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Megan Kearney

Growing Mindful Partnerships in the Midst of Mayhem

Actionable steps we can all take now to come out of chaos stronger.

How extreme are these times? We are urged to physically distance ourselves in public and yet many of us find ourselves at home in close proximity to our partners and children. We are disconnected from our local community and extended family, but technology provides an extended sense of community outside of our walls. Life and routine is interrupted. 

Within our home, the stress and closeness can literally bring us together or exacerbate any underlying issues that our relationships might have been hiding. Globally, divorce rates and domestic abuse have spiked worldwide since Coronavirus appeared. On the flip side, experts predict an increase child births in the next 7-9 months.

“This pandemic is not treating everyone equally,” says Atlanta-based family and marriage therapist Sadé Ferrier. “Some couples are feeling the walls close in as pre-existing friction intensifies while others are relieved to slow down, talk more, and gaze into one another’s eyes.”

Ferrier says the one thing we have is common is that we are now faced with the current core temperature of our relationship. 

“Most distractions have been stripped away, making the status of your relationship more evident,” says the intimacy expert. “It’s a good thing. Whether you realize you need to address years of hidden wounds, or you realize that you truly do enjoy one another and need to make more space for reconnection.”

Psychotherapist and New York Times bestselling author Esther Perel suggests that we use this time “cocooning” to hone in on the people who really matter to you. Instead of bracing for the worst, we can embrace this opportunity in close quarters to build connection. Here are some ways to get started:

Set a Relationship Meeting

The idea of a meeting may sound tedious, but setting aside time for it is important. Often our mundane business of marriage, family or relationship infiltrates our day-to-day living. And now with this pandemic, it’s even more important to have a check in. 

You and your partner should schedule an agreed time once a week to discuss schedules, finances, home maintenance, planning, etc. Keep to an agenda for the meeting and keep it to a set time. This opens up your other time together for just fun and more effective ways of getting closer and building rapport. We actually have two meetings in our family — our marriage meeting and our weekly family meeting. The latter always ends in us playing some game or activity together. 

Make it Last

Collectively, our kisses and hugs are just too fleeting to have an impact on our brain and hormonal system. Science suggests a 6-second kiss, lips to lips. And for hugs, a full-on 20-second hug with each person supporting their own weight. The benefits are numerous from heart health and stronger immune system to the release of positive feel good hormones throughout the body.

Renown family therapist Virginia Satir once said, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”  In our marriage, we take this literally. My husband and I run a business together and on especially stressful days, we make it a game to stop and get a hug and reach our twelve. 

Give Each Other Space

All this togetherness, can be too much togetherness! Take time out for yourself and use it to set your own personal goals and daydream about your aspirations. Maybe even try journaling. The key is that you know yourself intimately. Ask yourself questions about who you want to be? And what do you want to do with your life that is fulfilling? Find a way to connect and express yourself. 

I highly recommend listening to Perel’s new four part workshop to help you learn how to navigate this time for yourself and your relationship with others. 

Intimacy Challenge

About a year ago, our trusted marriage adviser Dr. Mike issued us an intimacy challenge.

The goal: aim for 30 minutes a day cuddling, two times a week make out sessions that never ended in intercourse. In fact, we had to wait after 24 hours after a make out session to have sex! My husband and I had to set clear, ahem, rules of engagement. I definitely thought to myself that we would nail this challenge but we have found it challenging. And to this date, we have fun trying, and sometimes failing, to hit our goals. 

Seek Out the Different, Fun and Funny 

Even though we find ourselves limited in resources right now, try to be creative. Set up a picnic, dress up more than usual, arrange a dance party, or dinner by candlelight. 

Ferrier tells her clients to be sure to “add the element of playfulness. Touch should be fun – whether that be the fun of passion and intensity, or the fun of giggling and tickle fights.”

Lastly, don’t be afraid to laugh. Watch a funny movie, play a family game, but just find a way to laugh with each other.

Seek Outside Help 

Not everyone is experiencing harmony at home, and some of these tactics may be met with resistance or unable to get started. Or it is possible that a partner is too triggered with anxiety to reciprocate. It might be time to reach out virtually to a marriage counselor who can help you come to an understanding. 

Visit websites like BetterHelp and Psychology Today to screen counselors’ profiles. 

Ferrier recommends that couples should ask therapists what percentage of their clients are couples and what their specialities are. “Online counseling has unique differences, and you’ll have more success navigating this as a couple if your counselor is already skilled in couples counseling,” she adds.

Seven Ways to Fortify Your Wellbeing in 2020 and Beyond

Did you wake up on the first day of the new year ready to atone for the year before? I did. And millions of others around the world were making the same fresh start to their diets and physical routines. 

But these are only two of the seven areas that can improve your brain health, build your resilience to disease and fortify your immune system, leading to a greater sense of overall wellbeing. 

Movement

We may be familiar with the physical benefits of movement and exercise but compelling evidence shows that it also improves memory and cognition. A study published in the journal Neurology demonstrated that physical activity can slow brain aging by 10 years.

To get started, biohacker, human body and brain performance coach, Ben Greenfield recommends 20-30 minutes of fasted aerobic exercise a day.

Other ways to move your body: animal locomotion, strength training, yoga and myofascial release work. Most importantly, and after years of training, coaching and teaching, my best advice is for you to do something you love. 

Nutrition

We all know that we should cut sugar and limit processed foods. But did you know that eating a plant-rich anti-inflammatory diet can help reduce symptoms of depression and improve brain health. 

