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Self-care is vital as we head into a busy pumpkin carving season filled with cold and flu viruses. Prepping your immune system with supplements, healthy foods, regular exercise, and staying hydrated are all the basics. But what if you could take it one step further and exponentiate these fall health benefits with your yoga practice?
During the fall season, acupuncture professionals work towards strengthening the lymphatic system, lungs, and intestines to keep the immune system healthy. You are what you eat, but if your gut isn’t able to sufficiently absorb and process your nutrients versus excrete waste, then the immune system can struggle. Promoting lung and intestinal health is very effective as a preventive care method, and you can modify your yoga practice to encourage the same benefits.
You can promote your immunity by deepening your breath to clean out your lungs, twisting from the waist to invigorate the organ's natural filtration responses, and stretching the myofascial tissues to encourage hydration—and release toxins.
Here’s a simple fall yoga sequence based on this concept to help you reap the health benefits of the autumn season.
Release tension and loosen tight neck muscles to get started.
Sitting comfortably with your right arm over your head, allow your right hand to cup your left ear and—without pulling—drop your right ear towards your shoulder. Next, press into your left hand straight down towards the ground and slowly drop your chin to your chest to feel that awesome stretch through the neck muscles. Hold for three deep breaths and repeat on the opposite side.
Use three-part breathing to unwind and de-stress, all while clearing your lungs. Lowering stress levels will improve immune health dramatically.
Start with one hand on your chest and take a sip of air to fill your chest. Without exhaling, move your hand to your lower ribs and sip more air to fill the diaphragm. Move your hand to your belly and sip even more air to fill your belly. When you are full of air, begin to exhale to empty just your belly. Then move your hand back to your ribs and exhale to empty the diaphragm. Finally, move the hand back to your chest to empty all the air. Go slowly and repeat this five times.
This long hold is great for stretching the chest wall to help open the diaphragm and lungs. It is relaxing and perfect for decompressing after a stressful week.
Take a rolled-up blanket or a small rectangular cushion and slide it between your shoulder blades as you lie on your back. Rest your head on a block or the top of the cushion so your neck isn’t strained. Let your arms fall open on either side of you, and feel free to bend or straighten your legs to relax. Stay for as long as three minutes if you like.
Add even more lung and diaphragm clearing by starting in a loose forward fold with your knees slightly bent. Gently roll up to standing, reaching your arms up and overhead.
Take a long sip of air in and as you exhale with open mouth and eyes wide. Cactus your arms around your ears and stick your tongue out. Then sip the air back in and reach your hands to touch overhead before forward folding down through the heart center and dangling upside down in ragdoll for a couple of breaths. This tongue-out action elevates the hyoid bone below your chin and above your thyroid, to encourage the digestive process from the top down. You could repeat this a few times over to really reap the benefits.
Rocking in this backbend shape massages the intestines to help filter out waste and toxins.
Reach back and catch one or both feet or ankles. Press your thighs towards each other to keep your back safe, and kick your feet into your hands. Then very gently rock front to back and side to side.
Get deeper into a belly massage (and undo the backbend above) using this easy twist.
From a seated position, place your hand on your opposite knee and twist to look over your shoulder. Remember, it’s not about how far you turn your head; it’s about how much you twist from your middle. Return to neutral and repeat on the opposite side.
This shape is incredibly underrated.
Savasana is about engaging the parasympathetic nervous system, which encourages de-stressing and promotes our “rest and digest” response. Decreasing stress is a great way to promote a healthy immune system, so stay here for eight minutes— that is about how long it can take to interact with that parasympathetic response.
Repeat something similar to this as part of your self-care regimen this season and see how it makes you feel!
If you’ve ever taken a hot yoga class, you know it’s always going to be one thing—outrageously hot. Not the “let’s hang by the pool and get that sun-kissed glow” kind of hot either. I’m talking that “I can't believe I have this much sweat in my body” and “I may or may not pass out” kind of hot. It’s nothing to mess around with, and after a year or so of not being able to go, it’s easy to forget just how serious that heat can be.
