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Self-care is vital as we head into a busy pumpkin carving season filled with cold and flu viruses. Prepping your immune system with supplements, healthy foods, regular exercise, and staying hydrated are all the basics. But what if you could take it one step further and exponentiate these fall health benefits with your yoga practice?
During the fall season, acupuncture professionals work towards strengthening the lymphatic system, lungs, and intestines to keep the immune system healthy. You are what you eat, but if your gut isn’t able to sufficiently absorb and process your nutrients versus excrete waste, then the immune system can struggle. Promoting lung and intestinal health is very effective as a preventive care method, and you can modify your yoga practice to encourage the same benefits.
You can promote your immunity by deepening your breath to clean out your lungs, twisting from the waist to invigorate the organ's natural filtration responses, and stretching the myofascial tissues to encourage hydration—and release toxins.
Here’s a simple fall yoga sequence based on this concept to help you reap the health benefits of the autumn season.
Release tension and loosen tight neck muscles to get started.
Sitting comfortably with your right arm over your head, allow your right hand to cup your left ear and—without pulling—drop your right ear towards your shoulder. Next, press into your left hand straight down towards the ground and slowly drop your chin to your chest to feel that awesome stretch through the neck muscles. Hold for three deep breaths and repeat on the opposite side.
Use three-part breathing to unwind and de-stress, all while clearing your lungs. Lowering stress levels will improve immune health dramatically.
Start with one hand on your chest and take a sip of air to fill your chest. Without exhaling, move your hand to your lower ribs and sip more air to fill the diaphragm. Move your hand to your belly and sip even more air to fill your belly. When you are full of air, begin to exhale to empty just your belly. Then move your hand back to your ribs and exhale to empty the diaphragm. Finally, move the hand back to your chest to empty all the air. Go slowly and repeat this five times.
This long hold is great for stretching the chest wall to help open the diaphragm and lungs. It is relaxing and perfect for decompressing after a stressful week.
Take a rolled-up blanket or a small rectangular cushion and slide it between your shoulder blades as you lie on your back. Rest your head on a block or the top of the cushion so your neck isn’t strained. Let your arms fall open on either side of you, and feel free to bend or straighten your legs to relax. Stay for as long as three minutes if you like.
Add even more lung and diaphragm clearing by starting in a loose forward fold with your knees slightly bent. Gently roll up to standing, reaching your arms up and overhead.
Take a long sip of air in and as you exhale with open mouth and eyes wide. Cactus your arms around your ears and stick your tongue out. Then sip the air back in and reach your hands to touch overhead before forward folding down through the heart center and dangling upside down in ragdoll for a couple of breaths. This tongue-out action elevates the hyoid bone below your chin and above your thyroid, to encourage the digestive process from the top down. You could repeat this a few times over to really reap the benefits.
Rocking in this backbend shape massages the intestines to help filter out waste and toxins.
Reach back and catch one or both feet or ankles. Press your thighs towards each other to keep your back safe, and kick your feet into your hands. Then very gently rock front to back and side to side.
Get deeper into a belly massage (and undo the backbend above) using this easy twist.
From a seated position, place your hand on your opposite knee and twist to look over your shoulder. Remember, it’s not about how far you turn your head; it’s about how much you twist from your middle. Return to neutral and repeat on the opposite side.
This shape is incredibly underrated.
Savasana is about engaging the parasympathetic nervous system, which encourages de-stressing and promotes our “rest and digest” response. Decreasing stress is a great way to promote a healthy immune system, so stay here for eight minutes— that is about how long it can take to interact with that parasympathetic response.
Repeat something similar to this as part of your self-care regimen this season and see how it makes you feel!
Dare I say fall is the best season of all? The crisp cool air is such a huge turn from the summer sunshine. Autumn calls for cozy sweaters, big mugs tea, trail runs, and all the back to school vibes. I feel this seasonal push to realign my values, get my habits dialed in and clearly create my calendar. Where summer is so fancy-free, fall feels more like a time to get real. A softer January.
Channeling the fall vibes and exploring new habits and ways to sweat, I signed up for the Allstate Hot Chocolate 5K in Denver this month! I crossed the finish line with my sister (and MINDBODY employee), Melinda. I have to say, we had a blast training together and completing a goal together is the *best* way to kickstart the fall season.
Now that the race is complete, it is time for some much needed R&R. Here are my four favorite ways to recover after running (and rocking!) a 5K, no matter the time of year:
My feet are often in need of some love after training and running on race day. They are getting a lot of movement time leading up to a race and afterward, the best way to recover is to sit down and soak in the warm water, foot massage, and glossy polish. I went for an autumn maroon polish to welcome the season and say thank you to my feet for moving me through that 5K. Runner’s note: if you pre-race pedi, keep those calluses until after the race!
WHAT: Restorative Yoga
Nothing says relaxation like a post-race flow in a beautiful indoor environment. Located in the cozy Berkeley neighborhood in Denver, this space is an urban retreat known for its mindful and restorative practices and offerings. We love Lauralynn Sulivan and her Yoga Nidra classes. Yoga Nidra literally translates to “yoga sleep” and rest is a crucial part of recovery. Grab all the props—oh hey there bolsters—add two blankets and enjoy the yogic slumber.
WHERE: Peace of Mind
Now, this is a must! Schedule your massage within a week after the day you crossed the finish line. Peace of Mind is off Pearl Street in Wash Park and looks like a welcoming house turned lavender-scented zen zone. While many places offer an array of services, try a Sports Massage post-race. It will promote flexibility and helps to reduce fatigue. Ahhh. A massage is a perfect complement to the endurance your body just exemplified in your 5K.
WHAT: Express Facial
WHERE: Glow Facial Bar
The chilly air and layers of sweat can create a mess for my skin after race day—and as we move into fall, the dry Colorado air and dehydration are already taking its toll! I scheduled an express facial at Glow Facial Bar to clean up my skin post-race. This fast and efficient 30-minute treatment included exfoliation, anti-aging and deep hydration to enlighten and brighten my skin. Bonus—they keep the rose quartz rollers in the fridge. Hello, lymph detox and goodbye under-eye puffiness!
Cheers to your next race and always remember to recover and take care of your body—and your mind!
Whether you’re looking for a good stretch session or self-care treatment after your next race, MINDBODY is your source for all things fitness, wellness, and beauty, wherever you are!