Recent findings demonstrated a significant drop in depression after eating a Mediterranean-style diet for over three weeks. Participants reported lower levels of anxiety and stress too. The Mediterranean diet is also linked to a reduced incidence of cancer, as well as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

Sleep

“Sleep is the beginning to our biological day,” says Dr. Satchin Panda, scientist and author of Circadian Code.  And yet an estimated 164 million Americans struggle to get enough. Dr. Panda suggests that the average person requires no less than 7 hours. 

If you are struggling with sleep, you might want to try resetting your circadian clock. First, establish a 12 hour eating window, with your last meal at least two hours before bedtime. Next, add exercise and movement to your daytime routine. Take in plenty of sunlight during the day and if you need it, take a nap. Dr. Panda, recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise during the day to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm.

At night, try restorative yoga, cool the bed or room temperature and add room darkening shades. Be sure to cut out technology as those lights stimulate the brain. Many experts recommend installing dimmer lights to help you begin to wind down. Lastly, mindful breathing practices and/or a progressive body scan will help you relax the body for bed. 

Mindfulness

Mindfulness encompasses both informal daily attention practices (ie walking, eating and breathing techniques) and formal mindfulness or meditation practice. In mindfulness, we are focused and attending to the task at hand. Lack of attention leads to disconnection, disorder and eventually disease.

If you are new to meditation, start with 2 minutes a day, just sitting and observing the breath. Quit the multi-tasking too. Allow yourself to do one activity with clarity and focus before starting the next. Wash the dishes to wash the dishes.

Research shows that meditation helps enhance learning and memory, lowers stress hormone levels by decreasing the cell size of the amygdala and can improve the quality of one’s life, general wellness and ability to fight disease. It can also help you live longer and helps activate the insula, a brain region that is said to be a key player in self-awareness and empathy.

Self-Mastery

Building your emotional intelligence means that you can recognize emotion in others, be empathetic and connect socially, and harness your own emotions. This practices helps us to become better at self soothing and regulating our nervous system. 

Start honing your emotional intelligence by learning about your own response to stress. Try journaling pleasant and unpleasant events. Document feelings and sensations in your body during those events. With friends and coworkers, practice noticing their emotions and being an active listener.

We are social beings who desire connection. It is vital that we improve our emotional intelligence to enhance our relationships with others to strengthen our wellbeing.

Connection

Science has long said that being married helps you live longer and reduce stress. But a healthy relationship is key. 

Sue Johnson, clinical psychologist and author of Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Loves, says that secret to loving relationships is emotional responsiveness.

People want to seen, heard and understood. When we synchronize emotionally, we connect and we tune in. When that doesn’t happen, the divide becomes deeper. People feel as though they are moving further apart. 

So to build your connection muscles. Express small acts of appreciation daily. Give more hugs. The physical act of cuddling reduces stress for the recipient and the giver. Hugs can improve your immune system, reduce blood pressure, release oxytocin, reduce perception of pain, among other things. 

Family therapist Virginia Satir said, “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” And for the maximum health benefit, hug for at least 20 seconds. 

Service

Aristotle once said that the essence of life is “to serve others and do good.” Research shows that volunteering helps you feel more socially connected, reduces occurrence of loneliness and depression, and lowers blood pressure and helps you live longer. 

It only takes service of 100-200 hours a year to reap the physical benefits. That’s 3 hours max a week!

Experts agree, the intention behind the service should be altruistic. A 2012 study in the journal Health Psychology found those who volunteered lived longer, but only if their intentions were to help others—not to make themselves feel better. 

Fortifying these seven areas doesn’t make you immune to outside threats, but it makes us more resilient in the face of them. Here’s to live longer and happier lives.  

15 Best Yoga Gifts on Amazon

For the yoga lover on your list this holiday season, don’t miss these highly rated yoga products you can buy on Amazon.

By Jenn Sinrich for The Healthy.

Say “Yes” to Yoga

Researchers and trainers consider yoga to be a healthy exercise—and a great one to add to your workouts. There are plenty of physical benefits, such as enhancing flexibility and promoting the circulation of blood and oxygen to our organs, explains Stephanie Mansour, Chicago-based weight-loss coach and corporate wellness trainer. But there are plenty of mental benefits as well. “Mentally, we become more mindful, quiet our thoughts, feel more peaceful, and become more relaxed,” Mansour says. So if someone on your gift list is big into yoga, gift them something that will enhance their practice and encourage them to continue. Here are some of the top-rated yoga gifts on Amazon to inspire your holiday shopping.

1. AmazonBasics Yoga & Exercise Mat with Carrying Strap

$17 – Shop Now

An affordable, easy-to-travel-with yoga mat is a no brainer for any yoga lover. It has all the basic qualities you’re looking for with a super-low price tag, so you can easily just stick it in your car or keep it in your gym locker. “It’s great for all types of yoga—hot, gentle, slow flow, etc.,” says Mansour “You can be rough with these and not feel guilty if you need to buy a new one or ruin it.”

2. Gurus Cork Yoga Mat with Natural Rubber Bottom

$99 – Shop Now

Yoga lovers will not only appreciate the natural and eco-friendly design of this cork-made yoga mat, but they will also love its supportive layer of sustainably sourced rubber. “It’s a true non-slip mat because it’s topped with a thin layer of cork that naturally displaces moisture and gets gripper when wet,” explains Ashley Matejka, NASM-Certified Personal Trainer, Yoga Alliance RYT 200 Yoga Instructor, and Yoga Nidra Facilitator. “The best part is that Gurus has teamed up with Trees For The Future and a tree is planted for every Gurus product sold.”

