Expert advice on finding focused calm
Download the app
Fitness memberships, workout classes, wellness services, beauty appointments and more.
All around the world, in millions of houses, billions of long-ignored to-dos are suddenly getting some love now that everyone’s trying to wait out COVID at home.
Those dressers that had been disorganized since they first held your drawers?
Sorted on day two.
The yucky grey glop formerly known as crispy green broccoli lurking in the crisper?
Evicted from its flophouse on the bad side of the fridge.
That cycling class you’d meant to try way back in the days when you could go places and do stuff and the world wasn’t ending?
Wait, you’ve never taken a cycling class?
Seriously? It’s literally never been easier to do from home.
For one thing, it’s literally only been possible for a little while, and there hasn’t been much variety to the offerings. That’s changing now, especially with so many studios starting to offer virtual classes on Mindbody.
Even better, there’s no room full of strangers at home to judge if you fall down your first time up on the bike—just rooms full of (possibly strange, probably bored) family members.
One place where rookie riders can run into difficulty is with the special cleats people wear in spin studios. “If you’ve never used clip-in cleats, it’s great to get comfortable with them at home before trying them in class,” says Libby Acquafresca, an instructor at Cycletribe cycling studio.
If you already have a bike of your own, all you really need to purchase is something called a bike trainer. It holds your bike in place but offers resistance to the rear wheel as if you were riding on the free road.
(If you’ve never played around with a bike trainer, it might be worth setting up a video consultation with your local bike shop. Lots of them are still open, even if it’s only for service calls and contactless sales, like Foothill Cyclery in San Luis Obispo, California.)
Don’t have a bicycle of your own? A smart option is to rent a spin bike locally. Since most spin studios can’t hold classes in person, some are renting out their equipment—an arrangement where everybody wins in the interim until the pandemic passes.
Once you have the equipment you need, the most important thing is to make sure it’s set up the right way.
“Bike setup is key,” says Libby, the Cycletribe instructor. In fact, she says, people riding at home have a certain setup advantage. “A lot of times people don’t show up to class with enough time to set up—or even learn how to setup.”
She recommends new riders “try out different seat and handlebar heights to find their perfect match,” something they can do at their own pace without the pressure of class start time looming. To get the seat dialed in, Libby suggests you “stand next to the seat. Hip height is a good place to start.”
All that’s left at that point is the easiest part: browse virtual cycling classes on Mindbody!
If you try a couple classes that you don’t enjoy, you still have a perfectly good exercise bike. Plus, with everyone adjusting to life with COVID, more and more fitness studios are moving online to stay open. Even if cycling isn’t for you, you’re sure to find something else you love.
You find another healthy hobby you love—AND you return to society with quads and glutes strong enough to crack walnuts.
Not only that, once the world opens up again and you’re able to try out your first live class, you’ll already be a grizzled veteran.
“The experience would be almost the same working out at home,” even if you lose the feeling of being among your teammates,” Libby says. She points out that by starting out at home, you can “work on certain moves we do a lot in class, like tap backs, handlebar presses, and figure 8's.”
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.