Morning yoga classes in a group bring many benefits.

Rise and Shine: Benefits of Morning Yoga Classes

So you’re not a morning person and morning yoga classes seem daunting. That’s okay. Not everyone rolls out of bed energetic and ready to seize the day. However, making one small change to your morning routine could greatly enhance the quality of your lifestyle. Roll out your yoga mat in a morning yoga class, and you could reap the following fantastic benefits of getting your sweat on in the AM.

Improves Your Focus

You’ve got a long day ahead of you – piles of work, meetings, and running errands. The last thing you need is a tired, groggy brain. Luckily, there’s a great solution to this age-old problem – squeezing in a sweat session before work can actually help improve your focus and your cognitive abilities. In fact, studies have proven that working out is more effective at improving focus than downing a cup of coffee. So start making a habit of joining morning yoga classes and watch your productivity skyrocket.

Reduces Stress

By now, we all know that exercise helps lower stress levels. We also know that stress is extremely damaging to both our physical and mental health, which is why incorporating exercise into our daily routines is important. When you workout in the morning, you can banish stress from the get-go, which means that you can start your day clear-headed and stress-free.

Eliminates Excuses

Have to take the kids to hockey after school? Your significant other decided to plan a spontaneous date night? As the day progresses, plenty of distractions and obligations always seem to pop up, and it can be hard to say no to more exciting plans in order to hit the gym. If you squeeze in a morning yoga class, you’ll have fewer excuses to miss your daily dose of exercise – and you can hit happy hour. Seems like a win-win.

Fires Up Your Metabolism

We all know that we burn calories and boost our metabolism while exercising, but did you know that your metabolism stays fired up long after you workout? This effect is called Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption, or EPOC. Basically, if you work out in the AM, your body will be torching extra calories throughout the day, even if you’re stuck sitting at a desk. Exercising first thing in the morning ensures that your metabolism will be revving all day long.

Curbs Cravings

As the day goes by, our willpower seems to fade away, making those cookies and cake in the break room seem irresistible. Studies have shown that working out in the morning can help stave off cravings throughout the day, which means that you’ll be more likely to resist that free slice of post-meeting pizza.

Boosts Your Energy

Do you feel like a walking zombie until you take that first sip of coffee in the morning? Then you could significantly benefit from morning workouts, as getting your heart pumping early in the AM helps boost energy and wake up the mind so that you’re ready to attack the day. Who knows? Once you adopt a morning workout routine, you might even ditch coffee altogether.

Morning yoga classes might seem like a harsh schedule change, but nobody can argue with the myriad benefits of yoga in the morning. Evolve’s morning classes generally start between 9 and 10 am. View the full yoga classes schedule to plan your week. If work gets in the way, set your clock 30 minutes earlier than usual, and practice at home before heading off to work. Incorporating a morning workout into your daily schedule could be the key you’ve been missing to really seize the day.

Healing yoga practice and restorative yoga classes increase relaxation.

Yoga Classes and Looking After Your Health While Living with Hypothyroidism

Yoga classes and massage therapy can be a wonderful and healing part of your routine as you learn to live with Hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism, also known as an underactive thyroid gland, is a thyroid disease in which the thyroid gland fails to produce an adequate amount of thyroid hormone. It’s an increasingly common condition, affecting more women than men. According to the Thyroid Foundation of Canada, it’s estimated that 1 in ten Canadians suffer from a thyroid condition and half may be undiagnosed.

Thyroid hormone is responsible for the body’s metabolism and use of energy. Symptoms of an underactive thyroid gland include poor ability to tolerate cold, fatigue, weight gain, and constipation. It’s not known what causes hypothyroidism; it may be caused by a number of conditions including autoimmune disease, radiation, and medications.

In the majority of cases, hypothyroidism is treated by supplementing the thyroid gland with levothyroxine, a synthetic version of the thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4). This medication is typically taken in pill form on a daily basis. In Canada, a common brand name for levothyroxine is Synthroid.

However, many people find that taking a daily dose of levothyroxine isn’t enough to make them feel well, or as well as they did before they developed the condition. If you too find that you’re struggling to remain healthy while living with hypothyroidism, the following may help.