3. Manduka eKO Superlite Yoga Travel Mat

$38 – Shop Now

Many yogis are always on the go—to and from class. That’s why a travel-friendly mat can come in handy. This one, by Manduka, is a favorite of Nealy Fischer, certified yoga teacher, founder of The Flexible Chef, and author of Food You Want. “It’s thin, lightweight, offers amazing grip, folds into any available spot in your tote bag or suitcase, is made of biodegradable plastic, and it won’t flake or fade,” she says.

4. Alo Yoga Women’s Moto Legging

$77 – Shop Now

These made-for-yoga leggings are also very stylish so you can wear to and from class without feeling like you’re wearing workout clothes. They’re made from a breathable fabric with mesh detail so you don’t overheat in the middle of a warm class.

5. Yoga Jellies

$55 – Shop Now

Have bad knees? Instead of folding your mat one or two times, consider these handy gels for extra padding. “Most of us have been conditioned to persevere through pain, but Yoga Jellies allow you to challenge your body during your practice without the counterproductive pain,” says Matejka. “They’re a great way to protect your joints during practice, especially your knees and wrists.”

6. Manduka eQua Yoga Mat Towel

$32 – Shop Now

A yoga towel is a handy accessory to bring with you to any class, from Bikram to vinyasa. “It’s great for absorbing sweat, keeping your mat dry, and helping your hands and feet stay in place,” says Fischer. “I also love how it’s soft, lightweight, and offers split microfiber technology for better moisture absorption and wet-grip.”

7. Yoga Block Cork

$18 – Shop Now

A yoga block may seem like just one more thing to carry around, but they are so important for proper alignment and flexibility, according to Matejka. Like their yoga mat, Gurus makes a natural cork yoga block that’s sustainably sourced.

A yoga block may seem like just one more thing to carry around, but they are so important for proper alignment and flexibility, according to Matejka. Like their yoga mat, Gurus makes a natural cork yoga block that’s sustainably sourced.

A yoga block may seem like just one more thing to carry around, but they are so important for proper alignment and flexibility, according to Matejka. Like their yoga mat, Gurus makes a natural cork yoga block that’s sustainably sourced.

8. REEHUT Yoga Strap

$6 – Shop Now

Mansour uses this yoga strap to work out the tightness in her shoulders and neck when she’s at home—but it’s great for use in a yoga class as well to work out any kinks before you begin. “Just sit on your mat and do some shoulder and chest opening exercises while holding onto the strap,” she says.

9. Get Loved Up Nutrition Organic Vanilla Protein

$30 – Shop Now

Koya Webb, celebrity holistic health coach, yoga teacher, and author of Let Your Fears Make You Fierce, relies on this protein powder for a quick energy boost after a tough yoga class. “It allows my body to recover faster and relieves any soreness I might feel the next day,” she says.

10. Uhawi Yoga Mat Bag Large Yoga Mat Tote Sling Carrier

$28 – Shop Now

Any yoga lover lugging around the equipment they need for their practice will have trouble doing so without a bag to fit everything in. This one can store up to two mats, yoga blocks and anything else you’ll need for class. It has two velcro and zipper pockets to keep your small items safe too.

11. YogaAccessories MAXSupport Deluxe Rectangular Cotton Yoga Bolster

$40 – Shop Now

With nearly five stars and more than 160 ratings, it’s clear to see this bolster is a hit with the yogi crowd. Alison Heilig, running coach, personal trainer, yoga teacher pursuing her 500-hour certification with Yoga Medicine®, and author of The Durable Runner: A Guide to Injury-Free Running, is a huge fan. “The cover is removable and washable and it’s super thick and sturdy, which is excellent for restorative poses.”

12. Liforme Original Yoga Mat

$150 – Shop Now

This yoga mat might be on the pricier side, but its 4.5-star rating from 331 reviewers attest that it’s worth the expense. It’s made from entirely biodegradable materials and has an impressive grip that won’t slip even in the sweatiest of classes.

13. ANDI Women’s The ANDI Small Tote

$158 – Shop Now

For a carry-all tote that a yoga lover can take to and from class, or just about anywhere, this is a great buy. Its camo print is super in-style and it can be worn in three different ways. “They’re so great for a busy yoga teacher who is between locations,” says Megan Kearney, Yoga Medicine® instructor. “My bag holds a laptop, headphones, change of clothing, water bottle, personal effects, and a yoga mat.”

14. YogaDirect Deluxe Mexican Yoga Blanket

$26 – Shop Now

Most of us look forward to the end of class where your teacher instructs you to get into Shavasana, or corpse pose. This is where you can use your blanket to warm your body as you let go of all your muscle tension and simply melt into your mat. Heilig loves this blanket, which she gets compliments on all the time. “It’s thicker than other yoga blankets, it’s way more durable, it’s machine washable, and it comes in 11 fun colors!”

15. Free People Jaden Ribbed Knit Fringe Shawl/Wrap

$48 – Shop Now

A cold day won’t keep a yogi away from class, so a nice, warm scarf is essential. “This scarf does multiple tasks in my life and rolls up and tucks into my bag at the end of the day,” says Kearney. “I take it when I travel, rolling it around my neck for air travel, and as a blanket on red-eyes between coasts.”

If You Want To Fall Asleep More Quickly, These 12 Nighttime Stretches Can Help

Megan Kearney, a Yoga Medicine® E-RYT 500 instructor and Therapeutic Specialist, weighs in on some late night stretching to help your body recovery every night.
BY SYEDA KHAULA SAAD FOR BUSTLE.

