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Have you been feeling it? The big emotion floating around the last few weeks is the Big Anxiety. Coupled with the stress of what the COVID-19 pandemic has bought for millions of people, disturbed wellness routines, and worry, we have a recipe to create massive damage to ourselves.
Adjusting to the new normal, with social distancing practices in place and adapting to precautions and routines, may be the root of even more anxiousness for many as we’re navigating uncharted territories.
During times of high stress, our bodies experience a physiological strain, where essentially everything from our heart, muscles, blood, and energy have to work harder than needed in order to keep functioning at a minimum. Our body’s natural processes, like breathing, can get compromised, lessening the healing functions of the nervous system, and overworking our adrenal system. Stress management is almost non-existent. This overtaxing of the body disrupts the natural flow of energy and resources, and puts us in something known as the “fight or flight” mode. In this mode, we are constantly deciding if there is some kind of real danger and how to survive it. We feel these signals when our heart rate and blood pressure rise, our stress responses like sweating and either constricted or super fast breathing occur, and our feel-good hormones become compromised.
As we process anxiety, not only do we mentally and emotionally feel the repercussions, we also physically confuse our systems that are doing their best to naturally heal us. Staying in a state of continued anxiety with an overactive sympathetic nervous system can be incredibly damaging to your health, even if it is a small amount of stress that collects over time. Stress suppresses our immunity, digestion, deep breathing, disrupts sleep, and eating patterns, impacts mood, energy levels, and much more.
Studies show that over 50% of adults are essentially holding their breaths. They do a shallow type of breathing known as thoracic breathing, where you breathe lightly into your chest instead of into your diaphragm. For example, notice how you’re breathing right now. You’re likely holding your breath to some extent and you’re probably not breathing much at all. If you’re asked to partake in a deep breathing exercise now, you’ll puff up your chest and shoulders, and empty out your stomach. Guilty?
If you’ve ever seen a baby breathe or the breathing technique of someone in deep sleep, you’ll notice that their bellies rise and fall; the oxygen goes directly into a natural deep belly breath. Adults, however, have become acclimated to holding our breaths without meaning to. When we can slow down and practice deep breathing, we send physical and neurological signals through our entire body that asks us to rest.
The great news is that there are easy breathing exercises we can do at home that do not take a lot of time or effort. An incredible tool that anyone can use in times of high stress is remembering to inhale and exhale. Yes, breathing. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention also recommended breathwork not simply as an immunity building tool, but as a way to balance emotional and mental wellbeing. Deep breathing and other breathwork improves the body’s overall functions; improves the respiratory system, builds protective mucus in the nose, oxygenates and blood and brain, improves digestion, alkalizes the full body, and much more. Each style of breathwork sends special physiological signals—some ask us our bodies to slow down and chill, to get out of fight mode, and bring us back to equilibrium where our body’s natural healing systems can be activated; some styles of breathwork ask to pump up and energize.
It’s common to find yourself rushing through breathing practices or feel like you need to set aside special time for it. But that’s the point. We get to slow down, and we get to implement these practices even if there are distractions, business, and no perfect zen meditation corners in our homes. We can do these anytime, anywhere.
If you’ve been feeling any small symptoms of anxiousness or stress, now is the perfect time to incorporate some incredibly easy and effective breathwork techniques into your day-to-day.
This breathing technique can be done at any time of the day, for as long as you want. It’s recommended to practice this for at least 30 seconds to start and several times throughout the day. It’s a breath technique to practice before going to sleep as well. As you’re doing this breath, imagine your stomach like a big pump. As you breathe in, you’re expanding; as you breathe out, you’re emptying out.
1. Put your hands on your belly/abdomen area.
2. Take a big breath through the nose and PUSH your hands away from the belly as you breathe in. Expand your stomach as much as possible and try not to puff up your chest.
3. Slowly exhale through the mouth and constrict your belly inwards. Feel free to make a sound with the mouth when you do this.
4. Repeat for a minimum of 30 seconds.
The 6-7-8 breath can be done at any time of the day to calm anxiousness and stress, especially before doing to sleep. It’s a self-soothing technique that helps relax and calm the nervous system. You can do this practice sitting up or laying down.
1. Close down your eyes.
2. Relax your mouth.
3. Take a deep breath in through your nose for 6 full seconds. Count in your head and maintain an even pace.
4. Hold this breath for 7 seconds.
5. Pucker your mouth and exhale out through the mouth with a “whoooooossh” sound for 8 seconds.
6. Repeat this 6-7-8 breath for at least 5 rounds, or as long as you wish.
You can adjust the 6-7-8 counts to accommodate your pace. You can try a 4-5-6 sequence, or an 8-9-10 sequence. Play around with the length of time that feels good for your body. Some people love to sit by an analog clock for the ticking sound to help keep pace; some love to incorporate music.
This is another easy technique that can be done at any time of the day.
1. Breathe in for 4 seconds through the nose.
2. Hold for 4 seconds.
3. Exhale for 4 seconds through the nose.
4. Hold for 4 seconds.
5. Repeat at least 5 times.
You can play around with the timing for 6 seconds, 8 seconds, and so on to see what works best for your body.
These are the top three breathwork techniques to manage anxiety and stress. Plenty of other techniques work on sleep, inner healing, subconscious programming, altered states of consciousness, and more. Play with the three techniques above and see what feels great for you. It’s common to find a sense of calm almost immediately, some gentle tingling, and relaxation! As we’re adjusting to the new normal, let’s all contribute to creating peace both inside and out.
