Fall Back Into Fitness

Summer can be a busy time with vacations, lazy days by the lake and barbecues… so many barbecues. It can be difficult to stick to a fitness routine with so much going on. 

On the bright side, the kids are about to go back to school and most people’s schedules are about to settle back down to a normal rhythm. Whether you have kids or not, this is the perfect time to hit the reset button on your health and wellness routine.

Stuck on how to get started? Here is a simple approach to make getting fit and staying healthy easy as 1-2-3.

Schedule Time

Make being active a priority. Many studios and gyms have special promotions this time of year. See what is available in your area and find a time that suits your schedule. The City of Kawartha Lakes launches a variety of fitness and wellness programs in the fall. Their community guide is widely available and registration is as easy as a click or phone call.

Start Small

There is no need for a grand gesture if getting out to a scheduled class is too intimidating. Connect with a friend and make a plan to get out for a walk every day. Being accountable to someone else will help motivate you to lace up your shoes and the social aspect will help the time pass quickly. You will be getting fit without even realizing it!

Celebrate Successes

Creating lasting change takes time and it is easy to get discouraged when we don’t immediately see the results we are looking for. Don’t just focus on the numbers. How you feel says more about your overall health than the numbers on a scale or pedometer. Find reasons to mark each milestone on your journey - more energy throughout the day, better, more restful sleep, reduced anxiety are all reasons to celebrate.

Expressing Gratitude Through Acupressure

Acupressure is a great way to encourage blood circulation in your hands,  relax your body and mind, and it just feels great.

Besides just feeling terrific, this acupressure hand movement exercise is designed to stimulate energy lines, or meridians, found in the hands and connecting to your various organs in the body.

To start the exercise, begin to observe your palms. How to they feel? What colour are they? Take a moment of gratitude and appreciation for your hands and everything they do for you on a daily basis. 

Next, make light fists with your hands and begin to tap the pinky sides of your hands together. Do this for a few seconds and start to move to tapping the insides of the wrists together.

Continue to work your way around the outside of the hands, tapping the outside of the hands, where the thumb and wrist meet.

Now open up the left hand, palm facing up. Make a fist with the right hand and gently tap the fist between the first and second knuckle of the open left palm. Switch hands and repeat.

Next, turn your hands so the backs of your hands are touching, and begin to tap the backs of the hands together.

Gently tap the webs between the pointer finger and thumb together.

Interlace your fingers and tap the webs between each finger. If this is not accessible to you, you can massage your fingers or explore slowly interlacing one finger at a time.

The last step in the process is to slowly massage and rub your hands. If you like, place your hands on a part of your body that is presenting with a challenge. Feel the healing energy of your hands working its way into your body. When you feel ready, slowly remove your hands. 

Get Some Quality Rest

Exercise, eat well, and get a good night’s sleep. Great advice we hear over and over again.  All three are vital to physical health and well-being, but proper rest, on a regular basis isn’t just a good idea, it is essential. 

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5 Steps to a Healthy Lifestyle

Exercising in the summer heat can be a problem if you're not careful, particularly in extreme heat and humidity. But the heat should not stop you from living a healthy lifestyle. Here are five simple ways to have a healthier day. 

1. Do Something You Love
If your passion is playing piano, writing short stories, or knitting, make time to do it, even if just for a short time. Doing what you love will bring a sense of joy to your day.

2. Practice Gratitude
Make it a habit to take a few minutes every day to jot down two or three things you are grateful for. Regardless of how small the things may be, the important part is truly feeling grateful.

Practicing gratitude helps you see the goodness in your life and can increase your overall sense of well-being.

3. Drink more water

Drinking plenty of water throughout the day flushes toxins from your body and boots the immune system.

Someone who is well hydrated is less likely to get sick. And who wouldn’t rather feel healthy the majority of the time.

4. Take a Walk in Nature
Spending time outside in nature can be very refreshing and renewing.  Even just a few minutes of sunlight and fresh air can brighten your day, especially if you spend most of your hours indoors.

In extreme heat, plan your walks for early morning or late evening, when temperatures are cooler.

5. Eat Healthy
It’s much more challenging to feel truly happy when you don’t feel well. But when you make healthy food choices, you feel better both physically and mentally. 

