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How to Form Habits that You’ll Keep for Life

As the new year approaches, many of us begin thinking about the resolutions, goals, or intentions we want to set for 2018. And I don’t know about you, but I used to be hesitant about setting resolutions, because, midway through the year, my motivation would drop and I’d start slipping away from the behaviors I had so eagerly envisioned in January.

Commitment is hard, people, especially when it comes to life-changing habits and behaviors, like eating a vegan diet or consistently exercising. Whatever you repeatedly do forms the person you become, the things you believe, and the personality you portray. So if you want to improve, or form new habits, how should you go about it? 

Over the years, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks for creating habits that endure past the last snowfall.

The 3 R’s to Forming New Habits:

Reminder– this is the trigger that initiates the behavior you’re trying to enact. Several weeks into your commitment, it can be easy to start slipping back into your old ways. Set a reminder to execute your habit every day. It doesn’t matter whether this is a phone alert, a physical cue, or something else – what matters is that you see or hear a reminder that prompts you to take action.
Routine– this is the behavior itself, or the action you take. Commit to 30 days of whatever habit you’re trying to form, whether it’s eating vegan, flossing your teeth, or practicing yoga. Three to four weeks is all the time you need to make a habit automatic, and a month is a good amount of time to commit to, since it easily fits in your calendar!
Reward– this is the benefit you gain from doing the behavior. If you’re committing yourself to creating a new habit, it most likely is because you want to improve on some aspect of your life. Therefore, there are usually innate benefits to forming the habit, such as a healthier immune system, stronger teeth, or a more toned body. But it doesn’t hurt to personally reward yourself, as well! It’s important to celebrate because we like continuing actions that make us feel good. Whether you quietly tell yourself “Good job. You made progress today!” or physically reward yourself with some form of treat, what matters is acknowledging your progress.

A Few Other Helpful Tips:

Find a Buddy: Find a friend who will join you in the pursuit of this new habit. There’s nothing like an accountability partner to keep you motivated if you feel like quitting.

Be Imperfect: You can’t expect your attempt to change huge lifestyle behaviors to be successful immediately. You might fall astray during your 30 day commitment, or it might even take longer to fully form. No worries, friends! Just expect a few bumps along the way.

Be Consistent in Your Timing: For habits like exercising and yoga (or flossing!), being consistent in the time you choose to practice is key. During your 30 day challenge, commit yourself to practicing your new habit at the same time each day, whether that’s morning, evening, or right after work. 

Ready to Give this Habit Thing a Try?

At Yoga Fever, we’re ready to practice what we preach. This coming January, we’re hosting a 30-day yoga challenge – and those who successfully complete it will get their name entered into a drawing to win one year of unlimited yoga! The rules are simple: starting January 2nd, you must practice at Yoga Fever 26 out of 30 days, with those four rest days designed to allow the body time to heal. To encourage you all to give this habit-forming thing a try, we’re even offering a one-month, unlimited package for only $69. (promocode 69 upon check out of one month of unlimited yoga)

The heart of this 30-day challenge is commitment. Make a promise to yourself to practice each day and follow through on it. Grit, habits, excellence; whatever you call it, positive, consistent behavior only occurs through repetitive practice. The woman next to you in yoga class doing a headstand wasn’t born being able to do that, it took her months to develop the strength to perform that pose. Habits are powerful, unconscious patterns of behavior that play a role in influencing the direction of our life. Essentially, our lives go where our habits take us!

 

Good luck!

 

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.

Bringing Yoga to Work 

While the time spent on your yoga mat at class several days a week certainly helps strengthen and soothe your body, it’s no match for the stress and tension you put on your body during the rest of the week. Whether you sit at a desk for hours on end, run around watching your children, or work a manual labor job, work places a lot of strain on your body and mind.

