We’ve become a society of chest breathers. Forever fighting the clock. Packing a calendar date to the brim with meetings, work obligations, kid’s activities, and appointments. We know that life lived in a rush is never a good long-term plan. But we get caught up and before long the days have turned into years and the constant state of “fight or flight” stress has caught our breath in our chest and given us the lifestyle ailments to prove it. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, headaches, heart trouble, and the list grows each year.
It’s something so simple we don’t even think about it anymore. Breathing in. Breathing out. We let our brain handle it. But when our brains are focused on work, family commitments, and everything else that takes up residence in our thoughts as we try to sleep at night, our breathing is relegated to the most basic autopilot function available. This results in quick, incomplete breaths that don’t fill up the entire lung cavity, leading to fight or flight breathing. This fight or flight, short hurried breath, raises cortisol levels leading to poor stress management and lifestyle ailments.
Reach your arms overhead, breath in the fresh breeze off Lake Huron. Lower your arms to your sides. Feel the warm sand under your fingertips. The sunrise is beginning to heat up. You can feel it on your face. A flock of birds take off from the water. Their wings create a velvet symphonic hum reflecting off the surface. You smile, knowing that you are exactly where you need to be.
Science supports medical research proving that time spent in nature has the ability to lower blood pressure as effectively as prescription medication. The practice of Shin-rin Yoku, or forest bathing, has been a staple of medical treatment for many Asian cultures and has recently become a legitimate method of improving health and wellbeing in the western world.
While the Alpena area is known for relaxed adventures and the experiences that await on more than 100 miles of groomed hiking/ biking trails, kayak exploration of more than 1,000 miles of shoreline, and fishing in over 300,000 acres of open water, the best-kept secret about the Sanctuary of the Great Lakes are the tucked away corners that beckon with quiet moments for practice. The serenity and peace of the area are perfect for one of the greatest stress reduction practices known to wellness – yoga.
The word yoga means “to yoke”. It is the joining of physical movement with mindfulness, our breath with our body. Yoga isn’t about how bendy or stretchy someone is. It is about moving your body in ways that support and improve physical wellness while calming the brain to focus on what is in front of you in the present moment. It can lower the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn improves overall wellbeing.
When visiting the Alpena area you will most likely notice groups of people outdoors enjoying yoga classes as a group or individually. You will find yoga on the beaches, in parks, and even specialized outdoor yoga sessions like stand up paddleboard yoga, or
twilight yoga under the stars.
Whether you’re a seasoned student of yoga or new to the idea, you’ll find helpful studios across the region that will welcome you for a visit. Also, keep an eye out for special outdoor classes where you can mingle with other outdoor enthusiasts and enjoy the full healing power of the Sanctuary of the Great Lakes. Check for classes during your visit at www.visitalpena.com/events.
Island Park for an afternoon nature break
Thompson’s Harbor State Park sand dunes
Starlite and Mich-e-ke-wis beaches
Besser Natural Area Beach at sunrise
Presque Isle Range Light Park at sunrise
Negwegon State Park trails as the leaves change in Autumn
Ocqueoc Falls on a summer afternoon