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How to keep up your yoga practice on the road
Many yoga practitioners love to travel, but, despite good intentions, keeping up with the practice while on the road can be challenging. As you explore new places, cultures and foods, it’s easy to forget about the routines of your normal life, yoga being one of them. So how can you maintain your yoga practice while traveling? It all starts with being prepared and following these simple guidelines.
Pack your yoga gear
You’re traveling, so you don’t need to pack every single yoga item and accessory you have. Instead, think essentials: yoga towel, comfortable clothing to practice in and, of course, your yoga mat. And speaking of yoga mat, avoid packing the one you normally bring to class. Instead, see if you can find a light, more compact yoga mat that doesn’t take up too much space in your suitcase.
When you travel it’s easy for plans to change as you discover the new and unexpected. While this is one of the joys of traveling, it can also be very disruptive to your yoga practice. So try practicing first thing in the morning. By doing this, there’s no chance you’ll accidentally skip your practice due to distractions later in the day and you’ll also feel more present and centered for all the new experiences ahead of you.
Find classes in the area you’re traveling
Of course, if you’d rather experience the local yoga culture instead of practicing solo in your hotel, you can also find a class. There are a couple ways you can go about this. You can check notice boards at visitor or shopping centers, ask the receptionist at your hotel or other locals, or simply Google yoga classes in your area.
Stay at hotels that offer classes
If you want to attend a class while traveling, but don’t want to bother with the hassle of finding one on your own, an alternative option is to simply stay at accommodation that offers classes. While this may sound difficult, more and more hotels, lodges and guesthouses are featuring this as a perk to staying with them. If you have yet to book your accommodation, add “yoga” as a keyword when searching for a place to stay.
Find creative places to practice
You’ve surely seen images of people practicing yoga in exotic beach destinations, in the mountains or on a pier overlooking crystal clear waters. Why can’t you do the same? But don’t let your imagination stop you there, you can roll out your yoga mat in just about any place that can accommodate it. So think outside the box. You can try yoga in an airport lounge, on the grass at a highway rest stop, or even in the town square of your destination amidst the fountains and tourists. Sure you may garner some odd stares from passerbyers, but it can also be a fun alternative to the norm. Remember you’re traveling and you’ll likely never see these people again, so why not be that yoga weirdo in love with her practice?
Maintaining your yoga practice while traveling doesn’t have to be a burden. While you may not be able to stick to your regular routine, there are plenty of opportunities to have fun with your practice. And when you get back, we’ll be happy to hear about your adventures and ready to welcome you in our classes. Until then, happy travels.
Pose for sport: welcome to competitive yoga
Competition and yoga are two words you don’t see put together very often. It’s also quite difficult to imagine yoga as anything more than a class that you go to after work. However, it’s a thing, and the world of competitive yoga is making great leaps to establish itself as an Olympic sport. Already celebrating its 13th year, the International Yoga Sports Federation claims that the purpose of competitive yoga is to inspire others to take up the practice and gain from its health benefits. So how does competitive yoga actually work? Here’s everything you need to know.
How do you compete?
In competitive yoga, yogis are given three minutes to perform six different poses. Each pose has to be held for at least three seconds to be counted as a successful pose. Yogis have some freedom on the choice of poses that they wish to execute. However, four poses are mandatory and must contain variations of a stretch, a twist, a forward bend, and a back bend. Of course, judges factor in the difficulty of various poses too. For example, a forearm stand or a one handed tree pose are likely to be awarded more points than a downward facing dog.
So how do they decide the winner?
A panel of judges, from professional yoga studios, are positioned in front of the stage, where they decide the fates of many hopeful yoga contestants. Much like gymnastics point systems, competitive yoga is weighted on a scale of 60. This means that the maximum amount of points a pose can be awarded is 10. However, not many people have been able to achieve a perfect score. In fact, the highest number of points that have been awarded to a competitor is a 42.
