If you’re like me, going to the gym is as rare as a monogamous Kardashian couple: it just doesn’t happen. The main reason I don’t go to the gym, though (aside from being a lazy piece of sh*t), is that I’m terribly embarrassed by my lack of athletic ability. Three minutes on a treadmill and I’m heaving over the garbage can. And don’t even try me with weights. I’d be lucky to get five pounds off the ground. And SoulCycle? I nearly crapped my pants doing that. Never again. But, admittedly, I do need some form of physical movement in my life. It’s pretty upsetting that I can’t go up a flight of stairs without feeling faint. I am told that’s like, bad for you?
Basically, I need a workout that won’t make me super short of breath, which led me to yoga. I mean sure, yoga can be hard (especially if you’re sweating all your water weight out in a 94-degree studio), but it doesn’t kill me the same way that a Barry’s Bootcamp class would. Which made me wonder: is it too good to be true? Can I do yoga every day and still get the summer body I’ve been putting off working on since…summer 2014? I spoke to personal trainer and owner of Frame Fitness in Toronto, Melissa Bentivoglio, about whether or not we can trust yoga as a main form of exercise.
I need a trainer who will understand that I want to be fit without breaking a sweat or being uncomfortable in literally any way
— Betches (@betchesluvthis) September 3, 2019
Is Yoga A Real Workout?
Yes, but it’s not as simple as that. The point of Yoga is to focus your energy on specific tasks, poses, and flows. According to Bentivoglio, different types of Yoga work your body in specific ways. “The forms of Yoga can vary from physically demanding and vigorous Power Yoga to meditative and Restorative Yoga.”
For example, in a Vinyasa class, if it is instructed in a rhythmic, continuous, and intense fashion, Bentivoglio notes, “it can certainly elevate the heart rate to be considered a form of aerobic exercise.” In slower-paced Yoga classes, though, Bentivoglio says, “there could be more focus on holding isometric poses, which focus more on strength building.” These are examples of less traditional cardio workout circuits, but nonetheless, still a form of exercise.
How Can You Make The Most Of Yoga As A Workout?
So apparently lying in child’s pose and
napping meditating for an hour doesn’t really make the most of utilizing Yoga as a workout. Who would’ve thought? Bentivoglio suggests taking classes based on what you would like to focus on. There is no right or wrong when it comes to choosing. All components of yoga can benefit your health. “Strength training is a key component of health and fitness. Building lean muscle mass helps burn more calories at rest, even if you are not perspiring profusely. Cardio is also an important form of exercise as it improves cardiovascular health,” says Bentivoglio.
Even if you’re not profusely sweating, you’re still getting a lot out of your time. If you want to take a cardio-centric route, that will help benefit your heart health. Pick the type of class that focuses on a part of your body or health that you really want to improve on. Yoga isn’t a fix-all sort of exercise (does that even exist?) and it takes time to work out each part of your body through a variety of flows and methods.
What Is The Most Common Myth About Yoga?
“The most common myth is that you have to be flexible to do it,” says Bentivoglio. If you’re like me and can’t touch your toes, this is a huge relief. “Some forms of Yoga require a greater amount of stamina and power than they do flexibility. But the benefit overall of Yoga is that the more you keep at it, the more flexible you’ll feel yourself become,” she adds.
It won’t happen all at once, so don’t try to do the splits when you’re six shots deep and really want to show off—you’ll just end up with ripped pants and a torn ACL. Patience is key, which is f*cking annoying, because who likes to wait for anything nowadays, but I guess that’s better than the StairMaster, so I’ll take it.
How Can Beginners Get Started?
First, you need to identify what you want to achieve. Pick an end goal, and then find the types of Yoga that help you best work towards that. It doesn’t need to be the same thing every week, but finding a routine and pattern will reap the benefits much quicker. Bentivoglio explains, “if one would like to start doing Yoga to alleviate stress and anxiety, meditative Yoga could help by calming the mind by combining poses with breathing and mantras.”
