Next week many of us will be back to school. Everybody is familiar with the “Freshman 15”, however you don’t need to be in your freshman year to succumb to unhealthy habits during your school semester! Poor nutrition, stress, and lack of activity not only work against your health but can also affect your work ethic. Check out these 5 suggestions to minimize your stress levels and maximize your health and energy throughout the semester.
1) Don’t forgo your fitness routine
I understand you have 3 essays to get started on and a mid-term to prepare for but keeping up an exercise routine, whether that’s yoga, weight lifting or running, will help decrease your stress levels. If you get your body moving you will increase your circulation. As the oxygen is delivered throughout your body you will feel as though you are more energetic, not to mention the release of endorphins (the feel-good hormone).
2) Prepare your own food to bring on campus
Take control of your nutrition and pack wholesome and filling meals to school with you. Not only are you likely to save money but you will know exactly what you are putting into your body. Take the time the night before, or wake-up earlier than you normally would to prepare your food/snacks/lunch. “If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail”
3) Use a natural sweetener in your daily coffee fix
Stevia is a great all-natural sweetener that you can buy in little packs. Store a few of these in your backpack or purse. Putting process sugar in your daily coffee spikes your blood sugar, which can leave you feeling sluggish, and contribute to empty calories. Also avoid artificial sweeteners which can be toxic to the body.
4) Try breathing techniques to quickly reduce unneeded stress
Why do people feel so great after they have finished a yoga class? A lot of that has to do with focusing on the breath. If you feel stress approaching tune into your breath. Even if it is for a minute, breathing has a tremendous impact on our nervous systems and can help us to relax.
5) Keep your workspace organized and separate
I am extremely guilty of using my bed as my workspace. But experts say if we reserve our sleeping areas strictly for sleeping, we will get a better night’s sleep. Keeping an organized space, intended for working can increase work production.
Nature is all around us. The air, the earth, the sea and the creatures that depend on it all. There are so many beautiful reasons for us to connect with nature. Nature is so complete in it’s function. Nature, naturally fulfills us; fresh air to breath, water to drink, warmth of the sun, cool breeze from the wind. If the great outdoors is so excellent, why do we find ourselves so disconnected from it on a regular basis?
Our lives are so bombarded by unnatural chaos and technology that we forget to literally stop and smell the roses. As I was driving down the Coquihalla Highway in British Columbia, surrounded by towering mountains which were covered top to bottom in majestic evergreen trees, I stopped to take in the fresh air and immediately felt the difference between this and the toxin-filled, suburban air at home. Being stuck indoors all day cannot be good for your health. Taking the time to enjoy the outdoors is extremely beneficial for yourself and the planet.
Nature can help de-stress you
In our everyday busy lives, it is completely normal to feel stress, however too much of stress can lead to so many everyday illnesses. Taking a little time out of your day to focus on nature can help that unsettled part of your brain find rest. Taking time to breath in fresh oxygen can help lower anxiety and help refresh yourself and help you regain energy.
Finding love for nature will help you protect it
It is no secret that the urbanization of our planet is only slowly killing it. Spending a little extra time in nature can help you regain an appreciation for it’s function and beauty. This can lead to you making “greener”, more sustainable choices in your everyday life, whether that’s composting, using an energy efficient vehicle, using local produce or recycling.
So, how can we begin to reacquaint ourselves with nature?
Try going for a hike or walk in your local park.
Get an indoor plant for your house.
Practise your yoga or other exercises outside.
Grab a blanket, lie down and watch the clouds go by, or at night look at the stars.
Arrange for you and your friends to meet outside instead of a shopping mall.
Eat as natural and environmentally responsible as you can.
Enjoy all seasons;
Be in awe, humble yourself, connect.
“Come forth into the light of things. Let nature be your teacher.” The Tables Turned –William Wordsworth
People have preconceived ideas about yoga from what they’ve seen in the media or heard through word of mouth. Yoga unites the mind, body and spirit, and can impact your life in many ways if you allow it. Here are 5 false statements often thought about yoga!
1) Yoga is only for those who are flexible and have good balance
Yoga is a great way to improve your flexibility and balance. You don’t need to be flexible or have great balance to start yoga. There’s a starting point for everybody. If you focus on yourself during the class instead of comparing yourself to others, your mind set becomes about your personal improvements and victories.
2) Yoga is not a good workout
Different varieties of yoga will offer you a different level of exercise. It will also depend on your skill level as well. For example, Ashtanga or Vinyasa Yoga will offer more of a cardiovascular or strength workout. Whereas a gentler Hatha Yoga class could be less challenging, depending on the sequence of postures. The poses and postures performed in yoga work to improve your balance, breathing, flexibility and strength no matter what kind of class you are taking part in.
3) I can’t practise yoga with my injuries
Talk to your studio or instructor ahead of time, there are many variations of poses that can help you not only practice yoga while you are injured but help heal your injury. Yoga is great for strengthening the smaller muscles responsible for supporting your ligaments and joints.
4) Yoga is religion based
Although yoga is known to have originated from Hinduism, other opinions today suggest yoga predates Hinduism. Yoga can be a spiritual practise for some, but perhaps not for others, where it is strictly physical.
5) Yoga is only a series of poses and breathing techniques
Yoga is frequently generalized as a fitness routine where people get together and practice different postures and breathing techniques. What many people don’t know is that Postures (also known as asanas) and Breathing Techniques (also known as pranayama) are 2 of Eight Limbs of Yoga in the Sanskrit scripture Yoga Sutra. These include Yama (being honest, non-violent, simple, humble and moderate), Niyama (being self-disciplined and dedicated to one’s spirituality), Asana (what most people are familiar with – physical postures), Pranayama (breathing exercises), Pratyahara (withdrawing from the 5 sesnse to tune into ones mind), Dharana (concentration – creating a still, non-distracted mind), Dyhana (meditation), and finally, Samadhi (the goal of yoga, pure consciousness).