What the judges are looking for in each performance is the difficulty of the pose, if they can maintain balance, breathing and the perceived concentration of each contestant. Although it does sound ridiculous at first, many gymnasts and contortionists have underestimated the difficulty of competitive yoga. While an individual’s body is contorted in an impressive yoga pose, it can be extremely difficult to remember proper breathing techniques, which can cause their entire performance to fall apart. Basically, if you can make a pose seem effortless, you get more points.
What’s the environment like in competitive yoga?
Putting yoga, a traditionally calm and judgement free hobby, into a competitive scene can seem quite contradictory. But, apparently, contestants are actually quite supportive of each other and don’t resort to trash talking like you would see in other competitive sports. Most people see the competition as an opportunity to improve on their poses and see the result as extra motivation.
Similar to other performance competitions, audiences cheer and applaud the competitors when they are impressed by the number of ways the yogis can bend and twist their bodies.
Any backlash from traditional yoga practitioners?
As you’d expect, some traditional yoga practitioners would disagree with the practice of competitive yoga. They believe that it places too much importance on comparing yourself to others and encourages the idea that different poses have more value over the other. For instance, no contestant performs a corpse pose during the competition since it won’t give them any scores.
At the end of the day, the great thing about yoga is that it can be interpreted and practiced in so many ways. While some may think that mindfulness can only be achieved through traditional yoga, it’s possible that some can find it through friendly competition. Competitive yoga is already being practiced in over 32 countries and, if it’s inspiring more people to take up yoga, we can’t simply dismiss it as an illegitimate practice.
Want to learn more about the latest trends in competitive yoga? Call us today.
Is it a bad idea to play music in a yoga class?
Nowadays, we listen to music wherever we are. We listen to it while we’re in the train, while we’re in a restaurant, while we’re working out and even while we’re walking around town. But should we be playing it during our yoga sessions? Since yoga is a meditative practice that involves movement, it can seem ineffective to listen to any sort of music while doing some much needed self-reflection. Here are the common reasons why people think it’s a bad idea to bring music in a yoga class.
Silence is required in yoga
In a class where silence is needed to achieve a ‘higher state of being’, blasting loud music during a yoga session can be counterproductive. Yoga is about concentration and calming the mind but erratic music tends to distract you from keeping this goal. Playing an album with varied rhythms and volumes makes it more difficult to focus on your breathing and poses. As soon as you’ve adapted your breathing to one song, another one immediately takes you out of sync when a song with a completely different tempo begins to play. This means maintaining your poses becomes a lot harder.
Music is emotionally suggestive
Studies show that music switches on different parts of your brain which elicit an emotional response from the listener. These responses can be apparent in roaring and aggressive rock and pop songs. So instead of trying to achieve inner piece, you’re off thinking about punching someone in the face while doing a downward facing dog.
Loud music and yoga just don’t mix
Equally, exposure to loud music can suggest your body to respond by pumping adrenaline and cortisol into your bloodstream. These are hormones secreted when your body is experiencing certain levels of stress to help your respiration and give you more energy. While this is usually good for more intensive exercise, it can seem out of place in a yoga environment and even make you feel quite uncomfortable while meditating. It’s also incredibly difficult to hear your teacher’s instructions while the music is just booming throughout the studio. Remember, the session should be used to help you reflect on yourself and not about the new Kanye West album.
While these common ideas are being held by many yoga practitioners there are some that are open to the idea of having some music guide their meditation. Music in yoga supporters, believe that both music and yoga on their own provide therapeutic benefits for their mental and emotional state. So it only makes sense for them to combine these two types of treatment together to create an even better experience.
At the end of the day, meditation in yoga is not just about simply sitting still on a pose in silence. Yoga is about finding stability in your mind and if some music can inspire you to do this then what’s the harm? If the music supports and enhances your meditative experience then by all means use it in your sessions. There is no one way to practice yoga.
If you want to know more about the latest in yoga trends, give us a call.
Common yoga questions answered
Yoga can seem a bit like a cult. Dozens of people line up in a classroom, all dressed in similar outfits, moving in unison and sometimes chanting words in a foreign language. To an outsider, this odd display of behavior can bring up a lot of questions. So if you’re scratching your head, wondering what’s the deal with this whole “yoga thing”, here are some answers to common questions the yoga curious ask.
