return it or send it back.

Don’t Skimp on the Cost– Though I’m all about saving money when possible, a high quality yoga mat is worth the splurge – especially when you’re committing to a consistent hot yoga practice. If you choose the cheapest option, it will not hold your dog and will quickly become a slip and slide. Keep the inexpensive mats for the traditional yoga room or your at home practice, not the hot space. In the hot space, it will absolutely deem useless as the minute you sweat, all grip is lost.

Choose Support- At the end of the day, your yoga mat is your safety net and your right hand man. You carry it everywhere, it rides shotgun in your car, and you shed a lot of negative energy on it. It will always catch you when you fall (unless you bought it at CVS). Choose one wisely, one that supports you 100% through every down dog and every life changing experience.

If you have any questions at all, let’s talk! Seriously, email me, call me, or stop into the studio. We sell some amazing sweaty yoga mat options at Yoga Fever that will 100% hold you in place. No, I’m not trying to sell you on a product. I’m simply trying to show you the stress-free, blissful hot yoga experience that comes with a great mat. Happy sweating!

5 New Year’s Resolutions for a Happier, Healthier You

Happy New Year, friends! I hope you all enjoyed a relaxing and joyful holiday season and are feeling physically, emotionally, and spiritually refueled. As you enter this new year of possibilities, I hope you take a few moments to thoughtfully consider your goals for 2018.

If you find it difficult to think of your new resolutions or are feeling discouraged about your capability to follow through with them, read on. We pulled together a list of five creative resolution categories – and we’re ready and willing to help you stay motivated this year.

Meditate- The practice of meditation truly brings out the best of you. It makes you wiser, sharpens your intellect, and boosts your energy. For us yogis, meditation will always require continual effort, for it takes work to commit to the difficult necessity of this craft. Since meditation is a cornerstone of a healthy life, incorporating it into your daily schedule is a great way to reduce stress this year. And that’s something ALL of us can relate to!

Make Time for Nature- A great first step to this intention would be committing yourself to spend more time outdoors this year. Leave the tech in your house and go for a weekly bike ride or pack a picnic and walk to your nearest park. Even this winter season, embrace your inner kiddo and go sledding or take a snowy walk to your neighborhood cafe. This unhurried time with nature provides bursts of intuition and creates head space for you to focus on your short- and long-term goals. To go even further, make it your goal to leave this earth a safe space to breathe for generations to come by planting a tree or conserving water.

Serve | Seva- Yoga philosophy encourages oneness and service, so consider a resolution based in giving back. Why not gather a group of yogis in your community and volunteer for a service project. It’s as easy as cleaning up your neighborhood, planting a community garden, or taking turns shoveling neighbors’ driveways.

Write More Often- The act of writing is one of the most creative and cathartic abilities we possess. And the great thing is, anyone can do it. Sure, you might not produce poetry or a novel anytime soon, but who’s stopping you from doing some daily journaling? Try writing down three things that bring you joy at the end of each day, or jot down interesting quotes or nuggets of info you hear during the day, followed by a few sentences of the feelings they evoked. As your thoughts pour onto paper, you’ll discover a healthy release of emotions and insecurities, helping you love yourself better and ditch that negative self-talk.

Introduce Yoga to Your Friends- Not all resolutions need to be so self-centered either. I encourage you to include your circle of friends in your plans for a happy and healthy new year. Consider how far you’ve come since you first began practicing yoga, including all the benefits it has had on your physical and mental wellness. Wouldn’t you like to spread the joy yoga brings you with your personal tribe? Take advantage of our affordable community classes to introduce a buddy to yoga or if you’re on a membership, you receive 2 free yoga passes for friends who have never been.

As you consider your resolutions for 2018, remember that they may take time to accomplish or to turn into a habit. Anyone can set a resolution, but committing to them is the real test. I suggest writing down your list of resolutions and placing it somewhere you can see them every day. Good luck yogis!

What are your resolutions this year? Please share in the comments below – we’d love to hear from you!

What are the Staples of Yoga Etiquette?

This week we’re getting into the nitty-gritty of studio etiquette. What are the staples of yoga etiquette that keep us flowing smoothly through our classes?

It takes a tribe to keep Yoga Fever going, and we always appreciate your consideration of these guidelines. Whether you’re a new friend or a veteran at our studio, these eight topics will help you remain respectful to your classmates, teachers, and self. 

Arrive A Few Minutes Early:

Scurrying in after class has already begun is not only stressful for you but also distracting for your classmates. Arriving 5-10 minutes before class is always a good rule of thumb. This affords you time to use the bathroom, unroll your mat, and prepare for practice. Maybe you can even throw in a few of your favorite, gentle warm-up stretches. 

Shoes Stay Outside the Studio:

In order to prevent injuries, it’s so important for us to maintain a clean, safe studio. This means keeping the rain, snow, and mud where it belongs – outside the studio. Remember to remove your shoes when you walk in the door and place them on one of the mats we keep handy. Yoga is best practiced barefoot, so kick off your socks too.

Talk to Your Teacher about Any Injuries:

One of the greatest blessings of yoga is its potential to craft routines around certain parts of our bodies, which means we have plenty of modifications up our sleeves if something’s just not feeling right on a given day. Be sure to check in with your teacher before class if you’re experiencing any injuries or soreness. We’ll help you find a practice that is safe for you.

Know When to Eliminate the Noise:

We love when our yoga students become friends and certainly encourage you to get to know your neighbor. By all means socialize before and after class! But once class starts, it’s best to focus all your attention within the four corners of your mat. Yoga class is a time of self-love and self-improvement, and we all focus best when we keep the whispering to a minimum. 

