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Acupuncture is known as an integrative type of medicine. This means it is safely and routinely used alongside medications, surgeries, physical therapy, and any other medicinal modality you have chosen. As an added bonus, it’s usually covered by most insurance plans and is available as a mainstream source of anxiety reduction, pain relief, and preventative care.
Basically, acupuncture is the use of incredibly fine needles to stimulate areas in the body where either tight muscles are encouraged to melt into relaxation, or nerves can send a message to the brain to create a specific chemical response in the body- like anti-inflammatory, digestive ease, or sleep induction.
With frequent and regular repetition, this can heal injuries, decrease pain levels and general inflammation, and it can slowly reset sleep and digestive cycles, encourage a stronger immune system and benefit individual organ health. Over time, the body learns how to do this for itself and the benefits ripple out into a faster healing response for future injuries and ailments, and generally better health. It’s like a child learning the alphabet, slowly forming words, and then writing a book.
There are thousands of points on the body, each one with its own effects, and the effects it has when combined with another point.
Most of the acupuncture points are organized in anatomical lines known as channels or meridians. These lines run adjacent to blood vessels, large nerves, or fascial lines. Fascia is the stuff that wraps the muscles up and joins them all together and it is highly sensitive at “trigger points” on the body, which are very useful acupuncture points. These lines run head to toe, with a few exceptions, and are named after the organ that they ultimately connect to in the end.
One example of a trigger or acupuncture point is the area you always squeeze when your shoulders get tight after a long day. Squeezing this point can be very tender, but it feels good because it triggers the muscle to relax, which an acupuncture needle can do very quickly. This point is Gallbladder-21, named because it is the 21st point on the line that eventually connects to the gallbladder.
Many teachers have gathered lists of ways to combine various points into protocols to reap the loudest, fastest effect. Often when you have an injury, a practitioner will choose a protocol that leaves the aggravated site alone and actually uses effective points elsewhere on the body to treat the injury. The philosophy here is “don’t poke an angry bear.” If your ankle is swollen, puffy and sprained, then your practitioner won't stick a needle in it because that would make it hurt more. Instead, he or she would choose points on the opposite limb, ear, and hand. This has a lot to do with how the points are connected and how the brain works. This technique is especially useful with things like nerve pain (neuropathy) in the hands and feet that can make the slightest sensation unbearable.
When you visit an acupuncturist, they will set you up with a treatment plan. The frequency of your visits will depend on your complaint, pain level, general health, whether your practitioner is also recommending supplements or movement therapies, and their experience with the protocol they intend to use. Every visit will look somewhat similar until the effects cumulate and you start seeing results, at which point your practitioner will tell you to begin spacing sessions out more. If you are in high pain they will start you at 3-4 sessions per week, when your pain goes down they might have you come in 1-2 times a week until the injury is resolved.
So, there it is. Set up a session and experience it for yourself. And remember, whatever benefits you see in the first visit will be amplified down the line - pun intended!
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.