What is yoga?
Yoga originated in India over 2,000 years ago. While today most people perform yoga through a series of postures and stretches, the original practice of yoga was much broader and included 8 total practices, which were referred to as “limbs”. The postures you see students performing in your local gym are one of these 8 limbs; the others include concentration, ethical guidelines, breathing exercises and a few others.
The original purpose of the posture-based yoga practice was to purify the body and prepare it for long meditation sessions. If you were to follow this and the other 7 practices, you would hopefully achieve the ultimate goal: samdhi, referred to today as enlightenment.
So does that mean yoga is a religion?
When you see how serious some students take yoga, you can see why it’s sometimes misinterpreted as a religion. However, yoga by no means qualifies as one. It should be noted that it was originally created as a philosophy (as described in the previous answer above), and some of the more devout practitioners today would still consider it a way of life. With that said, modern-day yoga can really be whatever you want it to. It can simply be a means to improve your flexibility, mental focus and health, or it can be a serious discipline that shapes every aspect of your life. Regardless of what yoga means to you, there are many varieties that are a far cry from religion. These include rage yoga (which involves cursing, screaming, and sometimes drinking beer), cat yoga, stiletto yoga and more.
Do you have to be a vegetarian to practice?
Vegetarianism in yoga is a hotly debated issue. One of the original principles of yoga philosophy stresses non-harming to self and others. Some interpret this to mean you can’t eat meat, as doing so harms animals. And if you choose to eat your triple cheeseburgers, steaks and mounds of bacon, you may be scrutinized by some of the old-school members of the yoga community. However, most fellow yoga practitioners won’t bat an eye, and will even enjoy that philly cheesesteak with you.
The point is that practicing yoga and eating meat is a matter of choice. You are free to do so if you’d like. And in today’s modern yoga scene, most people could care less whether you do or not.
How many times should you practice per week?
To achieve some of the benefits of yoga, aim to practice at least one hour a week. By doing so, you should notice your body becoming more limber with less pain and a slightly increased mental focus. However, if you want a more dramatic difference, aim to practice for an hour, 3 or 4 times per week. This can help you develop better posture and more muscle strength, greatly improve your disposition and provide an array of health benefits that include lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.
How is yoga different from stretching?
On the surface, it’s easy to see why some people think yoga is just some glorified stretching practice. When you look closer though, there a few key differences. For one, most yoga classes try to sync your movement with breath. For example when you move into a stretch, you will breath in, and then exhale when you release it. Also, yoga requires you to pay attention to more than just the stretch and posture you’re maneuvering into. You’ll also be aware of what’s going on in your body, mind and breathing process. Becoming more aware of these three things will help you develop focus and mental clarity both on and off the yoga mat.
We hope these five answers will help shed some light on these common yoga questions. If you have more you’d like to ask or are interested in joining a class, call us today.
3 tips for your first partner yoga class
When you’re in yoga class, balancing in scorpion pose, focusing on your breath and pondering the greater mysteries of the universe, have you ever felt like there was something missing? No, we’re not talking about that special someone who magically completes your life…okay, actually we might be, but in a more literal sense. To be more clear, we’re talking about partner yoga. A type of yoga where you bring a significant other or friend to class to practice with you. If you have yet to hear about partner yoga, here’s what it’s all about.
What is partner yoga?
Partner yoga is exactly what it sounds like: doing yoga together with a partner in class, instead of solo. Expect to get physically close to your partner as you will be maneuvering into poses, hands-on with him or her. Sometimes the two of you will form into poses you never thought possible, as your bodies take the shape of some crazy, elevated jigsaw puzzle. Other times you will simply tumble over. Whatever happens, it will be all in good fun, as long as you follow these simple rules.
