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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!
That’s something I never expected to hear. Think about it: we join gyms and studios because of their equipment, instructors, space, community (and AC, of course). But who’s to say we can’t get all that—or at least most of it—with virtual and online classes, too? In this new wave of wellness, we’re all switching up our fitness routines as we switch up our everyday schedules and habits. It’s not just in-studio or at-home anymore. It’s in-studio, at-home, at the park, beach, parking lot, rooftop...virtual, hybrid, Instagram Live, online, on-demand, and so much more. As we’re adapting, adjusting, finding our groove, etc., online gym memberships enter the fray. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?
There are tons of benefits to an online gym membership, especially right now.
Let’s break this down:
1. Scheduling convenience
A virtual/online gym fitness membership is a monthly subscription that gives you access to tons of live stream fitness classes you can take anywhere, from studios across the globe. These fitness studios offer tons of at-home workouts, group exercise, and one-on-one training sessions to choose from, no matter your exercise program or fitness level. With so many options, it’s easy to find one that fits your schedule. Whether you want to fit in a morning flow before work, combat that afternoon slump with some cardio, squeeze in some strength training before dinner, or wind down with an evening barre class, you can pick and choose classes to fit your fitness routine.
2. Minimizing exposure to COVID-19
And because they’re online, you can take these classes from the comfort of your home (or wherever you are), thus minimizing your exposure to COVID-19 and eliminating your commute to the gym or studio. By now, many of us have our designated “workout spot,” whether it’s an actual weight room, a quick scooch of the coffee table, or a grassy area in the backyard. Maybe you’re comfortable here... maybe you’ve even learned to love it.
With an online gym membership, you can stay in your safe space/comfy workout spot. Or, you can go somewhere new (local park, beach spot, a different area of the house, you know). You can access these virtual, live stream fitness classes from any device, so you can prop up your phone, laptop, or tablet wherever you want to go, or roll out your mat in front of the big screen TV in your living room.
We all have our favorite, go-to workouts. But sometimes, it feels good to switch it up (especially right now). Working from home all day, many of us are craving some variety and excitement, and an online gym membership can definitely help with that. According to our recent poll about COVID’s effect on our fitness routines, 64% of you have tried new online workouts since the start of the pandemic—I know I have. Maybe it’s because trying new things is easier in the comfort of our homes, maybe we’re finally able to try some classes we normally can’t find locally, or maybe we’re all just bored out of our minds...I don’t know. But I’m excited about it.
With an online gym membership, you can get that spice you’re looking for easily. Start out your Monday by hitting some HIIT, ease your sore muscles with some Restorative Yoga, and end the week with some dance cardio to pretend you’re at the club. The world is yours.
4. Working out without a commute
My favorite part? No commute. There are literally no more excuses when it comes to skipping workouts. No traffic, no schedule conflicts, no fear of returning to the studio. You don’t even have to worry about packing a gym bag with a change of clothes and shower supplies or prepping a snack or protein shake to bring to work. Just shut your computer, throw on some leggings, and get to work.
Community—the element of online fitness memberships we don’t often think of. When we go into studios, we understand the beauty of a fitness community. We’re greeted by our instructors, we chat with others in the class, and we all sweat together and encourage each other throughout. But working out at home is different... or is it?
We can do workouts on our own at home all we want, but we’re definitely going to miss out on the community aspect we all know and love. But, with live stream classes, we can create a different kind of community. The beauty of it? It’s not just your neighbors anymore. Anyone with an online fitness membership can join these classes, regardless of where they’re located in relation to the studio, so you can be working out alongside people from all over the world—now that’s something I can get behind.