Meditative combines breathing with calming poses and mantras. If flexibility and strength are your goals, hot Yoga could be a good place to start. If you’re looking to just start with the basics and then find your footing, Hatha Yoga is the way to go. Overall, beginners should start off slow then build their way up to more high-intensity classes like Vinyasa.
What Are Some Apps For Practicing Yoga?
If you’re like me and still having some anxiety about actually being in a room with other people, apps are super useful. Here are some of Melissa’s favorites for different types of flows:
Pocket Yoga: Good for beginners who want to practice yoga and learn new poses. There are also pre-set flows that you can try out.
Universal Breathing: A fantastic app that helps you focuses on breathing. It’s a great way to alleviate stress, headaches, and lower blood pressure, among other things.
Asana Rebel: Provides Yoga workouts that incorporate both strength training and cardio-based poses and flows. Their sessions can last about 30 minutes and are structured in a very effective and fun way.
So it seems like, yes, Yoga can be a legit workout, provided you are realistic about what you want out of a class and you choose the right class based on your fitness goals.
Elections are upon us, and your stress level is increasing. Summer is way over and it’s getting cold AF, so you can’t lay out on the beach and soak up Vitamin D anymore. How on earth are you supposed to keep calm when everything is going to sh*t? By using your cell phone. Duh! We’ve found six of the best self-care apps that will help you chill TF out and get some much-needed zen back in your life.
Cleverly named after the fact that we all want to be in a good headspace, this app offers a bunch of really awesome features. It has everything from guided meditation to breath control, and of course, sleep aids. You can set three-, five- or ten-minute meditation sessions depending on
your attention span how long you want to meditate for. The entire app is full of super cute illustrations with happy clouds and little smiling blobs. I use it. I like it. So do my friends.
Calm has a five-star rating with over 174,000 reviews in the App Store, so I guess you can say it’s a pretty amazing self-care app. This one includes breathing exercises, nature sounds, and recorded storytellers who will lull you to sleep with bedtime stories. Use Calm to help manage anxiety and improve your sleep. You can even become a super chill meditation guru by taking master classes. You do have to pay for it, but it’s legit $5 a month, which is way less than an Ambien prescription.
Do you suck at meditating because you can’t stop thinking? Same. Enter, Muse. It’s an app that pairs with a special headset that links up to your heart rate, mental activity, body movements, and breathing. Basically, you turn it on and set how long you want to meditate. If the Muse device senses your mind wandering, it will give you real-time feedback as a gentle nudge to bring you back to center. It’s pretty f*cking amazing.
4. Insight Timer
With over four million users, Insight Timer is the largest meditation community on earth. It’s all about becoming ~one with yourself~ by teaching you the fundamentals of meditation, mindfulness, building confidence, and creating friendships (which you can do with other users on the app). One of the best features on this app is its ability to sort through topics like relationships, concentration, and mindful eating. There are a ton of world-renowned meditation guides and musicians available for you to follow, which is pretty cool for a free app.
The Grateful app literally trains you to count your blessings. We get so wrapped up in our daily lives that we forget to take note of all of the good stuff going on around us. It’s essentially a gratitude journal which gives you writing prompts. You’re asked questions, such as what you’re grateful for, what made you smile today, and what made your day so great. Download it. I promise you’ll be grateful you did (yeah that was a lame joke, whatever).
Not the “guided meditation” type of person? Don’t want to journal about how thankful you are? Play mind games instead. No, not the type you played with your ex—legit helpful ones. Happify presents activities and games that are backed by scientific studies to overcome negative thinking and stress to promote a positive lifestyle. This is a more fun, interactive app compared to the other five listed here.
No matter which of these self-care apps you download, find the one that works best for you and use it! Meditation, mindfulness, gratitude, and taking care of yourself are way more important than you think. Especially when you get so caught up in the throes of everyday life. Apps like these help to get you back in the right flow of positive mental, emotional, and spiritual vibes. Namaste, betches.