Make a habit of slowing down to eat. Take small bites and give yourself time to feel the texture and absorb the flavours in each bite. This will help to prevent overeating as you’re more likely to hear your body telling you it’s full. 

A few small changes can make a big difference to help live a healthier lifestyle.

Just Breathe - Deeply and Often

We are all born with the basic instinct to breathe. 

Inhaling and exhaling is second nature to us. But many of us aren’t breathing as fully or as deeply as we could. Our breath is key to our survival, but the ancient yogis also believed that breath is key to vitality and that yogic breathing practices, called pranayama, can have beneficial effects on our quality of life.

Mindful breathing—paying attention to your breath and learning how to control it—is one of the most effective ways to lower stress levels and improve a variety of health factors ranging from sleep quality to metabolism.

The many benefits of deep breathing include a reduction in stress and blood pressure, strengthening of abdominal and intestinal muscles and relief of general body aches and pains. Deep breathing also promotes better blood circulation, helps to release toxins from the body and aids in better sleep, resulting in increased energy levels. Focusing on your breathing during physical activities, such as exercise, can help you become more mindful of your body and improve your self-awareness.

How it's Done
Siting in a comfortable position, with hands resting on knees and shoulders relaxed, begin by exhaling all the breath from your lungs. Breathe in through your nose. Exhale slowly through your nose while you count to five. Tighten or tense your abdominal muscles. At the end of your breath, pause for two counts, then inhale slowly while you count to five. Expand your belly as you breathe in. Close your eyes and continue to slowly inhale and exhale, five to 10 times.

If your mind wanders during this exercise, don’t worry. Refocus on your counting. You will become more aware of your breathing and will find that it becomes easier to breathe deeply without overthinking it.

 

Stop Looking Over your Shoulder

The average yogi is aging. They are turning to yoga for the mind-related benefits the practice brings: reduced anxiety, lower stress levels and better sleep, to name a few.  

When you step onto your mat, it is important to remember that every body is different and yoga poses will look different on every body. While it is natural to glance over at the person next to you to see if you are doing a pose right, comparing your version of a pose to the one next to you can damage your body as well as your pride.  

The muscular constraints and skeletal limitations you carry with you will determine how your body will move in and out of poses during yoga.  Old, young, heavy, frail, recovering from illness or injury, everyone will interpret a pose differently. The key is to remember that developing your yoga practice means listening to your body and finding peace with your physical limitations.  

We are all built slightly differently when it comes to our bones and these differences determine how we move our bodies. It may be physically impossible to bend your body a certain way.  And when certain muscles that are key to perform a pose are too weak or too tight, neighbouring joints and muscles are called on to pick up the slack to get you into the pose—potentially in unsafe ways.  

Yoga is about being aware and present in the moment. To really practice yoga is to be fully accepting of where you are, body size, ability, restrictions, and all. Your body and your journey are unique to you, and using a block, strap or even a chair to get into a pose may be right for your body. Stop looking over your shoulder and start focusing on the only body that matters right now: yours.

Boost your Brain with Yoga

Yoga is the fastest growing fitness segment in North America.  And the average age of the practicing yogi is now over 45 years old. 

Maybe it is because yoga isn't just about stretching. People know that yoga great for strength and flexibility, but the benefits on brain function are even greater. 

After just 20 minutes, you will see a boost in focus and memory. After a few months, regular yoga practice can help improve stress levels, provide a better night’s sleep, lower blood pressure, and even contribute to increased bone density. 

Here’s how:

Yoga activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the opposite of the “fight or flight” instinct, also known as the “rest and digest” part of the body. This system helps the brain to wind down and relax.

The brain releases all kinds of good feelings after a yoga session. Scientifically speaking, dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin levels rise. These happy brain chemicals leave you feeling more creative and energetic while also reducing anxiety.

Many people who suffer from anxiety or depression see a huge benefit to doing yoga. While the happy brain chemicals increase, cortisol levels decrease. Cortisol is a hormone associated with stress and fear, and also decreases the size of the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which deals with discipline and self-control.

While the physical benefits of yoga might be obvious, the effects on the brain are significant and can’t be found in many other types of exercise. With so much evidence supporting regular practice, what is stopping you from giving yoga a try?