Eliminate other noises by silencing your cell phones or, better yet, leave them in a cubby outside the studio. Yoga class may be the one time all day when you’re able to fully disconnect from technology, so leave the distracting beeps and buzzes safely outside.

Sweat Happens:

It’s hot yoga for goodness sakes – yes, you’re going to sweat! At Yoga Fever, we pride ourselves about the cleanliness of our studio. Though we mop and clean between each class, we sometimes can’t get to the sweat puddles fast enough to prevent other students from encountering them on their way out the door. Do us a solid and grab a complimentary towel before heading into the studio. If you or your area gets a bit messy, a quick sweep of your towel is greatly appreciated.

Be Mindful of the Air Others Breathe:

In a hot yoga studio, even the faintest scents travel quickly. To respect your fellow classmates, stick to your gentle, hard-working deodorant rather than applying heavy perfume or cologne prior to class.

Don’t Interrupt Savasana:

Savasana is a time for stillness and deep rest that allows your body to fully receive the benefits of yoga. While we truly hope you’re able to stay for the entirety of class, we understand that sometimes you’ll have to leave early. Some yoga is always better than no yoga. But if you do have to leave early, be sure to select a spot near the exit door and be considerate about your timing. Try to make your quiet exit sometime as we make our way to the floor for final stretching poses.

What about the Embarrassing Questions?

“Can I sneak out to use the bathroom during class?” “What if my nose won’t stop running?” “Oh no, I touched my neighbor!”

Relax, we get it. Bathroom breaks are totally allowed during class, just be sure to avoid your fellow classmates as you make your exit. And try to avoid leaving during our meditation poses. Runny noses are so common, especially now in the winter months. We always have tissue boxes lying around, so feel free to grab a couple to have near your mat. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with inadvertently bumping into your neighbor during a full class. 

Embrace it. Enjoy the community, the connection, the tribe. Give each other a smile and keep on moving!
 

Tips to Help You Stay Healthy this Fall

After some truly bizarre late-October weather, I think it’s safe to say fall is finally here and shoot, winter is seriously sneaking up on us! It’s time to break out the cozy sweaters, go apple picking, and watch some football. However, this time of year can be tough on our health habits. It often becomes harder to stay active and eat healthy, not to mention the looming threats of flu season and holiday overload.

So, how can you maintain your steady exercise, eating, and other health habits during this new season? I have a couple ideas I’ll share that work well for me. What others would you add?

Get Outside– I actually find it easier to exercise in the fall; the cooler weather means less risk of dehydration and sweating profusely. Take advantage of exercising outside before winter arrives! It can be as simple as a bike ride around town or a pick-up game of football. You could also set a step goal, then encourage yourself to hit it. Try taking a walk after dinner or doing laps around the office periodically. 

Be a Smart Sports Fan– For those of you who enjoy watching sports, fall means that on any given day you can pick between football, baseball, hockey, and basketball. Even those who have limited knowledge of the rules still generally get excited for tailgates and Saturday afternoons with friends and some great appetizers. The problem comes when we overindulge in beer, chicken wings, and chili queso. Don’t let the fall sports season ruin your nutritional plans. Opt for making a veggie platter or ground turkey burgers instead of the fattier options. Your friends will be thankful for a healthier alternative too!

Take it Easy on the Pumpkin Spice Latte– Starbucks, and other brands, have been advertising this sweet fall drink for weeks now – did anyone watch that hilarious Facebook Live? In recent years, pumpkin spice has been all the rave and for good reason. What more can you ask of a warm, cozy, sweet, and nostalgic autumn beverage? However, they’re sky-high in fat and sugar, which adds up to hundreds of calories. If you just can’t say no to the occasional PSL, make your drink slightly healthier by selecting low- or non-fat milk, say no to the whipped cream, and ask for less flavor syrup. Otherwise, cinnamon is a great fall spice with its own health benefits that you could use instead of the sweetener.

Embrace Seasonal Superfoods– Just because the summer mecca of fruits and veggies is over, doesn’t mean you have to start eating poorly. Fall is actually a great time to load up on local superfoods. Consider taking a walk (or drive) to the Fulton Street Farmers Market to stock up on fresh produce. Apples are the easiest grab-and-go snack in the world. And pumpkins are good for more than just carving. They’re jam-packed with immune-boosting vitamin A and can be mashed, roasted, turned into soup, or used in baking. Sweet potatoes are chock-full of disease-preventing, cancer-fighting, and immune-boosting benefits. But put down the marshmallows when making them. Instead, bake them for 45 minutes and pile high with turkey and black bean chili, or loaded with kale and white beans! 

Live Aligned with the Season– Give yourself permission to alter your lifestyle. Whereas summer means never-ending activity, these shorter days and longer nights are a great excuse to work on your self-care. Make time to relax at home, under your favorite blanket. Maybe you start writing the book you always wanted to start, or enjoy extra time reading with your kids. Perhaps you decide to complete a home-improvement project, or just watch a good TV show! Allow autumn to be a chance to nurture yourself – seriously!

Commit to Your Yoga Practice– Whew! No more days of leaving the hot yoga room to an equally hot temperature outside. Honestly, hot yoga can be even more enjoyable when you know you have a warm place to look forward to on these chillier days. This fall, I’m committed to setting (and following) various health goals, such as the ones above. My last challenge to you, dear reader, is to set a goal for your yoga practice. Maybe you want to increase your visits to Yoga Fever: commit to attending 20 times in the next month. Maybe you’re feeling brave and want to experiment with inversions: suggest this goal to your instructor before class or ask for some pointers afterward. Or maybe you want to improve your mind-body relationship: think carefully of one intention that you can meditate on for the month.

Here’s to a happy and healthy season!
 

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.
 

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.