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It’s an amazing way to relax. Yoga retreats are usually held in beautiful surroundings and offer a variety of programs, classes, and extras that are designed to enhance your yoga practice, rejuvenate your body, and relax your mind. In our busy, modern world where we are expected to be always connected, always rushing and always achieving, a yoga retreat can be a perfect way to escape into a world of movement and mental and physical health.

There are a lot of things you can expect from a yoga retreat and some of the descriptions online can make it sound either intimidating or scary. But the most important thing to remember about yoga retreats is that it’s your experience.

The ideal yoga retreat is one that meets your needs and wants, with activities and pastimes that are the right mix of challenging and relaxing for you and your body. Donna Farhi, a famous yoga teacher stated, “The asanas are useful maps to explore yourself, but they are not the territory.”

The old idea of yoga retreats as ashrams high in the mountains, barely accessible, and full of people eating dry bread and looking for enlightenment has been phased out lately; though, you can still find this type of retreat if you want. However, most retreats today are designed specifically for the modern yoga enthusiast.

Yoga retreats can be found all over the world in beautiful natural surroundings such as Costa Rica, Thailand, and Mexico, as well as closer to home. They offer shorter, sometimes week-long programs, with yoga classes for all levels as well as classes on nutrition, meditation, and personal development. Some offer hours of intensive yoga sessions, while others take a more casual and relaxed approach to the practice.

Many retreats these days are like expensive hotels, with spacious and luxurious rooms and five star, nutritionally balanced foods. The most important thing to remember is that your retreat can be whatever you want it to be, so make your choice in accordance with your own needs.

Although the new surroundings are a welcome change, some of the stereotypes about yoga retreats still apply. Owners of these retreats still request that participants go ‘off the grid’ at least for part of the retreat. This digital detox is seen as an essential part of the process of healing and rejuvenation; although they are obviously not going to throw people out if they need to stay in contact with people back home. However, disconnecting from the rush and noise of the digital world is part of the reason people go to yoga retreats today, so the preference makes a lot of sense.

Another thing that has not changed is the emphasis on personal connection. This is perhaps the most important part of the yoga retreat, the concentration on an individual’s connection with themselves and with the people around them. While on a yoga retreat, you are surrounded with like-minded people with nothing to distract you from making deeper connections based on shared values and the lessons learned through the program.

This is why people who attend yoga retreats claim that the chance to make new friends from all different walks of life and even countries is one of the most rewarding and lasting benefits of the experience. A quote from Ghandi that is often used in yoga classes that expresses this perfectly is, “I offer you peace. I offer you love. I offer you friendship. I see your beauty. I hear your need. I feel your feelings. My wisdom flows from the Highest Source. I salute that Source in you. Let us work together for unity and love.” This is what a yoga retreat can offer to everyone who walks through its doors.

Your yoga retreat can be anything you want it to be. It can be an intensive experience where you push your body and cleanse your system and mind of all the toxins from everyday life or it can be a relaxing, healing holiday in lovely surroundings. Whatever you dream of for your retreat, you can find. That is really what you can expect from your yoga retreat.

I have been looking for ways to shred a few stubborn pounds and maintain a healthy body weight. I became curious if yoga provided the recommended cardio. Fortunately, for yoga addicts like me, yoga does have cardio options. Recently, I found out that a few yoga poses qualify as cardio.

 

What is Cardio?

Cardio exercise is any exercise that raises your heart rate and respiration, it is the movement that is rhythmic and uses large groups of muscles repetitively.

Cardio exercise is beneficial because it strengthens your heart and lungs while training your heart to work quicker and manage oxygen more efficiently throughout your body. Other benefits include increased energy, reduced body fat, stress and depression reduction, and improved sleep!

The Centers for Disease Control and the American College of Sports Medicine recommend 30 minutes of cardio activity on most days.

Here are some recommended yoga poses and sequences that I love!

 

Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar)

Sun Salutation is one of my favorites, and I believe it is the fundamental
sequence to learn so you can use it every day!

Bring your attention to your breath in this sequence and attach the inhale to one movement and the exhale to the following movement. Once you know the sequence you can breathe through each pose in a moving meditation.