1. Bring the right partner
Your partner can make or break your experience. Don’t just choose some random acquaintance or new friend. Choose someone you can trust. You will have your hands on each other, be in each other’s personal space, and need to clearly communicate with him or her. And you’ll be doing this for an entire, hour long class. A good partner choice is likely your boyfriend or girlfriend, or a spouse. However, a close friend can also do the trick…especially if you’re simply looking to share a few laughs and some fun.
2. Come prepared
When you come to partner yoga, you need to bring the same items you would to your normal class. That includes a yoga mat, towel and water bottle. Also, like your normal yoga class, make sure to wear comfortable clothes. Lastly, (and probably most importantly) ensure your partner brings the above items too, minus the yoga mat as you only need one for the both of you. If your partner is new to yoga, they will likely be clueless as to what to bring. Make it your mission to fill them in.
3. Have an open mind
If you’re considering partner yoga, you likely already follow this guideline. Regardless, get ready for a yoga experience that is a bit more carefree than your typical Vinyasa class, and much more loose than a Bikram session. There will be plenty of playful opportunities and laughter in class, so be prepared to have fun while helping support your partner in various poses.
If you follow these three guidelines, you are sure to have a blast in your first partner yoga class. For more information on different yoga varieties or class times at our studio, give us a call today.
Three benefits of practicing Acroyoga
This particular discipline of yoga combines traditional yoga poses and flows with basic acrobatic skills to enhance strength and core training. Among the many variations of yoga available today, acroyoga stands out from the rest because it’s a focused and fun way in which you can enhance flexibility, mobility and core strength without having to give in to repetitive sequences and inconsistent levels of workout intensity.
The three primary roles in acroyoga are the base, the flyer and the spotter. The base is the person that lies on the ground to offer the flyer maximum stability and support, the flyer is the individual that is elevated from the ground by the base and moves into a series of movements and positions, and the spotter mainly observes and make suggestions to ensure the flyer lands safely. Besides making more friends, here are three other reasons why you should give acroyoga a try.
Develop core strength
Whether you are a base or a flyer, most of the core activation that is required of you falls in the category of stabilization. In order to hold many acroyoga poses or move through many acroyoga combinations it is necessary to move fluidly from one “tight” stabilized core neutral position to the next. So essentially your spine moves naturally and unloaded through flexion, extension, rotation, and lateral flexion to get to the next stable position with a neutral spine. Think fluid movements to planks in different position with a partner added in the mix.
When practicing acroyoga, you’re with a partner, so the focus doesn’t lie solely on just your own body weight but also on the other person’s as well. If you are the base, you must create a strong platform for your partner to move on, for the flyer you must balance and press up from the base without overwhelming the base. Think calisthenics since you’d be holding people up and doing body weight exercises in the process.
It’s all about bench, overhead and leg pressing for the base with an added bonus of carrying a human being with a moving center of gravity. From the flyer’s perspective, think handstands, planches, and planks from various angles – regardless, acroyoga comes with a strength conditioning component that can’t be ignored.
One of the hardest aspects of acroyoga is people not knowing where their body is in space. This requires a great deal of emphasis on executing the proper technique – without it, you can end up hurting not only yourself but your partner as well. To prevent injury, you must learn to examine joint alignment, body shape and position. Like weight lifting you won’t be able to achieve optimum results with being in the optimal position. By practicing acroyoga you’d experience what it feels like when joints are properly aligned to evenly distribute weight.
If your current yoga routines aren’t really doing much besides enhancing overall flexibility, you should give acroyoga a try. Not only do you get to defy gravity, core muscles are enhanced, condition overall strength with the calisthenics and become more aware of joint alignment and body position. For further information, take the leap and give us a call, we are more than happy to answer acroyoga-related questions you have.
How yoga can benefit Alzheimer’s
Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) is a key protein that helps diminish neural degradation. People with Alzheimer’s, however, are found to have significantly lower NGF levels causing them to be more vulnerable to the disease. Breakthrough research has revealed that NGF levels can be increased by introducing yoga into your fitness routines. Here are two easy exercises you can practice as a preventative measure.