Most stress is a mental pressure we force onto our physical bodies, especially in the corporate setting where people operate furiously with their minds rather than their bodies. Simply hitting the gym after work won’t fix the problem. Instead, your body and mind need to be brought together to find a sense of peace and relaxation. Yoga is a perfect tool for transforming the workplace into a less stressful, more peaceful environment.

Bringing yoga to work with you can offer so many benefits. It lowers stress levels, gives you healthy energy shots (instead of that extra cup of coffee), and boosts your creativity. Any change in body posture can change your whole mindset.

We often get the question: “But how will I find the time to squeeze yoga into my work day?” The thought of sneaking out for a lunchtime yoga class may be bizarre, especially with how much we are each asked to do on the job. But that doesn’t mean you have to stay stagnant all day.

You surely receive at least one or two breaks during your day. Instead of grabbing another cup of coffee or checking your social media feeds, spend your time wisely. There are many effective yoga moves you can do right at your desk (or in the break room, or outside) that will not only give you a mental break but also ensure your back, arms, hips, and wrists remain in working order.

Yoga Poses You Can Do at Work

Seated Crescent Moon – Lift your arms overhead and stretch your fingers wide. Lean to the left, taking three deep breaths. Repeat on your right side.

Why? Our side body tends to collapse when we hunch over a computer or stack of papers. This can cause neck and shoulder discomfort. This pose brings you a taller spine, clearer head, and sharper focus.

Wrist and Finger Stretches – Extend your arms to your side and draw five to ten circles inward and outward through your wrists. Then, quickly spread your fingers and close your fists, repeating five to ten times to shake off tension. Finally, stretch one arm out and bend the wrist inward then outward, using your other hand for a counterstretch.

Why? Desk work causes a buildup of tension in the muscles of your fingers, hands, and wrists. You need some extra blood flow in these areas, typically every two hours.

Chair Pigeon – While seated in your chair with both feet planted on the ground, cross your right leg over your left at a 90-degree angle (creating the figure 4). Keep your foot flexed and ankle joint strong. Maintain an equal weight distribution between your sitting bones, while keeping your back straight. Take the right hand and press it into your inner knee/thigh to open your hip a little more while also helping you to extend up through your spine. Hold for 10-15 breaths before switching sides.

Why? When we cross our legs, especially one side more than the other, we create an imbalance in the hips and lower spine. This pose helps even things out.

Neck Roll – Close your eyes, letting your chin drop to your chest. Move your head slowly in a circle while keeping your shoulders loose and relaxed.

Why? At work, we often fix our gaze for minutes or hours at a time at one point. And often our computers are below eye-level, causing our necks to experience unnecessary tension. This pose helps us stretch and remember to move more often.

Breath Work (Pranayama) – At your desk you can practice breathing exercises throughout your day especially during points of high stress. Drape your eyes closed and begin to relax your body and mind while keeping your spine extended up right. Notice your natural breathing first drawing in and out of your nose. Watching a few organic breaths mindfully will zip you into the present moment. Then when ready, begin to deepen your breath, count to a beat of 5 for the inhale and a beat of 5 for the exhale. With practice you may be able to work up to a beat of 8 for both inhale and exhale. Repeat 10 times. Voila, you have relieved some much needed tension by simply slowing down your breath, having a one-pointed focus, and clearing your mind of clutter.

So the next time you feel stressed, overworked, or brain-dead, spend five minutes practicing a few of these yoga techniques. We guarantee you’ll find yourself feeling refreshed. And your bosses will appreciate the added productivity of this new form of workday self-care.

If you’re looking to bring yoga classes into your workplace with a qualified instructor, Yoga Fever offers Corporate Yoga. Our team travels to you either on your lunch break, before or after work. Whatever is convenient, we can make it work. Call the studio for pricing or email us at info@www.yogafevergr.com

 

Standing Forward Fold: More than an ‘In Between’ Pose

Standing Forward Fold. It’s a pose that often brings a sigh of relief amidst a challenging sequence. Though it certainly is a calming posture, the standing forward fold should not be mistaken for an “in-between” pose, or a transitional stance with no physical or mental benefits. All forward folds whether taken from seated or standing are very introspective and will enrich your yoga practice on many levels the more you practice them.