Sometimes, falling asleep can be hard. Whether it’s because of stress from your day or because you can’t find the right position to fall asleep in, it can be frustrating to be laying awake in bed hoping you’ll fall asleep. And if you’ve tried everything from drinking warm milk at night to counting backward from 100, you’re probably desperate to find something to help you doze off. Well, you’re in luck, because you can do simple night time stretches that will help you fall asleep.

“Most of us run through our days quickly, there is rarely enough time for grounding, pause, stillness — surrender,” Nina Endrst, yoga instructor and holistic health coach, tells Bustle. “A wind down ritual supports a deep and restful sleep and gives us a chance to check in with ourselves. Breathing and stretching is a great way to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and decrease general anxiety — something all human beings struggle with in some way.” If you begin to work stretching into your nighttime routine, you make a habit of helping your body recover every night. And if you don’t know which stretches to start with, here are 12 you can do at night.

1. Legs Up The Wall

This is an easy pose you can do right in your bed (if it’s up against the wall) before you sleep. Lie flat on your back with your butt touching the wall. Lift your legs up and put them against the wall, with the back of your heel on the wall, feet parallel to your torso. Then, rest your head and neck back. If you want, you can even cross your legs over each other. “I like to place one hand on my heart and one on my belly and practice deep breathing here,” Endrst says. “It’s also great for circulation, stretching the hamstrings, and relieving lower back pain.”

2. Forward Fold

Start in a downward dog position and then walk your hands back toward your feet, stopping when your chest is pressing against your legs. Then, let your head dangle. “Let the arms hang if you wish or take hold of opposite elbows behind the knees and hug everything in tight to hold yourself here,” Endrst says. By doing this pose, you allow your neck and shoulder tension to be released, and stretch out your calves, hamstrings, hips, getting your body more relaxed and ready to rest for the night.

3. Supta Baddha Konasana

Sit on the floor with your knees bent facing up, and then lower your back to the ground or your bed. Then, keeping your feet side-by-side, lower your knees to opposite sides, creating a diamond shape with your legs. You can use blankets to support your knees if you want. “Place one hand on your heart and one on your belly,” Endrst says. “Rest for 10 minutes and elongate the breath, inhaling for a count of three, exhaling for a count of four.” This pose is known as a restorative pose because it works to improve circulation and can even relieve symptoms of stress, depression, and menstruation.

4. Pigeon

You begin in downward facing dog. Then, you lift your right leg up and bend that knee. Open up your hips by pointing that knee out to the side. Then bring your body and your knee to the floor. You should end up sitting with your right shin down on the mat and your left leg stretched out behind you. “Inhale, lift your pelvic floor, draw your navel in and up,” Endrst explains. “Inhale to create space in your lower belly here. As you exhale gently wave and release yourself down to the ground. Rest here 10-20 breaths, then switch sides.” This position can aid in digestion and stimulate abdominal organs.

5. Bridge Waves

This is a little remix to the well-known “bridge pose.” “Start out lying flat on your back with the souls of your feet on the earth,” Endrst says. It’s important to focus on your breathing. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, pushing your hips up with every inhale. During this, bring your arms over your head and move them in a wave-like motion. “Draw your heart toward your chin and keep a soft gaze toward the sky,” Endrst says. “As you exhale, gently wave your spine down flat on the mat and rest. Repeat 5 times.” This pose can improve circulation and calm your mind and body down, making it easier to fall asleep.

6. Figure 4 Pose

Lay flat on your back and then bring your right ankle to to your left knee, imitating the number “4” with the shape of your legs. Then, grab your left shin (or thigh if it’s easier) and bring it toward your chest, holding it for three minutes before switching. “This is a great hip opener that also releases the low back after a long day in repetitive positions.” Megan Kearney, a Yoga Medicine instructor, tells Bustle.

7. Resting Jackknife

For this pose, you’ll need a pillow or some sort of block to place under you. Start on your back with your knees bent and feet touching the floor. Raise your hips and then place the pillow or block you chose underneath the bottom of your spine, without touching it. Bring your knees up over your hips while keeping your lower back curved. Kearney advises to bring your knee to your chest, keeping your spine in place, all while extending the opposite leg and putting it on the ground. Hold the pose for 2-3 minutes before switching sides. “This is a great way to release the hip flexors,” Kearney says. “If you sit or drive most of the day, these muscles tend to shorten. Releasing them can help ease low back pain and help you sleep easier at night.”

8. Sphinx

This move is simple to do. Lay down flat on your stomach and then bring your elbows under your shoulders, holding your body up in a plank position. Then, relax your shoulders, buttocks, and back, Kearney says, letting everything fall to the floor. “Again, most of us sit all day at our jobs. This pose can help open the front line of the body and also gently stimulate the adrenals, part of our endocrine system responsible for delivery of stress hormones, as well as assisting our immune system,” she says.

9. Myofascial Release

“A long day in a consistent posture can be exhausting and dehydrating to our tissues,” Kearney says. She suggests using the myofascial release roller on your lower back and gluteal muscles so that you can ease this pressure in your body, making it easier to fall asleep afterwards. Begin on the right side of your gluteals and then work your way from the bottom of your spine to your hips or from your hips to just beneath them. “Stay off bone and just move on soft tissue,” Kearney says. “Be sure you are able to comfortably maintain your deep focused breath.”