This June marks 52 years since the 1969 Stonewall Riots took place—a historical event that put the severe lack of LGBTQIA+ rights into the spotlight. Thanks to the efforts of activists like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, we now have the privilege of celebrating June as Pride Month where members of this community can celebrate everything that makes them beautiful and unique.
At Mindbody, we've created an inclusive, uplifting, and welcoming workspace where all our team members feel valued and inspired to bring their best every day. Here’s what some of our employees said when we asked them what Pride means to them:
“Pride means choosing to be my authentic self, even when it’s hard.” — KT Ellis, Business Relationship Manager
“Pride is about acceptance, community, freedom, and love.” — Josh Pierce, Content Designer
“Pride is about celebrating how far we’ve come, demonstrating how far we’ve got left to go, and focusing on our similarities rather than our differences.” — Bobby Jones, Payments Specialist
“Pride is about celebrating the visibility and accomplishments of LGBTQIA+ people. It’s also about celebrating the diversity among LBGTQIA+ people.” — Robert Arambel Senior Technical Program Manager
As we have discussed before, inclusivity remains an important topic in the wellness industry. We are taking this opportunity to continue to shine a light on the gap of inclusivity and diversity in our industry, and take action to promote, empower, and honor the LGBTQIA+ community that helps shape, grow, and provide access to wellness.
While Pride Month is a great time for fitness studios to show their support for the community, consistent support throughout the year is much more powerful. Being LGBTQIA+ inclusive is more than hanging up a rainbow flag—it's a consistent alignment with providing equal access for everyone. We’ve done some of the work for you and aggregated a number of awesome fitness studios you can find on the Mindbody app that are celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community and creating inclusive spaces for all:
Kyle House Fitness is Chattanooga’s premier fitness program offering group fitness classes and personal training with the best-certified instructors and trainers in the area. Located on Chattanooga’s thriving Southside, Kyle House Fitness is more than a gym, they pride themselves on building a welcoming and inclusive community. The owners of this gym, The Kyles, may sound familiar to you since they recently wrote a blog post for us on how to be an LGBTQIA+ ally in the fitness space.
EVERYBODY is “creating a radically inclusive culture for all bodies to move, strengthen, and heal.” Not only is their $66/month membership affordable, but they also offer 100% subsidized memberships to folks who are in dire financial hardship, which helps remove barriers for those who are marginalized and/or low-income. Aside from their standard program classes, they also offer affordable $8 drop-in classes—some of which are bilingual (Spanish/English). And, they have gender-neutral locker rooms, which is a staple for LGBTQIA+ inclusive spaces.
At Pilates, Barre & Jams, owner Teresa Ellis’ mission is “to make movement available and accessible to the people who have never felt comfortable walking into a status quo studio...” and we are here for it. As a Black queer femme and a former sex worker, Ellis witnessed first-hand what it feels like to be othered, which is exactly why she opened her Pilates studio in 2017—to create a safe space for all. Knowing that financial restraints should never be the reason someone can’t attend one of her classes, she even has a “pay-what-you-can" membership option so everyone can have access to her amazing Pilates classes.
At Mark Fisher Fitness, “making health and hotness fun and inclusive” is their mission. As a member of their Enchanted Ninja Clubhouse of Glory and Dreams (yes, you read that right), they promise fast results with a money-back guarantee. It’s not just rainbows and unicorns at MFF—their bright and vibrant space is filled with friendly trainers who are fiercely committed to your results and growth.
This self-proclaimed “gym + safe space + house party” fosters a supportive community without the homophobia, transphobia, and body shaming. Since it’s important to them to reduce barriers for folks with body dysmorphia or gender dysphoria, you won’t find a single mirror in this gym. They take “gym buddies” to a whole new level by offering a monthly social calendar for members to connect online. With classes like “Oakland Booty” and “Tops ‘n Bottoms,” The Queer Gym promises lots of sweat, an encouraging environment, and a dang good time.
At 305 Fitness, their mission is to empower people to love themselves harder and express themselves louder. Their passion stems from their core values of inclusivity, empowerment, self-improvement community responsibility. 305 exists to make fitness more inclusive, empowering, and fun. Movement is more than calorie counting or being the "best" in the room. Movement is about radical self-love, self-expression, and self-pride!
Compass Fitness is a journey for the body, mind, and soul. They encourage their members to find the best version of themselves. With classes like “Hustle & Flow,” “Buns & Guns,” and “HIIT & Run,” you know you’re in for a fun and powerful sweat sesh. On top of being a gym that embraces inclusivity and diversity, they donate all proceeds from their Pride gear to The Center on Colfax, the largest LGBTQIA+ community center in Colorado.
Yoga Box’s mission is to create a space where yoga is available to all. Their community of instructors, staff, and students creates a radically inclusive community of support and a place for people to connect to like-minded individuals. Through consistent, safe, and inspired classes designed to challenge, transform, and empower their students—both physically and mentally—this fitness studio is a safe and supported space to elevate your state.
While this is a great list to get you familiar with some fitness studios that support the LGBTQIA+ community, we have only scratched the surface. We'd love to keep this list growing. If you have any businesses you'd like to see on this list, click here to submit a business we should be highlighting as well!
Wanna sweat it out? Explore more inclusive and empowering studios through the Mindbody app, where you can book everything from HIIT to hot yoga. If you’re looking for other ways to help support the LGBTQIA+ community, you can also donate to your local organizations or support national organizations like The Trevor Project or the Human Rights Campaign.