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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.
The hybrid-style of virtual and in-person classes has become the new normal for the majority of fitness studios across the world. While we all have augmented our workout schedules to accommodate in-person and online classes, I suddenly got the motivation (it could be because I am getting married soon) to get back into in-person HIIT classes.
Pre-COVID, I had just started getting into HIIT. Coming from a girl who grew up dancing and doing barre her whole life, it was a big adjustment for me, but I started to love the classes. And with studios near me reopening, I realized that I felt ready to go back into the studio to test out a new style of HIIT class.
I found Gemini Fit by Scott Baker on the Mindbody app. It’s a HIIT/ Tabata training studio in San Diego, CA that aims to create a unique, fun, effective group and personal training experience. What immediately sold me was the class sizes were limited to 5-6 people to allow for social distancing, so I signed up a week or so in advance and was ready to go.
Not going to lie, when the day came to go to class, I was a bit nervous—what was an in-person class going to look like in the new normal? Luckily, my fears subsided when I arrived.
Scott excitedly welcomed me and gave me the low-down on everything in the studio. I got there 10 minutes early to make sure I had enough time to go through everything and check in. I also got to meet the studio mascot, Alabama, Scott’s adorable dog! Scott explained that the class would be HIIT/Tabata style (like an F45 class), where you go from station to station for a certain amount of time. He explained the exercise at each station and equipment accompanying.
He then went over the several COVID-19 precautions they were taking:
• Limiting the classes to 6 people
• Sanitization wipes and hand sanitizer at each station
• 50-minute class times
• Masks required in the lobby areas (can be worn working out depending on comfort
• Optional gloves
• Extra cleaning between each class and station
I was a bit intimidated; my workout regimen had been less than optimal (thanks, COVID), so I was scared to get back into things. Once we got moving all my concerns disappeared, and I got into a groove. The music was blasting, the exercises were dynamic, fast-paced, and effective. Each station had different props and moves, and they all felt extremely safe and clean.
What stood out to me immediately was the personalization of the class.
I was so impressed with the way he personalized each move at the different stations for each person. He really gets to know his team and provides separate workouts for everyone based on their comfort level and what they want to achieve—it’s almost like a personal training session!
As the 50-minute class was drawing toward the close, I realized I didn’t want it to end! It had flown by due to the moving of stations and dynamic mix of exercises. I was feeling the burn and going to be sore the next day—but I loved it.
What I enjoyed most about the class was the fact that I felt so safe the entire time, and could go at my own pace and comfort level, which is especially nice coming back to an in-person for the first time since COVID-19. I can’t wait to go back and would recommend trying the class. The fast-paced style of HIIT may not be for everyone, but if you're looking for a new workout to mix up your fitness routine, it’s definitely worth a try.
Want to try it for yourself? Book a class at Gemini Fit! Not ready to go in person, browse virtual HIIT on Mindbody.