10. Progressive Body Scan

This is less of a yoga pose and more of a relaxation technique to calm yourself, but it does begin with you laying on your back. All you have to do is lie back and list each and every one of your body parts, starting from your toes, working your way up to your face. “Another technique that helps induce the relaxation response,” Kearney says.

11. Simple Neck Stretch

This stretch is simple, yet makes a world of a different. Begin by sitting at the edge of your bed with your right hand placed underneath your right thigh. Then bring your left hand over your head to hold the right side of your head. Then pull your head toward your left shoulders. “This will open up the muscles in your neck, and alleviate pressure.” Austin Martinez, MS, ATC, CSCS, director of education for StretchLab, tells Bustle. Martinez suggests holding the pose on each side for 30 seconds, and repeating three times. “During all these stretches it is important to concentrate and maintain your breathing,” he says. “Deep breathing not only allows you to get into a deeper stretch, but will also reduce your stress and tension prior to sleeping.”

12. Hamstring Stretch

“By stretching our your hamstrings, you can diminish tension in your lower back and lower body,” Martinez says. Start by laying flat on the floor, with your bed parallel to your hips. Place a leg up on the bed and bend at the hips. Martinez says that you don’t have to bend too far so long as you make sure you’re pivoting your hips and keeping your back straight. Hold this position and then, repeat this stretch, with your foot rotated inward and then outward. “This will activate different areas of your hamstring and reduce overall tension,” Martinez says.

While these poses can be a great way to unwind and release tension at night, if you’re having repetitive sleep issues despite all your efforts, you may want to consult a doctor to see if there is a more serious, underlying issue you should be getting treated for, because everyone deserves a good night’s sleep.

The Kinetic Fitness Show Podcast Interview

Ali West interviews Megan Kearney for his The Kinetic Fitness Show Podcast.

How To Live A Longer, Healthier, Happier and More Joyful Life With Megan Kearney

In this episode we discuss:

  • Yoga Medicine
  • Megan‘s daily practices
  • How Megan and her husband are helping first responders with their physical and mental wellbeing
  • Megan’s tips for living a longer, healthier, happier and more joyful life
  • Plus much much more!

Learn more about Megan here and check out Kinetik Fitness’s website for more information.

Click here to listen to the Kinetik Fitness Show Podcast with Megan, and also check out the podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotify and Instagram!

Nick Carrier’s Best You Podcast Interview

Nick Carrier interviews Megan Kearney for his Best You Podcast.

The Power of Meditation

Learn the 4 keys to finding your joy, learn the power of meditation, and the importance and necessity of building your own self awareness.

Megan Kearney is one of thousands of Yoga Medicine teachers across the globe who are rigorously educated in a fusion of anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics with he traditional practice of yoga.

In this episode, Megan goes into some of the tough experiences her and her husband have had. She talks about sleep deprivation and it’s link to suicide and so much more!

Learn more about Megan at www.megankearneymovement.com and more about Yoga Medicine and how it might be able to help you at www.yogamedicine.com.

Please leave a 5-start rating and review if you enjoyed this episode!

Click here to listen to the Best You Podcast with Megan, and also check out the podcast on Apple PodcastsFacebook and Instagram!

Make Like a Tree: 7 Steps to Balance Your Body this Fall

Megan Kearney for Yoga Digest shares the perfect routine of yoga for fall. Find balance in the transition from summer to winter with these insights from Traditional Chinese Medicine.

As the sun starts to set faster and fold into cooler nights, we begin to see the trees, once working hard to acquire energy from the sun, release and let go of their leaves. Autumn is definitely a time for taking in and letting go.

So too is our internal nature. We may find ourselves appreciating our hard efforts and passionate pursuits, even enjoying the fruits of our labor, as we move towards more of a harvesting time of year.

Traditional Chinese Medicine & Fall

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is an ancient practice that supports health and wellness, and believes in harmony between the opposing complementary forces of yin and yang. TCM also believes that the human body is a microcosm of the expansive universe around us. The five elements that appear in nature (fire, earth, wood, metal and water) also appear within us and represent all manners of life and explain the function of the body and how it changes during dis-ease. In TCM, disease is a result of an imbalance between yin and yang, and fluctuation of energy within the five elements. This vital energy that flows through the body is known as qi (CHI) and performs multiple functions in the body and helps maintain health.

Each season corresponds with an element, just as we have different seasons in our own lives. This time of year is defined by the metal element and the meridians of lung and large intestine. This is a time to literally draw in a breath of fresh air — called “grasping the qi of the heavens” — and find inspiration in our daily living, create healthy boundaries and firm schedules for meet our need for routine and ritual.

When the energy movement through the meridians of the lung and large intestine is imbalanced, we might be especially rigid or stuck to a particular way of doing things. We might be socially cut off or extremely judgmental of others and their decisions. And you might be seen as a perfectionist or a rather dogmatic individual. Of course, there is the extreme imbalance — where one is sloppy with their work and places very little value in their work. We might find ourselves sick often, struggling with upper respiratory issues, allergies and just an overall poor immune system.

1.) Breath work:

Laying on your back, place your right hand on your belly and your left hand on your chest. Breathe into your belly, feeling the right hand rise and then spilling over into the left hand. Exhale from the left hand and then the right hand at the belly. If you are used to another way, do what feels comfortable and be consistent. Breathe for 2-4 minutes.

2.) Supine pec roll:

Using a yoga blanket, roll your blanket long ways and then lay over the blanket, matching your spine over the yoga blanket. You can use a second blanket at the neck to support your cervical spine. Allow your arms to open out to cactus arms even overhead holding your elbows. Relax for 5 minutes.