Exercise Right

While hypothyroidism shouldn’t stop you from exercising, you may find that you can no longer maintain the exercise schedule you previously did, or that you now need a lot longer to recover from a workout than you did before you developed hypothyroidism. These scenarios are fairly common for people with an underactive thyroid gland, so it’s important to learn not to push yourself and recognize when you are overdoing your activity. If you’re struggling to stick with an exercise regimen, consider switching from any high intensity workouts to activities such as aqua aerobics or yoga. The benefits of yoga are many and the various types of yoga classes provide something for everyone. For example, Gentle Hatha yoga classes focus on breathing, basic poses, slow movements, and relaxation to enhance the awareness of the mind-body connection. Yin yoga classes involve passive poses that are held for up to five minutes in order to encourage the softening of connective tissue and induce deep relaxation. These types of activities will still provide a beneficial workout but will be less stressful on your body.

It’s important to continue exercising and remaining active. As well as the physical benefits you will gain, keeping physically fit in group classes can help you avoid feelings of depression, another common symptom of hypothyroidism.

Reduce Stress

It’s especially important that people with hypothyroidism be mindful of any stress they might be exposing themselves to. Cortisol, a hormone released when the body is in a stressful situation, can adversely affect the function of the thyroid gland, in turn exacerbating hypothyroidism symptoms. Take steps to ensure that you’re managing stress as best you can, and if you feel that you’re not coping, then speak to your doctor.

Massage therapy can be a huge source of relaxation and has many additional benefits. For example, hot stone massage therapy is a soothing option.
Another example, manual lymphatic drainage is a type of gentle massage which is intended to encourage the natural drainage of the lymph, which carries waste products away from the tissues back toward the heart.

It may be that you can cut back on some tasks or get support from friends or relatives with certain commitments you have. It could be that you just need to slow down. Put your health first and make any changes you feel you need to.

Gluten-Free Diet

Although there’s currently no scientific evidence to prove a gluten-free diet will help those with hypothyroidism, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest it might. This is especially true if you suffer from Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also called Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disease and a common cause of hypothyroidism. With Hashimoto’s disease, the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland. The anecdotal evidence suggests that gluten triggers an attack on the thyroid gland; therefore, eliminating gluten from your diet may prevent such attacks.

Further anecdotal evidence has linked an immune intolerance in people with Hashimoto’s disease to dairy products. Again, it’s believed the body may mistake dairy for gluten, which triggers an attack on the thyroid gland.

If you’re failing to see improvements in your health while taking the medication prescribed by your doctor and are prepared to make modifications to your diet, with approval from your doctor, you may want to start by eliminating gluten or dairy, or both, from your diet.

Moderate Carbohydrate Diet

While a gluten- and dairy-free diet may help alleviate hypothyroidism symptoms, there is evidence to suggest that those with hypothyroidism should avoid a diet too low in carbohydrates. This is because insulin is needed to convert inactive T4 (which is what the thyroid gland produces) into active T3 (which is what the body’s cells use), and the production of insulin is generally low on a very low carbohydrate diet. Furthermore, restricting the intake of carbohydrate can cause a drop in blood sugar, which the body compensates for by producing an excess of stress hormones including adrenaline. The thyroid gland is needed for the production of stress hormones, so this process can be taxing on the thyroid gland. So you may want to check that you’re including a moderate amount of healthy carbohydrates in your diet if you don’t feel your health is as good as it could be.

Don’t look at hypothyroidism as preventing you from living the life you used to enjoy before your diagnosis. Yoga classes and massage therapy can be a part of your new lifestyle. All that’s needed are a few changes so that you can better manage your condition, and you’ll be more than able to continue to enjoy life and get the most from it.

Yoga and Chronic Pain: Here’s What You Need to Know

If you’ve been suffering from chronic pain, you aren’t alone. Many adults face chronic pain on a daily basis. Whether you’re dealing with headaches, fibromyalgia or arthritis, it’s important to understand how to learn to live with your pain and continue to lead a life that is as normal and healthy as possible. If you’ve been feeling down, don’t worry. Yoga and chronic pain are compatible, and yoga can help you improve your well-being.

How Is Chronic Pain Different from Acute Pain?