What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is a condition that normally occurs in older adults. Symptoms include gradual memory loss, confusion and eventually death. Currently there are 3.2 million women in the US with Alzheimer’s. Actually women have a 1 in 6 chance of developing the condition compared with men who have a 1 in 11 chance. As of today, there is no known cure for the disease, but there are measures you can take to help prevent it.
Research reveals that yoga breathing exercises help boost NGF levels, according to a 2015 study published by the Journal of International Psychogeriatrics Association. This conclusion is supported by an experiment conducted during the study.
Twenty volunteers were divided into two groups: one taught a yoga breathing program and the other was asked to read quietly for 20 minutes. The breathing program consisted of 10 minutes of Om chanting and 10 minutes of yoga breathing regulation after which volunteers’ NGF levels were tested. The results revealed that the yoga group displayed a 60 percent increase in NGF levels compared to readers.
Dr. Sundara Balasubramanian, study researcher, biochemist and research assistant at the Medical University of South California, said, “Being a systemic exercise, yogic breathing could be a powerful tool in preventing and/or managing neurodegenerative diseases.”
The power of chair yoga
As the name suggests, the exercise routine is conducted on a chair that takes up little space. The 2014 study published in Research in Gerontology Nursing claimed that chair yoga helps improve balance and quality of life of Alzheimer’s patients. The conclusion was put to the test when the chair yoga program was administered to nine patients for eight weeks, where two sessions were held weekly.
The 50-minute session comprised of 10 minutes of breathing exercises, 20 minutes of chair yoga postures, 5 minutes of balance-enhancing postures and 10 minutes of relaxation and meditation. Researchers noted that participants had significantly improved balance and also showed improvements in walking and gait speed. Positive changes in physical measure brought about a positive turn neurally as well. This created a more positive mindset, especially since they were capable of moving and doing more, the patient’s initial focus was partially shifted from the disease itself.
Want to find out more on how yoga can prevent Alzheimer’s? Want to sign up for a class? Call us today. More information awaits.
Why newbies shouldn’t give up on yoga
Your first yoga class can be intimidating. You’re in a room full of strangers, some wearing very little clothing, all stretching and contorting their bodies. As you see some of the more experienced students shifting into poses straight out of the cirque du soleil, you may feel a mixture of shock, amazement and embarrassment. How will you ever get to that level? Do you even want to get to that level?! If this sounds like you, we have two words for you: stop it. While you may be a few years off being a top yogi, you have to remember that even the students effortlessly standing on their heads in class were once nervous beginners like you. So if your first yoga class has left you feeling afraid and insecure, here are a handful of reasons why you should keep practicing.
You’ll find the right teacher
Finding the right teacher is key to developing a yoga practice you feel comfortable with. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a teacher you love right away. For those who don’t, there’s nothing wrong with looking elsewhere. Some teachers are gentle, and others are more demanding of their students. Some will play music you enjoy, and others won’t play music at all. Some will race you through poses like a drill sergeant, and others at a slow pace. There are an endless variety of teachers out there. Keep looking till you find the right one.
You’ll learn to love props
Maybe you’ve seen those blocks, blankets and straps sitting in the corner of the classroom. Yes, they can look a bit scary at first, but remember, they’re there to help beginners like you. The block, for example, can help bring the floor higher. So if you’re having trouble touching the ground in triangle pose (the pose where your feet are spread apart so your legs create a triangle shape), use the block. It can prevent you from toppling over and help you stabilize the pose. Just like the block, all props have a distinct purpose that can help beginners tremendously. If you’re confused how a prop can help you, watch how other students use them or better still, ask your instructor.
You’ll learn it’s okay to go easy on yourself
Besides the teacher, who is there to motivate and train you, no one could care less whether you’re completing a pose or falling on your bum. Other students in class are focusing on their own practice, not you. So if you don’t want to participate in the chanting or breathing exercises, it is completely acceptable. As a beginner, just keep it simple: focus on your poses. Be respectful to your classmates and teacher, and they’ll treat you the same. Go easy on yourself, and you’ll quickly start getting the hang of yoga.