3.) Cat pulling its tail:

Lay on your right side. Scissor your legs with your left leg forward and your right leg back. Sweep open your left arm and reach back and grab your bent right leg around the ankle. If available, grab your left foot with your right hand. Slowly lower your left shoulder to the mat. Hold for 2-4 minutes. Switch sides.

4.) Reverse tabletop:

Sitting upright, place your hands behind you and plant your feet hip distance apart, knees bent. Push through the hands and puff the chest, bringing the shoulder blades onto the back. Gently lift the hips into the letter “M” or higher into a reverse tabletop. Hold for 5-7 breaths.

5.) Supine gomukhasana arms:

Lying on your back, take your right hand behind your head, holding the nape of the neck or even placing your hand palm up between the shoulder blades. Roll to your right, tucking the left arm behind you at the lower back or as high as the shoulder blades, palm facing down. Feel free to bind if it is comfortable. Roll back to your back and relax over your hands. Relax for 2 minutes. Repeat on the other side.

6.) Contemplate something bigger than yourself:

Get outside and seek inspiration from the natural world. Balance your daily routine of the mundane with some moments of walking in nature appreciating the bigger picture.

7.) R-E-S-P-E-C-T:

Respect YOURSELF! Let go of your imperfections, let go of the things that no longer serve you, and focus on a life without regrets or complaints. This will require working to accept fear and vulnerability. Be bold, be brave! People with integrity live with curiosity and courage over comfort and complacency. Create a mantra or positive affirmation and practice reading it in the mirror daily.

These are just a few steps to help you balance your qi this fall, to see your own fantastic value, and to encourage you to hold on to the things you need and let go of the rest.

How to Practice Hot Yoga Safely

Christina Heiser for A Sweat Life shares some safety tips for those looking to explore hot yoga for the first time.

How to Practice Hot Yoga Safely

Types of Yoga: A Guide to the Different Styles

Stepfanie Romine for The Beachbody Blog shares a guide to the different types of yoga being practiced today, with a suggestion of who might like or benefit from each specific style.

Your Guide to the Different Types of Yoga

Yoga has come a long way in the past few years. Take a look at any studio’s schedule and you’ll see so many different types of yoga, from ashtanga yoga and kundalini yoga to aerial yoga and acro yoga. You might have even heard about — or tried — some of the more modern and unusual iterations of the ancient practice: hip-hop yoga, HIIT yoga, and naked yoga…just to name a few.

Yoga practice is thousands of years old. However, it only arrived in the US in the late 1800s and only firmly took root within the last few decades. Since then, yoga has gone from a practice associated with hippies, to one that’s practiced by nearly 37 million people.

And not all of these millions of people go to a yoga studio to do their downward dogs. If you like to unroll your mat at home (like with Beachbody Yoga Studio) you’re not alone: That’s the number one place people practice.

What Is Yoga?

“Plain and simple, yoga is the union between the body, mind, and spirit. That’s the origins of yoga and that’s how it is practiced in the East,” says Miriam Amselem, yogi of nearly 30 years. “It is a place of discovery and connection with your own body that encompasses balance, proper stretching techniques, breathing, meditation, centering the mind and spirit — that’s yoga in its real form.”

However, you’ll find that every type of yoga has a slightly different definition or interpretation. That is why we see things like goat yoga (a.k.a. doing yoga with goats running and jumping around) popping up alongside traditional forms like Iyengar and ashtanga.

But above all, yoga ignores the “no pain, no gain” philosophy that’s rife in fitness communities. Yoga is not a place to push through, go beyond your edge, or ignore your body. The primary tenet is ahimsa, or non-harming, and that starts with choosing the right type of yoga for you.

Types of Yoga

13 Types of Yoga: How to Choose the Right Kind for You

When you’re trying to determine which of the different types of yoga is best for you, remember that there is no right or wrong one— just one that might not be right for you at this moment.

“Like any form of exercise, choose something you want to do,” says Stephanie Saunders, executive director of fitness at Beachbody and a certified yoga instructor. “Bikram or Iyengar might appeal to you if you are a very detailed person. If you are more of a free spirit, vinyasa or aerial yoga might be fun. Find a class that makes you excited to go.”

So which one will get you excited? Our guide to the common types of yoga can help you decide whether you’re in more of a restorative yoga or a power yoga kind of mood, or anything in between.

Kundalini Yoga

Yogi Bhajan, teacher, and spiritual leader, brought this style of yoga to the West in the late 1960s. “Kundalini” in Sanskrit translates to “life force energy” (known as prana or chi in the yoga community), which is thought to be tightly coiled at the base of the spine. These yoga sequences are carefully designed to stimulate or unlock this energy and to reduce stress and negative thinking. “You get to elevate your consciousness and feel great,” says Veronica Parker, an E-RYT 200, and a certified kundalini yoga teacher.

This is accomplished by challenging both mind and body with chanting, singing, meditation, and kriyas (specific series of poses paired with breath work and chanting). You might notice everyone is wearing white, as it’s believed to deflect negativity and increase your aura. Typically, a kundalini class starts with a mantra (a focus for the class), then includes breathing exercises, warmups to get the body moving, increasingly more challenging poses, and a final relaxation and meditation, says Parker.

Who Might Like It: Anyone in search of a physical, yet also spiritual practice, or those who like singing or chanting.