It’s important to understand the difference between acute and chronic pain. Although it’s easy to think that all pain is bad and uncomfortable, the truth is that there is quite a variation in these two types of pain. Acute pain typically lasts for a short period and has an apparent cause. For example, if you fall and break your ankle, you may suffer from sharp pain for a few weeks. If, however, you have headaches a few times a month and this goes on for years, you’re suffering from chronic pain. One of the primary issues with chronic pain is that many sufferers become depressed and anxious as time progresses without a viable resolution to the pain. Chronic pain may impact your personal life, and even your relationships, since the people around you may not understand how it affects you.

How Does Yoga Work?

Yoga offers an efficient way to learn how to meditate. You can use yoga or meditation while you’re having a pain flare-up or issue with your chronic discomfort. The skills you learn during yoga class or training will be transferable to your daily life. Additionally, you may find that the physical side of yoga helps calm your muscles, which leads to a reduction in physical tension. Some adults find that learning about yoga offers them a valuable way to stay fit despite chronic pain, while others enjoy the repetitious and methodical act of performing each pose during a yoga session.

Is Yoga Right for Me?

One of the primary benefits of yoga is that you don’t have to be in perfect shape or perfect health to begin training. The right yoga instructor will help you move from beginner to expert. You’ll learn how to achieve each yoga pose, how to control your breathing, and how to relax your muscles. Remember that for many chronic pain patients, tense muscles can dramatically exacerbate pain. Learning to calm those muscles can lead to feelings of wellness and fewer pain episodes.

No matter what type of chronic discomfort you’re experiencing, it’s time to start moving forward with your life. Yoga may help you accomplish this. Consider signing up for one of our yoga classes today so you can reclaim your life, minimize your pain, and enjoy new experiences.

Four Yoga Poses for Knee Pain

Knee pain is the second most common cause of chronic pain, often caused by conditions like arthritis or injuries like torn ligaments. It can be debilitating and often means that people feel unable to do exercise. Yoga, a series of stretches, poses and breathing, which was developed in India thousands of years ago, can often seem particularly daunting to anyone suffering from chronic pain. But if you change your practice to suit your body, you can still do as much yoga as you wish. Talking about your knee pain to your yoga instructor can help you understand how to comfortably modify poses.

Here are a few favourite yoga poses for knee pain. These yoga positions improve the wellness of most people and will feel particularly good to anyone suffering from knee pain. Just remember that using supports is a great idea. Don’t push yourself, and remember to do only what feels healthy and good. Contracting the muscles around your knees as you practice will help you strengthen them.

Mountain Pose

You might think that mountain pose doesn’t entail anything except standing still, but it can help your body’s alignment. Learning to do mountain pose correctly will be useful in all areas of your life and make you considerably more comfortable, along with warding off further knee problems and pain. Stand with your feet hip distance apart and make sure that all four corners of your feet are pressed equally into the mat so that your weight is evenly distributed. Engage your leg muscles and make sure that your spine is straight; hold your head over your heart and push your shoulders down and back. Engage your quads and inner thighs while tucking your tailbone in and relaxing the muscles in your face. Inhale and exhale deeply eight times, making sure that your body stays aligned.

Bridge Pose

In order to do bridge pose, slowly lower yourself to the ground and spread out on your yoga mat, facing upwards. Make sure that your back is supported by the ground and move your shoulder blades beneath you so that your chest is open and you can feel your pectoral muscles working a little. Breathe in and out deeply before bending your knees and planting your feet firmly on the ground, at the same width as your hips and shoulders. Press into your entire foot and put your arms down at your sides, your palms pushing against your yoga mat. Then lift your hips off your mat, squeezing your glutes as you rest on just your shoulders. This will strengthen your hamstrings without putting too much strain on your knees.

Half Moon Pose

Make sure that you have a block for support, or maybe a small stack of books, and ensure also that you’re leaning against the wall. This pose will stretch your hamstrings and strengthen your legs. Stand with your back against the wall and separate your feet, with your right foot pointing towards the front of your mat. Lift your left leg off the floor so that it’s parallel to the ground – or however high feels comfortable – and use the wall and the block or pile of books for support as you stretch forward with your right hand. Inhale and exhale three times before gently moving back into a standing position and shifting so that you’re balancing on your left foot. Make sure that you press your standing foot firmly into the mat so that you’re balanced calmly.

Chair Pose

A great way to strengthen your knees is through chair pose. Stand with your feet and legs together, or with your feet separated – whatever feels better to you. Lift your chest and make sure that you breathe deeply. Resting your weight on your heels, sit back as if you’re sitting on a chair, and lift your arms. This will tone your legs and strengthen your core, while your weight is balanced in your hips rather than your knees. If you want extra support, lean your back against a wall.

