Working on Wellness: Yoga Studio, Sworkit and Calm

034_edited-1Yesterday I discussed Habitica, an app that I find not just helpful, but fun to use as an incentive to improve my mental and physical health. Today I’ll discuss the other three, as promised.

Yoga Studio is an app that you can use on your phone (android and iPhone), your laptop or your smart TV. It has tons of different yoga classes from beginner to expert level. The home page says that the shortest class is fifteen minutes, but they have shorter blocks that you can combine to make your own classes, and you can also use those by themselves. This morning I did a four-minute sun salutation. Who doesn’t have four minutes?

I’m a beginner. I’ve done some yoga, but not much, and it was years ago. So it’s nice to begin in my own bedroom (did I mention that I’m obese?) and re-acquaint myself with all the poses before I go to a real live class. If I ever do–this is very convenient. I can look at the poses that will be used beforehand, so when the voice says to come back to the mountain pose, I know what to do without even looking. Makes me feel like a pro!

The app has something like sixty-five classes of various lengths and hundreds of separate poses and blocks that you can bead together any which way. If you want to do two poses that don’t really work one right after the other, the program will make it flow. I haven’t done any of that yet. I’ve just done some four and five-minute beginner sessions, and that’s more yoga than I would have done otherwise.

Yoga Studio costs less than $10 for a year.

Sworkit is similar, but more expensive, around $40. You can find all kinds of exercises under the main categories: strength, cardio, yoga, Pilates and stretch. I’ve done a few five-minute beginner Pilates sessions, and a nice feature is a little timer that shows how many seconds are left in each position. Even I can do any position for thirty seconds, especially when I can see them disappear before my eyes!

So, as with Yoga Studio, you can put together your own workout sessions from hundreds of exercises. Sworkit also keeps track of your progress: how often you’ve worked out, for how long, and how many calories you burned. In case you want to know how many calories you burned in five minutes.

It works for me because there are ready-made five-minute sessions. I’m starting small.

Then there’s Calm. The most expensive of the bunch–$60 a year–although it’s cheaper in the long run if you can cough up $300 for the lifetime subscription. Calm also works on your phone and computer. It has three aspects to it: Breathing, meditation and sleep.

The breathing part of it is just a little ball going around a circle that gets bigger while you inhale and smaller while you exhale. The ball will indicate silently when to inhale, hold and exhale. Great for people who suffer from anxiety attacks or hyperventilation. I don’t suffer from either, but just watching that circle is surprisingly soothing when I’m edgy.

The meditation part guides you through different types of meditations. It also has unguided, timed meditations. I’ve gone through a five day intro series and now I’m five days into a 21-day series focused on calm. I love it. I’m learning to be aware of all the chatter in my head and how to shut it up. It’s hard, but it’s not like I’m aspiring to be a buddha. I just want to relax a little easier when I’m too tightly wound from reading too much about our treasonous troll-in-chief on Facebook and Flipboard.

The sleep part has twenty-six sleep stories. What are sleep stories? Stories that put you to sleep. What are they about? No idea, because I fall asleep. Really. So even though there’s a lot of choice, you can just as well put on the same one every night, because you never really hear it.

If you’ve ever been hypnotized, it’s kind of like that: “Let’s start with getting comfortable. Let the sheets envelop you, feel how the bed supports your legs, your back, how your head feels heavy in the pillow…” And then the story starts. Something about a butterfly on someone’s shoulder. It’s hard to stay focused. At some point I hear something like, “…he felt his body relax and his breathing slow…” and I think, Wait a minute! And that’s all I remember until I wake up in the morning. It’s great.

Well, that’s all, folks. If you use any other great apps out there for your wellness, let me know in a comment.

I would love to know what you think, even about old posts.

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