I Signed up for my first yoga class... now what?

Congratulations on starting your yoga journey. It can be a bit overwhelming for a first time yogi, so I have explained a few things to help make your first few classes run a bit more smoothly.

What to expect during your first yoga class:

Before class

Eating/Drinking: It is best to let meals or snacks digest before coming to class. After a meal, give yourself 2 hours before practicing yoga. After a snack, give yourself 1 hour. You may drink water during class as needed, but you may feel more comfortable if you hydrate before and after class.

What to wear: Wear comfortable, stretchy clothes that are not too loose. Choose appropriately based on how your clothing may respond to things like sweat, twisting, lying down, or bending forward.  I like to wear layers depending on the weather and the temperature in the room. It’s good to have the option to take off a layer if you get too hot. 

Bring: A yoga mat, towel, and water. We will have mats to borrow if needed, and other necessary yoga props for your convenience. If you are prone to getting cold, socks may be nice to slip on during savasana.

Avoid: Wearing strong scents such as perfumes, deodorants, essential oils, or cologne. 

Get there early: If it is your first time, please arrive 10-15 minutes early to fill out any necessary forms, get changed if needed, and settle in.

Once you arrive

Footwear: Take off your shoes and socks before you walk into the practice space and place them in the designated changing or shoe-storage area.

Electronic devices: Please turn your cell phone to vibrate, or, better yet, do not take it into the practice space with you. If you do need to keep your cell phone with you and turned on during class (i.e. if you are a physician on call or a pilot on standby), then please set it to vibrate. If you’ve brought your cell phone in with you and it accidentally rings aloud during class, please turn it off as soon as you safely can.

Communicate: If you have any injuries, limitations, or concerns, please notify your instructor before class begins so they can help you stay safe.

Hands and Feet: Don’t use hand cream or foot cream before class, you spend a lot of time grounding and gripping with your hands and feet. I’ve been there when I’ve used hand cream even in the morning and I’ve spent the class sliding on the mat. A good quality yoga mat with a good grip should also help.

During class

Format of the class: The class will be slightly different each time you come however generally the beginning of the class we sit or stand and take a few moments to close our eyes, connect with the breath and ground. This helps to bring us into the present moment and let go of our day. There will be a warm up, a series of postures which may target the whole body, legs, arms, backbends, core and then finally a relaxation called Savasana.

Take Child’s pose at any time: If at any point you feel that you need a rest, then please take Child’s pose, or any comfortable resting pose. You can return to this pose at any time—even if the teacher does not specifically cue it—and then rejoin the class when you are ready.

If you feel that you need to leave the room: It is not uncommon to experience dizziness, fatigue, or discomfort during your first yoga classes, especially if you are practicing in a warm room. If you must leave the room, then please choose a point in the class that is resting (i.e. Child’s pose or Down Dog) to excuse yourself, and leave and return quietly.

Communicate: Let your teacher know if you are confused, are having trouble with something, or are experiencing any pain. Your teacher is here to serve you but cannot help if s/he does not know there’s an issue. A quick mention to the teacher or asking for help can be the difference between having a horrible time and being comfortable enough to focus on your practice and other students may benefit from your question!

"I'm just here for the Savasana": Savasana, or Corpse pose, is the last pose we do in class, and consists of lying down on our mats with our bodies relaxed and our eyes closed so that we may absorb the benefits of our yoga practice. This is a very important part of yoga class, so please give yourself a full Savasana! Your teacher will let you know when it’s time to come out of the pose.

Namaste: I end my class my bringing my hands to heart centre and bowing my head down while I say Namaste. Don't be scared off by this, I’m acknowledging the connectedness between us and honouring you for attending class.

After class

Clean your immediate area: If you borrowed a mat from the studio, wipe it down if needed and return it. If there is moisture on the floor around your mat—either from your perspiration or your water bottle—wipe it up with your towel. If you used props, put them back.

Communicate: Speak with your teacher after class if you have any questions or concerns about your yoga practice.

Make sure you take your own belongings: Double-check that those are your shoes! This goes for anything else you leave out during class, like sweatshirts, jackets, or water bottles.

Congratulations on starting your yoga practice! If you'd like to join us for a class, see our class details and events here.