Yoga is all about experimenting to find what makes you feel good in both your body and your mind. If you feel knee pain that goes further than a gentle stretch, it’s time to stop. (If you have health challenges, consult with your health advisor before starting a new activity.) Enjoy experimenting with these yoga poses for knee pain as you strengthen and protect your knees. You can practice these yoga poses at home, or you can learn about them and other poses in one of our yoga classes.

5 Great Ways to Exercise During Pregnancy – Yes Yoga is One of Them!

Keeping fit and getting regular exercise during pregnancy not only helps you to regain your pre-pregnancy figure after childbirth, but it also reduces stress levels and helps to prepare you physically for labour. Many women worry about harming their unborn baby through exercise, but there are several ways to safely exercise while pregnant, and here are five of them.

1. Yoga

Yoga is an excellent form of exercise for pregnant women. It tones, strengthens and stretches your body, and it provides relaxation and inner peace. Practicing yoga strengthens your core, calms your mind and loosens up your body – all great practice for labour. There are specific prenatal yoga classes and DVDs readily available, but if you prefer to stick with your regular class, be sure to let your instructor know that you’re pregnant. There are certain yoga postures that you shouldn’t do while pregnant, or that will need to be modified while your pregnant. Better yet, sign up for yoga classes designed specifically for pregnancy. Try Evolve’s Prenatal Yoga workshops and classes.

2. Swimming

Swimming is a great form of low-impact exercise that is suitable for everyone, including pregnant women. The buoyancy of the water supports your body and joints in a way that you don’t find in most other forms of exercise. It provides a combination of gentle aerobic exercise and muscle strengthening movements in a safe environment where you’re unlikely to injure yourself. It supports a larger range of motion and helps you avoid overheating. As long as you take the usual precautions, such as avoiding food for an hour before swimming and keeping well hydrated, swimming is a safe and beneficial form of exercise during pregnancy.

3. Walking

One of the easiest and cheapest forms of exercise is walking. It’s perfect for those that are pregnant and for anyone new to exercise. Walking for 30 minutes everyday at a moderate to brisk pace, provides cardiovascular benefits, strengthens the body and increases flexibility. As long as you wear comfortable and supportive shoes and keep well hydrated, walking is ideal for pregnant women. Even if you have a busy schedule, walking is something that can be incorporated into your day-to-day routine. Try leaving your car at home when you go on short journeys, i.e. to the doctor’s office or picking the kids up from school. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, or go for a 30 minute walk during your lunch break.

4. Weight Training

Weight training with free weights, weight-lifting machines or resistance bands can condition your body and strengthen your core. If done carefully with proper lifting technique, it can be a superb form of exercise for pregnant women, as it strengthens tummy muscles and your pelvic floor – both areas that are usually affected by pregnancy. As with yoga, some weight training exercises should be avoided or modified for pregnant women, so make sure that you discuss your pregnancy with your fitness trainer or sign up for a specific prenatal class.

5. Water Aerobics

Water aerobics, also known as aqua aerobics, is one of the safest forms of exercise during pregnancy because the buoyancy of the water supports the body. Your joints, which are already strained due to pregnancy weight are protected and there’s no risk of falling or injuring yourself while in the water. Like in swimming, the water supports a larger range of motion and helps you avoid overheating. The water also gives great resistance so you’ll still feel like you’re working hard to keep fit and healthy.

Whatever exercise you choose to do while pregnant, always do so only under the guidance of your doctor or midwife, and always listen to your body. If something hurts or feels wrong, then stop. Keep workout sessions to a moderate duration and frequency. Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your workout. Move smoothly and with full body awareness. Avoid saunas and hot tubs. As long as you follow these tips, you’re on track for a happy, healthy pregnancy.

Reduce Back Pain with Yoga, Massage and Simple Lifestyle Changes

Eight out of every 10 people will experience back pain at some point in their lives. An estimated one in three sufferers find the symptoms severe enough to affect their daily lives, including interfering with work. These figures come at no surprise, as back problems are more or less an accepted part of modern life.

