A guide to virtual fitness from start to finish.
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This is a post from our (always amazing) Mindbody community.
I remember when I took my first trigger-point therapy (TPT) yoga class. The instructor, Annika, combined these hard but-seriously-amazing lacrosse balls with hot yoga to deliver the most therapeutic class I’ve ever taken. I remember seeing her at the studio, pouring over an anatomy book, eager to learn more so she could deliver the best class. I consistently went whenever my schedule would allow it, and did so until I relocated. I still think about how amazing the TPT was for my left hip.
The same goes for when I took what my home studio dubbed a “Meg class.” Meg, the instructor, taught the most difficult hot vinyasa yoga class I’ve ever taken. Not because of how advanced the poses were, but because she knew how to combine quick movement and strength-based poses to obtain optimal exertion. This was no doubt due to her years of expertise in yoga, personal training and massage therapy. I knew when I went to her class, it was going to be sweaty, thoughtfully-sequenced, and hard.
As a student, I never really thought about what it was like to be a teacher. I simply thought of myself and my experience. My mind never went to the preparation they must have done to deliver such a killer class. I never thought about how this was their livelihood and how they pay their bills. Not until I became a teacher myself did I think about the anxiety they must have felt, commanding 30 students for an hour at a time. Or how many emotions they absorbed while holding space for me to feel mine.
The wellness industry is experiencing a huge hit, and its instructors are at the center of those losses. Their hours have been cut greatly, and if they are teaching virtual classes, oftentimes they are at a lower rate than in-person. Many of their other revenue streams (in-person private sessions, yoga retreats, local business collaborations) are nonexistent for the foreseeable future.
Regardless of how intense (Meg) or yogic (Annika) your favorite teachers may seem – they are human – and they are likely experiencing the same stressors you are. They’ve given their heart and soul to their work, and a lot of that work has been taken away. Much like we need our boss and coworkers to give us positive reinforcement and support, fitness instructors need to know they still matter to the communities they’ve dedicated their lives to. A simple DM or text will go a long way. Let them know just how much you loved their core series, or how they helped you achieve your first pullup. The recognition will help fuel them to get through these hard times.
If you’re feeling called to do more, there are many options to support your favorite instructors. If they are offering private virtual sessions, purchase those and take them (what else are you going to do with your Saturday?). If they are offering virtual classes through a studio or gym, take them (and invite your friends)! And if any of their offerings are free, please consider donating directly to the instructor via Venmo or another money-sharing app. They work hard to bring you quality content that you can enjoy through the screen, and they deserve to be compensated for their work.
If you can’t donate, there are other ways to help. Whenever you see them promoting their offerings online, share them. When you take their class, share it. When you see another friend post about their offerings, share that! Write them a review on the Mindbody app. Text a screenshot of the schedule to your friends. Give them a recommendation on LinkedIn. Tag them and @mindbody on Instagram, and we can help spread the word as well! All these actions say, “Thank you.”
Find out how you can show support for your favorite studios here.
Anything helps, and remember—we are all in this together.
I wonder how my two former teachers are doing. I think I’ll reach out. Will you?
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.