Vinyasa Yoga

Vinyasa yoga is also called “flow yoga” or “vinyasa flow”. It is an incredibly common style. One example is 3 Week Yoga Retreat’s flow yoga for beginners. It was adapted from the more regimented ashtanga practice a couple of decades ago. The word “vinyasa” translates to “place in a special way,” which is often interpreted as linking breath and movement. You’ll often see words like slow, dynamic, or mindful paired with vinyasa or flow to indicate the intensity of a practice.

“Vinyasa flow is a style of yoga where the poses are synchronized with the breath in a continuous rhythmic flow,” says Sherrell Moore-Tucker, RYT 200. “The flow can be meditative in nature, calming the mind and nervous system, even though you’re moving.”

Vinyasa yoga is suitable for those who’ve never tried yoga as well as those who’ve been practicing for years.

Who Might Like It: Anyone who wants more movement and less stillness from their yoga practice.

Power Yoga - Types of Yoga

Hatha Yoga

Hatha yoga derives its name from the Sanskrit words for sun and moon, and it’s designed to balance opposing forces. The balance in hatha yoga might come from strength and flexibility, physical and mental energy, or breath and the body. “Hatha is a blanket term for many different ‘styles’ and schools that use the body as a means for self-inquiry,” says Jennifer Campbell-Overbeeke, E-RYT 500.

It’s often used as a catch-all term for the physical side of yoga, is more traditional in nature, or is billed as yoga for beginners. “Hatha translates to ‘forceful,’ but this relates more to the aspect of concentration and regularity of practice rather than applying unnecessary force to the body,” says Campbell-Overbeeke.

To be considered hatha, classes must include a mix of asana (poses), pranayama (breathing exercises), and meditation, so other types of yoga — like Iyengar, ashtanga, or Bikram — are technically considered to be hatha yoga as well.

Who Might Like It: Anyone looking for a balanced practice, or those in search of a gentler type of yoga.

Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga yoga consists of six series of specific poses taught in order. Each pose and each series is “given” to a student when their teacher decides they have mastered the previous one. This is a very physical, flow-style yoga with spiritual components — you might remember it as the type Madonna did in the late ’90s. Ashtanga teachers give hands-on adjustments, and in Mysore-style studios (named after the city where the practice’s guru, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, lived and taught), each student has a unique practice.

“The practitioner moves at the pace of her own breath and to her personal edge, or growth point,” says Lara Land, a level two authorized ashtanga teacher. “Each person memorizes the practice and moves at her own pace through the poses.”

Ashtanga vinyasa yoga is often taught as “led” classes in the West, where the first or second series is taught from start to finish over the course of 90 minutes to two hours. There is no music played in ashtanga classes.

Who Might Like It: Anyone who likes routine or a more physical yet spiritual practice.

Yin Yoga

Yin yoga is a slower style of yoga in which poses are held for a minute and eventually up to five minutes or more. It is a type of yoga with roots in martial arts as well as yoga, and it’s designed to increase circulation in the joints and improve flexibility. The practice focuses on the hips, lower back, and thighs and uses props like bolsters, blankets, and blocks to let gravity do the work, helping to relax. While other forms of yoga focus on the major muscle groups, yin yoga targets the body’s connective tissues.

Yin also aids recovery from hard workouts. “Adding a deep stretch and holding class like yin can be extremely beneficial to a strong body,” says Megan Kearney, a Yoga Medicine instructor. Holding poses longer benefits the mind as well as the body, providing a chance to practice being still. “This is a beautiful practice that honors stillness,” says Moore-Tucker. “This style of practice is a great balance for vinyasa flow.”

Who Might Like It: Those who need to stretch out after a tough workout, or anyone interested in a slower-paced practice.

Restorative Yoga - Types of Yoga

Iyengar Yoga

Named for its founder, B.K.S. Iyengar, who developed his classical, alignment-based practice in India. This type of yoga became popular in the US in the 1970s. Iyengar yoga is known for the high level of training required of its teachers and for its resourceful use of props. While considered optional in many practices, multiple props are used in Iyengar classes — including chairs, walls, and benches, in addition to more common ones like straps, blocks, and bolsters.

Paul Keoni Chun, an E-RYT 200, likes this more static form of yoga for older adults, since it “emphsizes detailed alignment and longer holds of positions.” Iyengar yoga is usually less intense than other types of yoga, although that can vary based on the instructor or class. But generally, it’s suitable for people of all ages and skill levels.

Who Might Like It: Someone who likes detailed instruction, anyone with physical limitations, or those in search of a more classical form of yoga.

Bikram Yoga

Bikram Choudhury developed Bikram yoga. It is a form of hot yoga. These classes, like ashtanga classes, consist of a set series of poses performed in the same order, and the practice has strict rules. Each class is 90 minutes, with 26 postures and two breathing exercises, and the room must be 105° Fahrenheit with 40 percent humidity. Additionally, instructors do not adjust students.

Since Bikram yoga has so many rules, many studios simply call their classes “hot yoga” so they can customize their offerings. Devotees of hot yoga tout the massive amount of sweat and the added flexibility the practice gives them.

“Practicing yoga in a heated environment allows students to get deeper into postures, improves circulation, and aids in detoxifying the body,” says Natalie Sleik, RYT 200, who teaches hot power yoga.

Who Might Like It: Anyone who likes to sweat, someone who wants a more physical practice, or those who like routine.

Hot Yoga - Types of Yoga

Power Yoga

Like vinyasa yoga, power yoga traces its roots to ashtanga but is less regimented and is more open to interpretation by individual teachers. “Power yoga is generally more active and is done at a quicker pace than other styles of yoga,” says Chun.