To get the maximum enjoyment and benefits out of your heated yoga classes, you need to prepare yourself before and take care of yourself afterward. Luckily, I’ve been taking some classes (sweating enough for the both of us) and I’ve listed my five favorite must-dos to help you readjust to your heated classes and get back to the hot yoga summer that we all want.
Heated classes are difficult in nature. The normal difficulty of regular poses is mixed in with the added challenges of sweating and dealing with the humidity and the heat (at times, I’ve seen the thermostat climb to 108 degrees—yikes!). Depending on what type of yoga class you’re taking (sculpt, Bikram, power vinyasa), the difficulty level and temperature are going to vary. It’s also important to remember that each person in the room is going to practice in a way that’s unique to them. Hours slept, hydration levels, food intake, and different lifestyles are all contributing factors that make our practices different. What you practice on your mat is your own––trust your body and only do what feels right to you. And remember, it’s okay to take breaks!
The rise in temperature mixed in with the humidity that we all know and love creates the perfect recipe for sweating—like A LOT. You go into a heated class dry and come out feeling like you just took a dip in the pool. Before heated classes, I had no idea it was physically possible to sweat that much. If you’re going to a heated class, especially after a long break, it’s easy to forget just how much you might sweat. Is it possible to lose that much water if you haven’t consumed it first? Trust me, going into your heated class super hydrated is going to make a world of difference and help you feel good throughout your practice. And don’t forget to take some sips of H2O while you’re practicing!
Heated classes are challenging, but I can’t stop going. Nothing quite compares to overcoming the challenge— and experiencing the cleanse my body feels after I’m done. It’s the perfect blend of hard and rewarding, but I couldn’t do it if my body wasn’t properly nourished. On the days I know I have a heated class booked; I like to make sure I am eating right. I make sure to take my vitamins and fuel my body with fruits, vegetables, and my favorite superfood shake. I hold off on food about an hour before my practice, so I feel comfortable. After the class, I like to replenish with a big protein shake (boosted with collagen to aid with muscle recovery and skin elasticity). There is no one-way path for properly nourishing your body but making sure you’re fueled for the challenge of a heated class is essential for getting the most out of your practice and feeling good on and off your mat.
Increasing and maintaining your water intake on the days you take a heated class is important, but sometimes you need something a little extra. If you’re sweating that much, you’re basically an athlete (at least in my book) and if you’re performing like a rockstar yogi, you need to hydrate like one as well. That means replenishing those lost electrolytes. Reward yourself and your body for the hard work and treat yourself to your favorite drink. I switch off between electrolyte-boosting drinks and coconut water depending on what I’m in the mood for that day. Adding these to my post-practice self-care routine has helped me feel more hydrated after and ready to take on the world again after especially sweaty classes.
Usually, a yoga mat is all you need for your practice––but heated classes are a different ballgame. I’ve gone with just a mat, and I’ve slipped all over the place. Let me tell you, there’s nothing worse than having sweat drip all over the place while you’re trying to hold a pose that makes you grip your mat for dear life (never again). Make sure you bring a towel to place over your mat, this will help with support and grip. Bringing a smaller towel is also a good idea. You can use the smaller towel to dry yourself off during water breaks or whenever you’re feeling just a bit too sweaty. This is a small step that makes a world of difference during those super-hot classes.
So, there you have it. Five of my favorite tips (more like lifesavers) that have helped me readjust to those heated classes I love so much. Getting back into it is a challenge for us all, so know you’re not alone. No matter where you’re at in your practice, remember to be kind and gentle to yourself––celebrating your health and your body’s ability to do what you love. We’re all just getting back out there, together.
Ready to jump back into your hot yoga routine? Browse Mindbody to find the perfect class for you.
While you’re at it, check out some Intro Offers near you that can help you get back to your cadence of hot yoga classes.