What is a standing forward fold?

The Sanskrit word for this particular pose is Uttanasana. “Ut” = intense. “Tan” = to stretch or extend. “Asana” = pose. The result? A standing forward fold is an intense stretch or extension pose.

What are the benefits?

The standing forward fold is a calming posture that lengthens the hamstrings and activates the inner legs. It helps relieve stress and mild depression, improves digestion and reduces fatigue and anxiety. However, while this pose may look simple at first, you want to make sure you understand the basics before pushing your body too far. (By the way, this is true with all yoga poses)

We all show up to yoga class with the best intentions. We plan to stretch, strengthen and heal our bodies, minds and spirits. Unfortunately, it’s easy to find injury instead, especially when we step onto our mats with a competitive mindset. We see our neighbor with perfectly straight legs, bending all the way down to touch her toes, and we try to imitate that – often before we’re ready.

Today, we’ll outline the steps to find a solid standing forward fold. And we’ll also offer a few pieces of advice on how to avoid common mistakes in this pose.

Instructions:

Step 1: Place 2 blocks (on the highest setting) at the top of your mat and then stand in Tadasana (standing straight up – Mountain Pose). Place your hands on your hips as you exhale and bend forward from your hip joints, not from your waist – lead with your heart not your crown. As you go, lengthen your front torso and create space between the pubic bone and your legs. Bend your knees generously as you begin to see how tight the hamstrings and low back are.

Step 2: You won’t be able to touch the floor quite yet (unless you are seasoned or naturally open), that’s A-OK and quite typical as a beginner. As you fold and bend from the hips and knees, place your hands on the two blocks ‘as if’ they were the floor. Take it easy at first. It’s important to feel out each pose and ease into your body and the shapes you are creating.

Step 3: With each inhale, press into the blocks (or take hands to shins right below the knee) and straighten your arms. Begin to lift and lengthen your torso slightly to a halfway position and straighten your legs (if possible). Lifting up on the kneecaps (engaging the quads) will also help to release the hamstrings. You’re looking for a flat back and tight core. Draw your abdominals toward one another to engage the low back and navel together as one. With each exhale, let yourself fall into the forward bend. Bend your elbows and knees as you lower the torso down toward your legs. Let the head dangle here and release the tension around your shoulders. The inhale you lift half way and the exhale you fall back into the fold. We toggle between the two linking breath with movement. The half lift (inhale) neutralizes the space between the vertebrae and the fold (exhale) increases the space between the vertebrae. Try 10 rounds to get the hang of it.

Step 4: When you’re ready to come out of the pose, either roll your spine up to a standing position or take your hands to your hips and lengthen your torso forward to the half way then to a standing position. Breathe deeply the whole way whichever route you choose.

Avoid these mistakes:

  • Don’t straighten the legs in the fold if you have low back injury or pain, always keep bent knees until your back is healthy.
  • Don’t keep the weight back in the heels. Instead, shift the weight more into the arch/center of the foot, even the ball mound of the feet so the alignment is distributed evenly from ankle to knee to hip.
  • Don’t wear the shoulders up by your ears. Continually release tension and draw them into your back pockets.

The standing forward fold can be practiced as a rest between other poses, in which case you’ll often stay here for 30-60 seconds, or as a pose of its own. With time your hands will get closer and closer to the ground. Feel free to ask one of our awesome teachers for a little extra guidance before or after class. He or she can show you certain points for extra attention or practice.

Remember: Forward folds are not easy to do. It takes time and patience for the hamstrings to release the grip they have on the sit bones. With time, patience, and practice, it will happen. Until then, be proud of where you are at and meet yourself there.

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.~