  1. Come to the front of your mat.
  2. Inhale. Bring the arms out to the sides and up over your head, touching palms. Look up, this is called . Roll your shoulders down and press into the balls of your feet.
  3. Exhale. Release your arms out to the sides and forward bend over your legs (uttanasana).
  4. Inhale. Look up, as you come to a stop, putting your hands on the ground or your shins. Make sure you bend at your sit-bones and flatten your back.
  5. Exhale. Press into the floor with your hands, jump back into and on an exhalation bend your arms into a low pushup..
  6. Then lower all the way to the ground.
  7. Inhale. Push into the ground with your hands and you straighten your arms, look up, pull up your kneecaps.
  8. Exhale. Look back, bending at the hips come into. *for a fast pace, just stay one breath.
  9. Exhale. Bend the knees and jump your feet up to the front of your mat.
  10. Inhale up to a flat back and then exhale back to the forward bend.
  11. Inhale. Lift your arms out to the sides and up, and come to raised arms pose.
  12. Exhale. Come to stand in mountain pose and bring your hands to prayer pose at the heart.

Repeat three to five times.

 

Warrior II


Warrior II aka Virabhadrasana II is the next yoga sequence.

  1. Take a wide stance on your yoga mat. Turn one foot out toward the front of the mat and step the other foot back but don’t turn the foot out. Bend your front knee, arms to the side and look forward.
  2. Take deep 5 breaths.
  3. Come back to Chaturanga Dandasana (steps 2 through 4 are called a ‘vinyasa’).
  4. Do the Upward-Facing Dog.
  5. Then do the Downward Facing Dog.
  6. And lastly repeat everything once.

Crescent Pose


Crescent Pose is the last sequence we will talk about here.

  1. From Warrior II pose, Turn your torso to the front, let the back foot come onto the toes.
  2. Reach your hands up with your palms parallel to each other. Look up, but keep your shoulders rolled back and wide.
  3. Breathe here 5 to 10 breaths
  4. Cartwheel hands to the mat to do your vinyasa (a transition between two different positions): Chaturanga Dandasana, Upward-Facing Dog , Downward Facing Dog .
  5. Repeat the Crescent pose on the left side.

 

Use the Sun Salutation and Vinyasa infused with Warrior II and Crescent Pose to provide you cardio exercise to stay happy and healthy. In yoga, this type of fast and repetitive movement is seen as stimulating tapas (a fiery self-discipline). By developing tapas in our selves, yoga shows us that we can push the mind against its own limits, leading to spiritual growth and transformation.

Inflammation in the body is natural and isn’t always a bad thing. When you get a cut or are fighting a cold, your body’s natural response is to protect itself from harm and heal. However, chronic inflammation from lack of sleep, being under stress, a poor diet, smoking, environmental pollution and even from vigorous exercise can lead to a myriad of health issues such as heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and cancer.

Other than practicing daily stress-reducing exercises such as deep breathing and yoga, decreasing your consumption of sugar and following a diet that prioritizes healthy fats, fruits and vegetables is your greatest weapon against fighting inflammation. The role of antioxidants in the body is crucial when looking at inflammation and free radicals. When foods packed with antioxidants are consumed, the number of free radicals is significantly lowered, resulting in decreased symptoms of inflammation and improved overall wellbeing. Incorporating these six foods into your diet will help alleviate these symptoms and prevent disease.

Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, red cabbage and kale are best and contain tons of vitamins and nutrients with anti-inflammatory properties. Try to eat them raw in a big salad or slightly cooked to get the most nutritional benefits. 

Wild Salmon

Omega 3’s are your best friend and are essential for everyone when banishing inflammation. It’s important to keep your omega 3 to omega 6 ratio more in favor of omega 3’s and salmon is a great source. Make sure you go for wild caught salmon over farmed salmon because farmed is full of contaminants and doesn’t offer the same nutritional value. More reason to up your sushi game!

Spices

Turmeric, cinnamon and ginger are loaded with polyphenols, great for decreasing inflammation and free radicals in the body. Some studies have shown that turmeric in particular can help decrease joint pain better than some prescription medications. Sprinkle cinnamon on top of your morning bowl of oats or add turmeric to a fresh vegetable salad for an unexpected twist.

Avocado

Guac lovers rejoice! Touting more potassium than a banana, this superfood should be a staple in your diet. Thanks to the poly and mono-unsaturated fats, research has shown that avocados can reduce inflammation and decrease pain that is typically associated with arthritis. There is a reason why avocado toast is the latest craze!

Berries

Blueberries, strawberries and blackberries are all great options and a perfect way to get in a substantial amount of antioxidants. Mix into yogurt or blend in a smoothie.

Nuts

Almonds and walnuts are rich in alpha-linoleic acid, which has been shown to calm inflammation in the body. Just don’t go nuts on the nuts, as they are a calorically dense food.

Improving your health and healing your body begins with nutrition. Starting with a diet that is filled primarily with whole, minimally processed foods will make it that much easier. Food is the best medicine there is and has the vitamins and nutrients that help our bodies thrive. Supplements can be added in for additional support, as long as your diet is on point.