What’s perhaps more surprising is that nearly nine in 10 sufferers never discover the primary cause of their condition, which makes it almost impossible to find a suitable cure. For the vast majority of patients, treating back pain is all about the reduction of symptoms, allowing you to lead as normal a life as possible while your body works to heal itself.

Here’s how to do that with some simple lifestyle changes that don’t require medical intervention.

1. Light Exercise

When you’re stricken with painful back spasms, exercise of any kind may not feel like the right thing to do. However, staying active as long as possible is one of the best ways to counteract the symptoms of chronic backache. Light exercise, such as walking or swimming will strengthen your muscles, tendons and ligaments to help support your spine in a natural way.

It’s important not to exercise your way through acute pain, as you don’t want to risk further damage. Make use of relatively pain-free periods to tone your back and reduce the recurrence of symptoms in the future.

2. Pain Management

Sometimes your back pain will feel debilitating regardless of what measures you take to control it. In these situations, soothing the discomfort is important. Pain and stiffness can quickly become a vicious circle where you’re too tense from the pain and immobile from the stiffness to release the spasms. Medication is often the only option here. When taking medication for pain, be careful that you’re not simply masking the symptoms and making them worse by moving when you should be resting.

For a more natural treatment, try alternating between hot water bottles and ice packs, pressing them into the painful area for ten minutes each whenever the discomfort becomes too great. Try relaxing in warm Epsom salt baths to ease muscle pain. A Registered Massage Therapist can also work wonders (Try Evolve’s Registered Massage and Hot Stone Massage therapy sessions.). Some people find that acupuncture and chiropractic therapy offer relief. Try a variety of therapies that won’t further aggravate your condition until you find what works for you.

3. Relaxation

Lastly, trying to relax as much as possible is important although naturally this is difficult when you’re in pain. Tension, stress and anxiety all tighten your neck and shoulders, putting extra strain on your back. This can cause you to tense up, further exacerbating the problem. Yoga (try Evolve’s Gentle Hatha Yoga, Restorative Yoga, Relax & Rejuvenate by Candlelight Yoga classes), meditation (try Evolve’s meditation class), aromatherapy, breathing exercises and other relaxation techniques can all be of great help during a painful episode.

4. Pay Attention to Posture

Light exercise will help to improve your posture, but it’s also important to be mindful of how you’re sitting and standing throughout the day. Try to avoid putting your back under too much strain. If you feel yourself slouching or bending, try pushing your shoulders outward and backward to gently move your spine into a straighter position.

5. Take Care with Sitting

More than half of people with backache symptoms report that they spend the majority of their day sitting down with poor sitting habits often playing a major role in the worsening of symptoms. If you spend your working days at a desk, it makes sense to invest in an ergonomic office chair to provide proper support for your back. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible. It’s important, however, to always choose a solid chair that’s not too soft and giving and that supports your lumbar region.

It’s essential to make sure your chair is properly adjusted for height; your arms and thighs should be in a right angle position when sitting comfortably at your desk with your hands on your keyboard or desktop. Try keeping your shoulders relaxed yet upright and remember to get up from your desk and walk a few steps at least once an hour to reduce muscle cramping.

6. Sleeping

Back pain sufferers need to sleep like anyone else, but spending up to eight hours a night in a soft or lumpy bed isn’t ideal for the lumbar region. Your mattress should be reasonably firm so your body doesn’t sink into it and you should try to sleep on your back, which is the best position for relieving back pain. Although it may be relaxing to read in bed before sleep, this habit is particularly bad for your posture, so try to do your late night reading in a comfortable armchair instead.

7. Slim Down a Little

There’s no need to panic about carrying a few extra pounds, but being overweight will put extra strain on your back. Making the effort to shed even a little extra weight will help. If you’re already suffering from back problems, the extra misery of a crash diet is probably not the answer. By bringing the yoga mindset into your eating routine, you can transform your body into its healthiest version.

8. Quit Smoking

If you smoke, you’re probably already well aware of the many good reasons to kick the habit. However, you may not know that smoking can also contribute to backache among all the other health problems it causes. Not only can smoking cause degeneration in the spinal discs, but every bout of coughing places extra strain on your back and can quickly lead to spasms when you already have a weakness.

