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Building Heat in the Body with the Practice of Yoga

When we’re cold, our circulation decreases, which leads to constriction in the muscles and joints. Though I know how tempting it can be to avoid the snowy roads and stay snuggled up on your cozy couch, winter weather is actually one of the best times to keep up a consistent yoga practice. Through our practice, we develop an internal heat to keep us warm, happy, and healthy.

I suggest focusing on four specific practices this season: develop strong, consistent breath; work those abs until they burn; consume Ayurveda-friendly warm, seasonal foods and get yourself to the nearest hot yoga room.

Strong Breath

Kapalabhati is a cleansing breath technique in which you start in a comfortable seated position with a tall spine. Draw in a long inhale, then exhale forcefully from your lower belly. Continue pushing breath outward in this way without inhaling – the inhale happens naturally, I promise!

Focus on exhaling over and over again, starting with a steady pace before moving faster. After about 20 repetitions, exhale all your air out and draw in another deep breath. Slowly sigh it out. You can repeat this breathing style twice more, allowing for that important rested breath between rounds.

This breathing style removes carbon dioxide from your lungs and brings energy into your body.

Core Strength

Heat is created from your body’s furnace, located in the belly center. In yoga, we call this area the Manipura chakra, which is connected to the element of fire. Any work done in your core area will provide warmth. In the winter, we like to spend time prepping the body before diving into the more difficult core exercises.

We may start with abdominal exercises that keep the spine fully supported by the floor. We’ll move into a couple rounds of Locust pose, while focusing on a very regulated breath. You’ll often find yourself in navasana (boat pose) later in class. Seated forward folds are sometimes used in the cooling portion of class, as we focus on contracting the belly on each exhale.

Nutritional Support

The sister science of yoga, Ayurveda, states that “like attracts like.” This means that the kapha and vata doshas tend to become aggravated during our dark, cold Michigan winters. The climate is simply too similar to their natural qualities. If you’re finding yourself experiencing many colds, poor circulation, joint pains, or negative emotions, try some of these tips.

Definitely eat plenty of soups, stews, cooked vegetables, and grains. Avoid cold salads and sandwiches.

Start your day with a hearty, warm breakfast to feed your digestive fire. Oatmeal is a great option.

Season your foods with warming spices, such as cinnamon, black pepper, cumin, and nutmeg.

Drink warm teas, hot water with lemon, or dry red wine to encourage circulation and stimulate digestion.

If you naturally tend to eat warmer, heartier foods in the winter – like soup, stir fry, casserole, quiches, pasta – you’re on the right track! While our bodies are designed to eat more in the winter, it’s still important to select your food carefully.

The cold, dry, and dark winter months can certainly tempt us away from our practice – and excercise in general. If we fall victim to that temptation, though, we’ll experience a number of negative consequences. I challenge you this winter to use your yoga practice as a means of caring for your entire being. Challenge yourself to practice a certain amount of days each week. For at least 60 minutes, you’ll be incredibly warm and fiery!

If you would like to learn more about building heat in the body using the sister science of yoga, Ayurveda, please visit Laura Burkett at Real Food Wellness.

Hot Yoga Studio

The hot yoga studio creates a sauna like atmosphere that will naturally detoxify the body while warming the external sheath, bones, muscles, ligaments and joints. Hot yoga raises your heart rate and core temperature, which dilates blood vessels and increases circulation in your muscles—a total win when muscles are stiffer in the cold weather months. Essentially, hot yoga helps build the heat from the core to the periphery and the periphery back to the core.

If you’re interested in learning more about our hot yoga studio, please call(616) 805-3603 and speak to Brittany Sanagustin or anyone on the Yoga Fever staff. We can help guide you into a safe, cozy practice designed to keep you warm all year long!

What To Expect At Your First Yoga Class

Yoga for Beginners

So you’ve decided to start a new chapter and take your first yoga class. Good for you! We admire steps toward positive change. Jumping on the yoga train can be scary, we know it. We’ve all been there. Not only are you chartering new territory with your first yoga class but also jumping right into a heated class! Whoa, now that is a big deal.  There are several questions that you may be asking yourself regarding your first class. Let’s highlight a few Q & A’s, with some great tips to set your mind at ease.

Can I handle the heat?

We won’t lie, the heat will feel pretty intense your first time around. Be prepared to sweat! The atmosphere is controlled to be a toasty 99 degrees in our hot classes and 85 degrees in our warm classes. Know that you can step out of the room at any time if you feel it necessary. The heat helps heal and nourish the muscles, joints and the mind. It is there to help guide you into a smooth practice, not make you suffer. After class, you will notice a sense of peace, energy release and an overall sense of well being. We like to say that you can shed skin on your mat in a heated class…leaving behind the residue that doesn’t serve you.

Will I be awkward with everyone looking at me?

You may feel slightly awkward as you learn about creating new and creative ways to shape your body and your mind. This is totally normal. Go with the weirdness. No one is judging you. The goal in a yoga space is to check your ego at the door and go inward. You may have other fellow beginners looking around for guidance but nothing to take too seriously. As you progress and grow into other classes, no one is looking around to check you out. This is an internal practice and each experience is personal and unique.

What should I wear?

You don’t need to buy expensive clothing to hit your first warm or hot yoga class. There is no point in investing a lot of money on outfits for your first time in. We believe form-fitting clothing that will not interfere with the movement of the body is best. Keep running shorts and t-shirt for the gym or your morning run. Tight clothing that breathes will help you stay focused on the yoga practice and not your clothes riding up in all the wrong places.

Please check your shoes at the door. Yoga is best performed with bare feet as it will help you maintain grip. Some folks do like to try with their socks on. Do what feels best for you!

Am I flexible enough to do yoga?

Every hot yoga studio will tell you the phrase they hear most is ‘I’m not flexible enough to do yoga’. There is a common misconception attached to yoga due to images in society that you must have a ballerina type body that can twist into a pretzel or the splits on demand. Not true! Yoga is good for every “body”. We have all shapes, sizes, and age groups in our hot yoga classes.

Long story short… Yes, you are flexible enough to do yoga! In fact, no flexibility is required to take a yoga class. With time, patience, and consistent practice, you will become more flexible in your body and in your mind (which is the true goal of yoga anyway).

What should I bring with me?

Please bring a water bottle with you so you can stay hydrated. We also sell Essential H2O water with electrolytes to help replenish the body before, during and after your class. We may not always cue you to grab a drink, so listen to your body and sip your water anytime you need nourishment and hydration. We provide complimentary hand towels so you can wipe down during your class. If you have a yoga mat, bring it with you or rent one of our yoga mats or large mat towels for your first time. Our mats are specific to hot yoga so they will provide more grip and traction on your mat.

What should I do if I feel lost or overwhelmed?

We love this question! We guide you through a safe and soft practice your first time around and in every beginner class (Our Gentle Flow, Yin Yoga, or Slow Flow is a great place to start). Know that yoga is very visual as a beginner. Look around, see what everyone else is doing. Your teacher will also guide you through the demonstration. It’s always good to listen to your body if you need a break. Childs pose is what we call a ‘rest pose’. To come into this pose bring the knees down to the mat, bring the great toes together, slide the hips toward the heels and sink the torso in between the inner thighs. The forehead touches down and the arms can be stretched long in front of you or down by your sides. You will see many yogis at ALL levels taking this pose for a break for their body. We recommend using this pose frequently as a newbie to the practice. Here you can come back to your breath and surrender until you are ready to rejoin the class. At Yoga Fever, we meet you where you are at.

Let’s get started!