You’ll learn to love the back row
As a yoga newbie, there is no better place to be than the back row. From the back of the classroom, you can easily see how the more experienced students get into, and hold, poses. Of course the teacher is there to help you as well, but watching how others do it can be invaluable.
You’ll make progress
While it may be hard to believe, even the most advanced students in class are still deepening their yoga practice. That’s why it’s important to remember that yoga is not only a practice, but also a process. You’ll get better over time, but there will never be a point at which you’ve achieved yoga perfection. And you shouldn’t expect to.
In your class, focus on doing the best you can today. With this mindset you’ll soon notice your own progress, which will deepen at one month, six months, a year, five years of practice, and so on.
You’ll become more centered and calm
You’ve probably already heard that yoga can relieve stress, and make you more calm and centered. Today, there is actually some evidence to back it up. Over a three month period in 2005, researchers in Germany observed 24 stressed out women as they participated in two 90-minute yoga sessions a week. At the end of the three months, the women noticed a reduction in their anxiety and depression, and also a 65% boost in their overall feeling of well being. How would you like to experience that?
Remember, no matter how good you are at a given task today, there was once a time when you were a beginner. Yoga is no different. Put in the practice and you’ll eventually be contorting your body into crazy poses like the rest of them. Until then, come down to our studio and benefit from the guidance of our experienced teachers. They are happy to help you become the yogi you are meant to be.
The benefits of Hot Yoga
You’ve likely heard of hot yoga. And if you’re like any sane individual, the idea of performing yoga in a room heated to 105 degrees may not sound all that appealing. So why do people do it? Well, there are quite a few benefits to this relatively new yoga practice. Here are a few of them that inspire people everyday to give hot yoga a try.
Add a healthy glow to your skin
Regardless of whether or not you’re exercising, if you’re in a room heated to 105 degrees you’re definitely going to sweat in a matter of minutes. And when you add exercise to the equation, your body’s flood gates will open even more. While the idea of this may sound nauseating, it can produce benefits for your skin. Essentially, the heat opens up your pores, and in the process eliminates impurities from both your body and skin. What’s more, the moisture of the humidity maintains the skin’s hydration level, and in turn gives it a natural glow.
Forget that it’s winter
In this gloomy month of February with short days and frigid temperatures, it can be exceedingly difficult to forget that it’s winter outside. All this can lead to seasonal depression, and a lack of motivation to do anything else but veg out on the couch. When you step into a hot yoga class, the cold temperatures outside are quickly forgotten about. Suddenly it’s as if you’re in some exotic location, sweating you bum off in hundred degree temperatures. While hot yoga may not be quite as enjoyable as soaking up some rays on a tropical island, it can certainly temporarily help you forget that it’s the coldest month of the year.
Intensify your concentration
And speaking of forgetting February, hot yoga also boosts your concentration in other positive ways. If you’ve practiced yoga before, you already know the amount of concentration it requires to get your pose right and focus on your breathing. When you add hundred degree temps into the mix, you’re forced to up your focus even more. Suddenly, all the thoughts whirling through your mind about your job, bills or family drama, disappear. Instead, the intensity of the heat and yoga pushes you to bring your undivided attention into the classroom, to your body and breath. After a few sessions, this added concentration will carry into your life outside of the studio, and you’ll become more present in your daily life.
Hot yoga high
Last but certainly not least…if you’ve ever talked with someone who’s done hot yoga, you may have heard of the hot yoga high. After class, when the temperatures dramatically change and your body relaxes, you may suddenly find yourself feeling elated. Like all vigorous exercise, hot yoga causes your body to produce endorphins. But the heat also produces a number of other effects that create the hot yoga high. Fresh blood circulates throughout your body as your heart rate elevates. Add to that all the sweat and impurities you just flushed out of your system, and it’s no wonder that hot yoga practitioners often feel a sense of euphoria after class.
Want to learn more about the different kinds of yoga and their benefits? Call us today. We have a number of classes that can help improve your mind, body and spirit.