9. Comfortable Footwear

Poorly fitting footwear that makes it difficult to balance will eventually create problems, such as back spasms and back pain. Specially made orthopedic shoes can be extremely helpful, but even padded insoles can help correct poor walking posture. Avoid high heels whenever possible. If you must wear them, switch to flats when you can, i.e. when you’re sitting at your work desk.

Back pain can quickly make life a misery. Surgical treatments are to be considered if no primary cause can be found, but they are a gamble at best. Thankfully, making these simple lifestyle changes can reduce back problems to a level where they don’t interfere too much with daily life, allowing your body the chance to heal naturally.

Healthy Morning Habits

Have you ever felt like you got up on the wrong side of the bed, triggering a downward spiral that lingered all day? How you wake up in the morning has everything to do with how the rest of your day will go. With this in mind, it’s helpful to develop a healthy morning routine that will set the stage for a more positive and productive day.

Try adding these 6 wellness habits to your morning ritual:

1. Drink a glass of water right away.

If you’re waking up groggy and tired after a full night’s sleep, there’s a good chance mild dehydration is at play. While asleep, the only fluid you’re swallowing is saliva and that’s not nearly enough to keep your body hydrated. A full glass of water will help bring your cells to life and get your digestive system working. If you keep this habit up for awhile, you’ll probably notice better-looking skin and improved digestive function.

2. Pause before checking your phone or email

When you sleep with your phone nearby and check it as soon as you open your eyes, you create an exaggerated sense of urgency that can lead to a stressful day. Your mind will be much more clear and focused if you learn to wait at least an hour before checking emails, messages and social media. Instead of using the alarm on your mobile phone, invest in a real alarm clock—eliminating any excuse to keep your phone within reach.

3. Create a gratitude list

Instead of waking up with a sense of dread, try focusing on gratitude. Come up with a list of things you’re grateful for the night before and read it when you wake up. The longer the list is, the better. By the time you jump in the shower, your mind will be focused on positive thoughts. This can make all the difference in how you interact with others throughout the day.

4. Get outside

Take in some fresh air and natural sunlight as soon as possible. Weather permitting, get into the habit of taking a 15 minute walk each morning before doing anything else. Your body needs sunlight to produce sufficient quantities of vitamin D and if your workdays are spent locked up inside an office or warehouse, your best opportunity to soak up the sun’s rays may be in the early morning.

5. Move your body

If you start your morning with exercise, the rest of your day will seem less stressful. The physical movement and effort you make will get your blood pumping and restore alertness after a night’s sleep. Any form of exercise will improve your sense of well-being, including stretching and yoga (come to one of our Evolve yoga classes to get some morning routine ideas!). Walking and running are popular among morning exercise enthusiasts, especially those who enjoy the outdoors.

6. Eat a healthy breakfast

Skipping breakfast deprives your body of vital nutrients it needs to operate properly—it will have already gone a minimum of eight hours without food since your last meal. Instead of eating the same processed cereal you always eat, try feeding your body real nourishing food that will boost your metabolism and provide the fuel you need to get through the day. Eggs, oats, fruit, greens and breakfast shakes are excellent options that won’t take long to prepare.

Remember, your morning routine will largely determine how the rest of your day goes. Establishing healthy morning habits will ensure your day gets off to the best possible start. It may take some time for these new wellness habits to stick, but if you work on them one at a time you’ll soon see a difference that should inspire you to keep at it!

Healthy Eating to Evolve Your Mind and Body

Trends in nutrition, like fashion, come and go – and the popular preoccupation with nutrition has fluctuated over the decades. In these post-modern times, the focus on a healthy lifestyle has become increasingly important to the average person. Today’s consumer finds it important to invest time and effort in quality nutrition, regular exercise and a healthy mindset – with millennials leading the way.

Bringing the Yoga Mindset into Your Eating Routine

The healthy living community has embraced yoga for its ability to offer multiple benefits, from mental and spiritual wellness to physical fitness. Yoga practice can be adapted to an individual’s specific needs, and its intensity can range from very gentle to a high-intensity workout. It can be practised with ease outdoors, at home and even on work breaks, as it does not demand special equipment.

Regular practice of yoga often affects different areas in your life. It gives you better control of your mindset, helping you get more in touch with your feelings. It also gives you better control of your body – and that shows in everything you do. Confidence leads to better relationships, while mindfulness moderates compulsive behaviour and anxiety. If you embrace yoga, it gradually becomes a lifestyle.