You know those days where if you get one more email, you’re going to throw your iPhone under the subway? Then your mom calls and you start freaking out because no, you don’t have a plan. And then, Whole Foods is out of Halo Top and you have to wait in line for 30 minutes because everyone decided to go grocery shopping at the same time. But all you wanted to do was lie in bed and watch Friends all day. If only being lazy all day was, like, an actual job.
Acknowledging that we’re stressed is a growing movement. And since long periods of stress cause cortisol (the primary stress hormone) to spike and higher cortisol levels lead to weight gain, heart disease, memory problems, headaches, and depression, feeling stressed out is not a joke. In addition, there’s more awareness that anxiety is an actual problem that affects at least a third of the world. And honestly, the number feels like it should be higher since literally all of my friends complain of being anxious (but maybe it’s because we’re stressed out millennials).
In any case, since stress is bad for both your physical and mental health, I’m always looking for ways to de-stress. A year ago, the New York Times wrote an article about how the “Prozac Nation is Now the United States of Xanax,” so sure, I’m well aware there are plenty of drugs that doctors love to push on their patients. But since I’ve always loved trying weird things, I wanted to test out some alternative methods of de-stressing. Since I have no background in anything medical (does dropping out of pre-med count?), I turned to Google (which we all know is totally reliable) and decided to try them out.
Here are the results in my totally scientific one-test subject study on alternative medicine/new age-y ways to chill out.
I invested in a diffuser and some oils from Urban Outfitters. Lavender oil supposedly reduces stress (plus, you know, smells lovely) so I thought I’d try it. Some essential oils can also be applied to the skin when diluted, but a word of warning: like most things in a very contradictory health industry, there’s not much definitive evidence on whether essential oils should be ingested. Personally, I would probably steer clear from swallowing essential oils. Also, don’t diffuse around your pets. Anyway, I have no plans on accidentally dying in the pursuit of journalism, so I just stuck with spritzing lavender in the air. The whole experience felt quite spa-like and did temporarily relieve some tension. I suppose I could have lit a candle instead, but for some reason, essential oils are all the rage. Plus I’m trying not to get expelled for accidentally burning down Stanford.
Breathing actually weirdly works. Inhale through one nostril, and then exhale through the next. The act of focusing on my breathing seems to have a calming effect for some reason. It’s basically, meditation, which I’m sure it would work—in theory. If I could sit down and not have my mind wander after 30 seconds (“this is a waste of time. I really could be finishing that paper so I can get blacked tonight at a mixer…”) that would be a miracle. I believe the whole point is to let go of your thoughts and just connect with your nature, but it’s kind of hard when my thoughts are freaking out all the time. So, let’s just stick to breathing for now.
Did these make a difference or did I want to buy one more random thing from Urban Outfitters? The world will never know. But hey, apparently, rose quartz promote good vibes, so I figured, why not get a few? At the very least, they make my glum cement block of a dorm room slightly less hideous.
Cutting Out Caffeine
Someone once told me coffee boosts your metabolism, so I’ve been drinking it like mad ever since. The bad news? It also increases stress, so maybe my three triple shot lattes a day were not the best idea. In pursuit of de-stressing, I decided to give up caffeine for a few days and it was TERRIBLE. Honestly awful. I started falling asleep by 5pm, I had a splitting headache, and I did not in any way feel less stressed. Would I have felt less stressed if I decided to push through my caffeine withdrawal? Maybe, but you try writing a paper with a migraine.
Sounds kitschy, but crafts can totally release stress. Apparently, the act of doing the same repetitive action over and over is soothing, so drawing or scrapbooking or knitting are all good ideas if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Honestly, drawing is really therapeutic, as was scrapbooking all my memories of last year in a week, which I maintain will be cute one day despite the fact that all my friends think I’m incredibly maudlin.
If all of these sound stupid to you, then I recommend stress baking. At the very least, you’ll end up with some dope chocolate chip cookies or something.
Images: Giphy (2)