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To say the world is stressed out because of the COVID-19 pandemic would be an understatement. In fact, not too far into this crisis, I noticed my Fitbit App had added a new feature into their system which went far beyond tracking your physical fitness—I now had a new goal to practice mindfulness at least three days a week. As a yoga instructor myself, I know the importance of practicing mindfulness through meditation, and I was shocked to realize that I hadn’t taken the extra steps to keep my sanity in check by taking time to relax and meditate more often during this time. I was doing a self-practice of vinyasa flow every day, but I started noticing the physical aspect of my yoga practice wasn’t enough to alleviate my stress.
So, at the end of each at-home vinyasa practice, I decided I would take an extra 10 minutes each day to exit the physical world and meditate. However, because 2020 now holds the world record in being the most challenging year of all time, I noticed that being in charge of my own meditation was quite a struggle. My mind was having a hard time drifting into bliss and instead kept going over to-do lists—I simply couldn’t focus on relaxing.
That’s when I knew I needed to turn to a guided meditation—specifically Yoga Nidra to help me get to a state of calm I so desperately needed. I have used Yoga Nidra to help me overcome insomnia in the past—and even got certified in it because it literally changed my life. Yoga Nidra, or “yogic sleep,” is a practice that has been around for thousands of years and it aims to restore the mind, body, and soul through deep, guided meditation. The way it works is like the way a power nap helps one feel refreshed during a particularly exhausting day, except you aren’t technically sleeping. I describe it as a long-form of savasana—anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour. (Real talk: savasana is one of the best parts of practicing yoga, am I right?)
Ready to unwind and grab some much-needed rest and relaxation, I started scrolling through an abundant list of virtual meditation classes. Pro tip: Knowing how powerful a Yoga Nidra class can be, book a class at night because you will be in such a state of Zen that you really can’t expect yourself to even be able to focus on mindless television (I’m looking at you, The Bachelorette) after a class.
As a yoga instructor in Phoenix, I've been to my fair share of in-person guided meditation classes in the Valley of the Sun, I felt like trying something totally new and opted to go on a virtual vacation for my meditation experience. With the world at my fingertips, I decided to try a Yoga Nidra class at Hot Yoga Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
A few minutes after I booked, I received a confirmation email letting me know I’d receive the link to my class 30 minutes before it started. After finishing up dinner the evening of my class, I changed into my favorite cozy sweater and yoga pants, rolled out my mat, and got ready to drift off to (yogic) sleep.
When I logged into class, I was greeted by my instructor, Amber, and a handful of other students. For the first few minutes of class, Amber went over what Yoga Nidra was and encouraged us to get into a comfy position. Since your body temperature can drop while in guided meditation, I made sure to have my favorite blanket next to me in case I got too cold during the practice. Also living in the middle of the city, I popped in my headphones to make sure I wouldn’t get distracted by any outside noises.
I laid down on my mat, closed my eyes, and focused on Amber’s soothing voice. After setting the scene at a secluded beach location where we could only hear the waves crashing against the shoreline, Amber led us through one of my favorite techniques in Yoga Nidra called a body scan. This is where you’re encouraged to focus your awareness on specific parts of the body and trigger them to relax—starting at the crown of your head and working your way down to the tips of your toes.
Already feeling myself start to drift off, she then moved on to another relaxation technique that requires you to focus on deep breathing. In this portion of the class, we were told to count our inhales and exhales backward starting at the number 25. I think I may have made it as far as 15, and then I was out for the count. The next thing I realized, she was bringing us back from our guided mediation and a whole hour had gone by. With every student in a delighted, relaxed haze, Amber sealed in our practice with a final meditation and sent us on our way.
I was so relaxed after this class that nothing could faze me—I mean this was like a glass-of-wine-while-taking-a-bubble- bath kind of feeling of elation. With so many things stressing people out right now, virtual guided meditation is a gift for anyone looking to up their mindfulness game and escape from the world. One session is all it took to convince me to add it to my weekly rotation. This is not a trend you want to sleep on—or will you?
Ready to see how a virtual guided meditation can help you stay cool, calm, and collected during COVID-19? Book a class at Hot Yoga Capitol Hill or browse virtual meditation on Mindbody.