There is also a strong, though underemphasized, connection between yoga and healthy eating. Many people practise yoga despite unhealthy eating habits, so they don’t get to experience the full extent of yoga’s benefits as a lifestyle.

Food is something that can comfort you and make you happy; as a consequence, it is not easy to change your eating patterns and preferences. It also can be a matter of convenience: 41% of Canadians surveyed by the Heart and Stroke Foundation say they don’t have time to prepare healthy meals.

Healthy Eating Doesn’t Have to Be a Chore

Preparing your meals at home can be a huge money-saver, but its main benefit comes in controlling your nutrition. Healthy eating often is perceived as being expensive and time-consuming, but cooking and meal preparation can be incredibly adaptable to different lifestyles.

Life in a highly digitized community can be of great advantage to your goal of healthy eating. You can find motivation, inspiration and guidance by searching online advisors and publications. Each niche is now covered by specialized content, and you can find solutions for specific dietary needs.

The good news is that cooking healthy meals also can be fun and enjoyable; like yoga, it supports a balanced lifestyle. A balanced approach allows you some flexibility – unless you have a specific medical condition, you don’t have to reduce your options strictly, nor do you need to feel like you are on a clinical, bland diet. Food is about enjoying life and bathing your senses in stimuli. Yoga teaches mindfulness and focus, both of which you can apply to your eating, too. Smelling, tasting and feeling the flavours, textures and colours of food is a great application of mindfulness.

There is also the social aspect involved in preparing your meals at home. You can involve your friends or family members in the cooking process and really bond together. Websites such as Tree House Kitchen can give you plenty of recipe ideas and cooking tips, and can serve as a great inspiration for your meals. By putting together a menu for the day or week ahead, you’re involving yourself in a positive activity, whether you do it for yourself or for the whole family.

As with any lifestyle change, especially when it comes to exercise and nutrition, it’s a good idea to consult your health provider if you experience certain sensitivities or conditions. Create habits that fit your needs and lifestyle and keep learning about them. Practise yogic thinking, ask questions and experiment. Mindfulness can be very rewarding and lead to a healthier mindset and overall wellness.

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Prenatal Yoga: A Restorative Exercise Routine for a Mom-to-be

When a woman expects a baby, it is a very special time in her life. Pregnancy comes with a long list of body and mental changes, including stress and anxiety. It’s a natural process, but sometimes it takes a while for a woman to become used to the symptoms associated with bearing a child. Many women must carry on with their pre-pregnancy lifestyle and work around it; for example, going to work while pregnant, or continuing their commitment to their passions and activities. At home, outdoors or even at the office, prenatal yoga can become a part of a mother-to-be’s adaptation process, by helping her to relax while staying active.

Safe Exercise During Pregnancy

If you are pregnant, staying active is recommended strongly, unless your doctor advises you to do otherwise. Physical activity will help you rest and sleep well, while increasing the strength, flexibility and endurance of those muscles needed for labour and the recovery after birth.

You will want to shift your routine dramatically toward a healthier lifestyle, but it’s important not to overdo it when engaging in physical activity. If you know how your body changes when it’s carrying a child, you will become aware of the limits you need to impose. The first rule is to be aware of your body’s limitations and not start an exercise routine that is more difficult than you are used to.

You will find your joints becoming looser over the course of your pregnancy, in preparation for giving birth. High-intensity sports such as running or basketball can expose you to injuries to the joints. You will also notice tenderness and sensitivity in your breasts — another reason it’s wiser to choose low-impact sports. During the first trimester, you may be able to maintain your familiar levels of mobility and effort but, as your pregnancy advances, you’ll have to limit your routine.

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The Benefits of Prenatal Yoga

Whether you have never tried yoga or already are a veteran of the practice, you will find that prenatal yoga is an ideal form of exercise during pregnancy. Not only will yoga keep your body in good condition, but it also will balance your mind and teach you relaxation techniques that can be of tremendous help during labour.

Breath-work practice is a wonderful tool; it can help during labour and also can keep your blood pressure and heart rate in check. Stress hormones can impact your baby’s development, so the relaxing effect of yoga practice is beneficial for both you and the baby. By slowing down, you are able to bring your focus to what’s happening on the inside. You are building awareness of how your body works and what it needs for you and the baby.