Sleik adds that “power yoga strengthens the muscles while also increasing flexibility. The variation of sequences keeps the brain engaged while you work all muscle groups in the body.”

Power yoga can be hot yoga or not, and some studios offer a mix of power and slow flow yoga to ease students into this intense practice. Fans of power yoga may also like buti yoga, which is just as physical but also includes tribal dance, primal movements, and plenty of core work.

Who Might Like It: Those who like ashtanga but want less rigidity, anyone who wants a good workout, and anyone who wants a less spiritual yoga practice.

Sivananda Yoga

Sivananda yoga is a form of hatha yoga based on the teachings of Hindu spiritual teacher Swami Sivananda. Classes are generally relaxing: while most yoga classes end with savasana (a final relaxation/corpse pose), Sivananda starts with this pose, then moves into breathing exercises, sun salutations, and then 12 basic asanas.

Kearney likes this practice for “someone looking for more spiritual or energetic work,” while Saunders says such Sivananda yoga can help push yourself to the next level if you’re a beginner. Designed to support overall health and wellness, Sivananda yoga is appropriate for all levels and ages.

Who Might Like It: Those looking for a gentler form of yoga, anyone who wants a more spiritual practice.

Restorative Yoga

If you walked by a restorative yoga class, you might think everyone was taking a nap on their mats. This form of yoga uses props to support the body. The goal is to completely relax into poses, which are held for at least five minutes but often longer. This means that you might only do a handful of poses in a class, and it’s perfectly acceptable to drift into sleep during them.

Some teachers might even lead you through yoga nidra – a guided meditation that allows you to hover blissfully between sleep and wake. One hour in yoga nidra is said to equal a few hours of shuteye, and while that can be a good self-care tool, it can’t replace a healthy night’s sleep.

Though all different types of yoga can aid stress relief and brain health, restorative yoga places its focus on down-regulating the nervous system. Restorative yoga can benefit those who need to chill out and de-stress, and it can also be used as part of your rest-day self-care. “Taking time to relax in a restorative class can have a huge impact on an athlete,” says Kearney.

Who Might Like It: Anyone who needs to de-stress, those dealing with pain, and someone who struggles to relax.

Prenatal Yoga

Yoga can be a wonderful workout for moms-to-be. It often focuses on easing pains associated with pregnancy, such as sore hips or an aching low back. Prenatal yogaprovides stress relief, exercise, and self-care in one session, and the breathing exercises can come in handy during labor and delivery.

Since this is a practice designed specifically for moms-to-be, it excludes poses that might be too taxing or unsafe for the changing body. (But make sure you check in with your doctor before beginning a yoga practice, if you are pregnant.) Yoga for pregnancy, such as the Active Maternity series on Beachbody On Demand, also often includes plenty of exercises to prepare your body for delivery, like squats and pelvic floor work.

Who Might Like It: Moms-to-be and new moms who are easing back into exercise.

Aerial Yoga

Aerial yoga — sometimes called anti-gravity yoga — is relatively new, but quickly catching on. It involves traditional yoga poses with the added support of a strong, silky hammock that hangs from the ceiling. The hammock is used as a supportive prop in poses like pigeon or downward dog, and helps you more easily perform inverted poses (like headstands and handstands) that might be beyond your abilities or comfort levels. It’s also used for a cocoon-like savasana (the final resting pose at the end of a yoga class). Classes can be either physically challenging or relaxing.

“Teaching aerial yoga has been so rewarding for me because I get to witness beginners gain body awareness and overcome fear of being inverted,” says Melissa Vance, RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher) 200, an aerial yoga teacher based outside of Atlanta. “Hanging upside down reverses the blood flow in the body and decompresses the spine providing much relief and a euphoric feeling.”

Who Might Like It: Those who want a nontraditional yoga experience, or anyone who wants the benefits of inversions but might fear going upside down on their own.

Aerial Yoga - Types of Yoga

Acro yoga

Acro yoga takes familiar yoga poses — like downward dog or plank — and makes them double the fun (and sometimes double the work) by adding a partner. One partner serves as the “base” on the ground, while the other is the “flyer” who contorts themselves on the soles of the base’s feet. (A spotter should always be involved for safety). “[Acro yoga] allows people to break from the rectangular confines of their yoga mat and find a connection with their fellow practitioners,” says Lyle Mitchell, a YogaSlackers acro yoga teacher in Asheville, NC.

This type of yoga helps you playfully explore your mind-body connection, develops effective communication skills with a partner, and aids in setting appropriate boundaries. “Exploring these skills through acro yoga can translate to strengthening these skills in all our other relationships in life,” he says.

Saunders recommends acro yoga “if you are looking for the physical benefits of yoga in a fun and interactive environment.” If you work as a base, it builds a strong lower body and core. Working as a flyer requires flexibility and strength, not to mention trust.

Who Might Like It: Those who enjoy practicing with a partner, couples looking to build trust and intimacy, or anyone with an adventurous streak who likes to go upside down.

The Takeaway

Every style of yoga has its unique benefits, and you might encounter a mix of many types of yoga in the same class. “I teach a mix of hatha, kundalini, yin, and restorative in my sessions — this keeps my students guessing and challenged,” says Amselem.

Want to try a variety of yoga workouts in the comfort of your own home? “The Beachbody Yoga Studio has all levels of yoga classes, including those needed to challenge the veteran yogi,” says Saunders.

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