Well, here we are—a couple of months into 2021. A year that we all (still) hope will be much better than the last. This past year was nothing short of a dumpster fire—between the pandemic, ongoing racial injustice, and the most dramatic election ever, 2020 was riddled with anxiety, grief, anger, and was just downright exhausting.
Heck—if somebody even dared to ask me how I was doing last year, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes and say, “Omg I can’t even.” I mean, what other year can you think of that became its own expression? When something would go horribly awry, we would literally blame it on the year by saying, “2020, am I right?” complete with a sheepish chuckle —and eventually some tears when you realized just how many times you’ve said those words. Seriously, I lost count a long time ago. It was not healthy.
Sorry, tangent—where was I? Ah yes, 2021. The good news is there’s still hope that this year won’t make us want to roll into a tiny little ball on the floor and cry. Well, at least not as much as its predecessor—I’m not a miracle worker, you guys. However, I do have some wellness tips to help you stay just a little bit cooler, calmer, and collected-er this year.
If there’s one thing we learned last year, it’s that wellness is always here for us. Maybe at this time last year, your goal of going to Pilates five days a week came to a screeching halt as fitness studios were required to shut down to protect the community. For a time, we were all frazzled because our usual workouts and wellness routines were turned upside practically overnight. I think I speak for us all when I say that our favorite fitness class, and the community that comes with it, plays a huge role in our overall happiness. The good news is the wellness industry has come a long way in just under a year.
While it is true that some areas still aren’t allowing the in-studio experience for their workout classes due to the pandemic, we have more options to practice wellness safely than ever before. Right now, some studios are allowed to operate with in-person, socially distanced classes—and pretty much every studio broke into the virtual space to provide fitness classes you could participate in from the comfort of your own home. Not to mention, at-home virtual options are typically cheaper and allow you to try our studios from all over the country. With online gym memberships like Mindbody Flex, you can have access to thousands of live stream classes at your fingertips for less than $5 per class.
Look, 2020 was scary. After a year like that, it’s can be hard to tap into a positive mindset. But it’s more important now than ever before to let go of assumptions and focus on the good that 2021 can bring. This shift to acceptance will ultimately help you put your best foot forward in any situation that arises.
Take a step back and try to focus on the things we can be grateful for in this moment. Like what? Well, for starters more and more people are receiving the COVID-19 vaccination, which means things are slowly, but surely, getting back to normal. I, for one, am grateful that my at-risk family members have already received their first rounds of vaccinations and are on the path of staying healthy since they are protected from the coronavirus.
The best thing we can do right now for our mental health is to learn to give ourselves some grace through practicing self-care. And this can look different for everyone. Maybe your version of self-care comes in the form of daily journaling, getting a workout session in, curling up with a good book, or having that glass of wine while taking a bubble bath. Whatever makes YOU feel good—keep doing it.
To keep my mental health in check, something that I’ve started incorporating into my daily self-care routine is practicing mindfulness. Some days that means I focus on my breathwork practice—other days I may scroll through the Mindbody app to find a virtual meditation class or Yoga Nidra class. I’ve also embraced the motto there’s an app for that. Right now, I’m really loving the Headway app because it helps me set daily intentions from the moment I wake up with a morning survey and then checks in with me at the end of the day with an evening survey. Having the ability to write down my goals and hold myself accountable for them has really taken my self-care routine to the next level.
Some days we fall a little short of our goals—and guess what? THAT’S OKAY. Honestly, I think we should all just focus on being okay for the rest of the year. The past year caused us to be tough on ourselves and I encourage you to make this year kinder. Any new goals you set that involve changing habits or overhauling your lifestyle will likely have some setbacks. So, when that happens, remember to be compassionate with yourself.
If there’s anything I want you to take away from this blog post is to let go of the illusion that perfection is always the end goal. When in doubt I always remind myself of something my favorite spin instructor (hey Steph!) says: “If you look for perfection, you'll never be content. Just focus on your growth.” Allow that to sink in and make it a goal to remind yourself of this every single day.
And remember: You don’t have to—and really shouldn’t—give up hope that things will get better this year, even if you feel overwhelmed now. Having a positive mindset is never a silly thing. In fact, it is actually quite admirable; you’re an admirable badass.