Investing in a heart rate monitor is one of the best things that happened to my fitness routine. Originally, it was the count of calories burned that appealed to me. Becoming aware of my heart rate helped me develop a new realization of my body and my cardiovascular health.
Mine is the Polar FT4. It’s functions are basic; it records my heart rate through a waist band (seen below). I can look at my wrist at any point during my workout to see what my heart rate is at and how many calories I’ve burned. Each time I workout with my Polar FT4 it records my workout and I can look back at previous workouts as well. I can also set a “heart rate zone” and at the end of my workout see how much time I spent in that specific zone. At first, the waist band was uncomfortable to wear but after the first few workouts it wasn’t a problem.
Why has my Polar HRM improved my workouts?
Whether you are looking to burn fat or improve your cardio, knowing your heart rate while working out is extremely important. Personally, I like to do interval training at the gym so being able to look at my heart rate at any point is vital. Discovering the heart rate zones specific to your body can help you achieve any fitness goal you have in mind. Try this link to learn about the heart rate zones specific to your body and needs.
Cardio Equipment Vs. Polar HRM
Today’s cardio equipment will calculate how many calories you burn however, this number is frequently false. There are many factors such as height, weight, and heart rate that will affect the amount of calories you burn. My polar watch uses all those factors to give me an accurate number of calories I burn. For example, the elliptical told me I burned 78 calories in 9 minutes, whereas my polar watch gives me the correct number, which was 60 calories.
Polar HRM for Strength Training
Aside from cardio, my HRM also tells me my heart rate during any strength training exercises. Before my polar watch it was always a mystery to know how many calories I burned, or what my heart rate was during strength training exercises. By knowing your heart rate during strength training you can establish interval workouts and learn how your body responds to certain stress.
The Only Negative
Learning about your body’s heart rate and calorie expenditure is a great advantage to achieving any fitness goals you have in mind. However, it’s easy to become obsessed with the amount of calories you burn. Use the watch with healthy goals in mind. Remember that calories are energy and obsessing over the calories in and out of your body can not only lead to stress but unhealthy habits.
Yoga can be a beautiful, challenging practise; both mentally and physically. Western practises of yoga include, but are not limited to, Hatha, Yin, Bikram, Vinyasa (Flow), Ashtanga (Power). The many benefits gained from consistent yoga practise can be the perfect compliment to the different activities that are a part of your lifestyle.
Weight training, a variety of strength training, uses weights (i.e. dumbbells, barbells) to strengthen the muscles. The stress put on your muscles through weight training eventually allows your muscles to adapt, therefore making you stronger. The benefits of weight training include, but are not limited to, muscle strength, muscle endurance and improved muscle tone.
Weight training has been part of my workout routine for the past year. And although I have only been practising yoga for 2 short months I am already reaping the many benefits yoga has bestowed on my weight training routine.
1) Posture: position of the spine
The backbone is extremely vital to human well-being. Not only does the spine protect the central nervous system but also acts as a support to many muscles and organs. Yoga emphasizes the importance of the human backbone by not only strengthening the spine but lightly stretching it. It is easy to forget the significance of a strong spine during weight training. Bad posture while weight training can cause serious injury and decrease the benefits your body derives during weight training. The yoga studio should not be the only place where you practise good posture.
2) Body Awareness: letting go of unnecessary tension
In yoga it is easy to hold tension in places where it is unnecessary and avoidable. Holding an awkward tension in your jaw, shoulders, or anywhere it is not needed can actually afflict the posture or pose you are trying to hold. It is only necessary to keep stress in the areas being worked. This completely applies to weight training. An awkward tension being held in your neck, jaw or anywhere else can take away from the exercise you are performing. Become aware of any muscle tension that isn’t associated to the muscle you are trying to work. For example, if you are attempting bent-row dumbbell rows, keep the tension in your back and arm and not on the leg or knee that is supporting you. Let you face, jaw or tongue be soft.
3) Focus on your own capability – be self focused not self conscious
If others are weight training around you, focus on yourself. You hold your own capabilities. In yoga, just because the person in front of you extends their leg higher in dancer’s pose does not mean that your practise is any less valid. Everyone has their own beginning and their own practise. Time should be spent exploring what you can do instead of comparing yourself to the people around you. That being said, believe in your capability. Don’t push yourself to injury but stepping outside of your comfort zone can help you achieve what you didn’t think was possible.
4) A sense of community
One of my favourite aspects of yoga is the strong energy and community among the people that are practising. Initially I didn’t think that weight training could also have a sense of community. However, community is really there. Everyone around you is dedicating a portion of there day to gain some sort of benefit to achieve a common goal.
5) Moment of rest are just as important as moments of movement
Savasana is easily the most favoured pose in yoga. Savasana relaxes the body and relieves stress. Relaxing the body is just as important as moments of stress. Moments of rest between sets during weight training is essential inorder to not fatigue your muscles. It is just as important to allow time between training the same muscle group. Experts say 2-3 days would suffice to allow your muscles to repair. For example, it wouldn’t be wise to train your quadriceps two days in a row. Just as savasana relieves stress, giving your muscles time to rest allow them to repair and become stronger.
6) Not everyday is the same
Some days when I practise yoga my balance is flawless, other days it could use some work. Other factors could be the cause of this, such as a specific thing I ate, the amount of rest I’ve had, or internal stress, etc. This also applies to weight training. Not everyday is going to be the same. You may be able to lift more or less, longer or shorter depending on other factors. And this is okay. Work to your best ability and accept your body for what it can do in that moment.