Prenatal yoga can decrease the incidence of lower-back pain, nausea, carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, headaches and shortness of breath.

Prenatal yoga classes also can give you a sense of community, as you find comfort in spending time with people who know what you are going through.

Joining a Prenatal Yoga Workshop

Prenatal yoga can be very beneficial for all moms-to-be. Join a workshop or class, where you can monitor your breath and listen to your body while the instructor gives you safe suggestions as needed. As your pregnancy advances, adapt your routine to what is needed to accommodate that growing adorable bump. Certain poses won’t be available to you any more, so you will want to modify your routine or change to a more comfortable pose. Prenatal classes can include take-home stretch lessons to help with the aches and pains of pregnancy. Yoga can restore you, help you stay grounded and let you flow through the worries of labour and being a mom. Try Evolve’s prenatal yoga workshops and classes.

Practising yoga mindfullness on a calm beach.

Learning How to Breathe in Yoga Will Improve Your Life

For people new to yoga, the biggest challenge often seems to be holding the poses and achieving those wide-stance or body-folding stretches. That’s why breathing exercises can be overlooked and why they usually deliver great surprise when they start working. Learning how to breathe in yoga is one of the essential skills to achieve. It really takes this practice and your general well-being to another level.

Why is Breathing so Important?

This may sound like the most fundamental part of being alive, but the practice of breathing properly has to be relearned by many of us. It’s easy to get in the habit of shallow breathing, or chest-breathing, in our hectic, fast-paced lives. However, shallow breathing can impact your emotions and lead to fatigue or even headaches. Shallow breaths don’t allow you to use your entire lung capacity and they weaken the diaphragm over time.

How to Breathe Correctly

Did you know that you once knew how to breathe properly? Babies naturally use a deep type of respiration called abdominal breathing. You can observe how their bellies go up and down when they inhale and exhale. This is exactly the type of breathing you will do well to relearn.

Abdominal breathing is learned by actors, athletes, public speakers and other professionals because it improves physical performance, creates mental focus and calms them down. Abdominal breathing comfortably fills your lungs to their full capacity, facilitating optimal delivery of oxygen to your brain and muscles. Deep breathing connects you with your body, improves your posture and increases confidence.

Give yourself plenty of time to practise how to breathe in yoga. Eventually you will do it naturally without thinking about it. You will notice changes in your entire system, from your blood circulation and endurance to your ability to achieve a more relaxed mental state. That’s when you really can relax and enjoy yoga’s benefits to a deeper degree.

Beginner Yoga Breathing Exercises

Holding a yoga stretch, achieving posture balance and controlling your movements involve both strength and optimal oxygen flow through your body. Try these simple breathing exercises.

1. The “Glass of Water” Technique

If you are not sure how to control deep breathing, concentrate on three areas in your body: chest, middle abdomen and lower abdomen. Divide your breaths between these three areas and be aware of how they move when you breathe. When inhaling, think of a glass being filled with water. First, the bottom is filled, then the middle and finally the top. Take a deep breath and expand your lower abdomen, then the middle part and finally the chest, in a constant, fluid way. Exhaling can be compared to pouring water out of the glass. First the top empties, then the middle and finally the lower portion.

2. Breathing Retention

Some yoga asanas will involve holding your breath. Practise holding your breath in a rhythmic, calm way, without puffing your cheeks or feeling pressure. Take deep breaths and hold them in for a few seconds before exhaling. Begin with short intervals and gradually increase the breathing retention. This will train your mind to keep calm and your body to use your oxygen resources optimally.

3. Alternate-Nostril Breath

Nadi Shodhana, or alternate-nostril breath, is a gentle breathing technique that helps when you are panicking or having an anxiety attack. Use it to slow your heart rate and calm your mind whenever you need to do so. Close your eyes and use your right hand to hold each nostril closed in an alternating pattern. First, hold your right nostril closed and breathe in through the left nostril. At the peak of the breath, press on both nostrils and hold your breath for a few moments. Release your right nostril and breathe out slowly. Hold your breath again at the bottom. Repeat the cycle by changing the order of the nostrils.

Learning how to breathe in yoga can help you hold the poses, and it will also teach you how to better understand and nurture your body. Yoga dedicates much of its philosophy to breathing and the benefits it brings to your body, mind, and spirit. Practising it will bring happy results in all aspects of your life.