The 6 Best Face Masks for Yoga – My Feature in Yoga Journal

The original article was posted on Yoga Journal – view here.

Spring is in the air, and after an unprecedented year, our communities are beginning to open back up. While we may be ready for new beginnings, we also acknowledge that the COVID-19 pandemic has left us reeling from the loss of health and connection. We know that attending an in-person yoga class can alleviate many of our stuck-in-a-rut maladies. But many of us have questions on how to do so safely.

Most yoga studios are taking enhanced cleaning precautions and ensuring that all mats stay 6 feet apart. Some allow practitioners to remove their masks once they are on their mats. But is that enough to keep ourselves and others safe during this ongoing pandemic?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published an analysis on the increased relative risk of transmission at group exercise facilities. They point out that high-intensity activities increase risk, but also specify that yoga might be a lower risk, because of its reduced intensity. Nevertheless, they recommend that everyone, even people who are fully vaccinated, should wear masks at all times while in the facility—no matter if you’re on or off the mat.

While it may feel awkward wearing a mask while practicing Ujjayi breathing, the right mask can make all the difference. Here, we offer tips for how to make mask-wearing more comfortable, plus our six favorites to don during your practice.

Tips for mask wearing

The best face mask is one that allows you to follow the CDC’s recommended “consistent and correct” mask usage. So, if we are consistent in wearing our masks, what does correct mean? Correct mask usage means:

  1. It completely covering the nose and mouth
  2. It offers a snug fit without gaps around the face
  3. The wearer handles it only by the ear loops or straps, not by the surface of the mask.

A good fit is important both so your droplets don’t escape around a poorly fitted mask, but also so you are not constantly fidgeting with it, and thus inadvertently touching your face.

The CDC also recommends trying your mask at home before wearing it out to ensure you can tolerate it for the intended activity, so don’t be shy about using the mask during your next online yoga class!

Selecting the right mask

When selecting the best face mask to wear during yoga, there are two important factors to consider: the mask structure and care.

Mask Structure

Per the CDC, the key is many layers (two or more) with high thread counts. Specifically, the CDC states that “multiple layers of cloth with higher thread counts have demonstratedsuperior performance.” Additionally, nose wires can be particularly helpful to hold the mask in place and reduce the risk of contamination from adjusting the mask.

Care

Choose a mask that is easily machine washable. This is important after prolonged wear and sweating because bacteria can become caught in the cloth of your mask. Over time, the mask can become a cesspool for bacterial growth—so make sure to wash it after each use.

Our picks for the best face masks for yoga

The all-around favorite: The Under Armour SportsMask

This mask is made with movement in mind, so it’ll stay in place while you practice your inversions and backbends. It’s made with polyurethane open-cell foam, which Under Armour states lets air through, allowing for safe ventilation while keeping your droplets to yourself. And if your yoga session happens to be outside, you have an added benefit—this mask is infused with UPF 50+ sun protection. $30, two for $50

For simplicity and function: Outdoor Research Mask Kit

If you want to check all the CDC’s boxes for cloth masks without making a fuss, this may be your answer. Outdoor Research’s mask has a double layer, which is important for catching droplets emitted from your own nose and mouth. An easily adjustable nose-bridge wire allows for a snug fit, thus minimizing air leakage that often clouds up glasses. It also has a filter pocket (and comes with a three-pack of removable filters) adding extra protection. And bonus: it’s easily machine washable and maintains its structure out of the dryer. $10

For hot yoga: The Nathan Run Safe Mask

Wearing a mask to protect others (and yourself) while practicing yoga is cool. But hot yogais, well, hot, which makes the idea of wearing a mask during class quite stifling. The Nathan Run Safe mask is made to sweat in and features a “Quick-Flip” function to allow for easy and efficient hydration, with minimal time to uncover your mouth for a sip of water. The mask also wraps around your head instead of your ears for secure placement and is made with quick-dry, machine-washable material. $14.99, on sale

For comfort and style: The Proper Cloth EveryDay Mask

Proper Cloth, a custom menswear brand in NYC, has poured its tailoring expertise into an elegantly designed mask for everyone. This mask is made from premium shirting fabrics sourced from Europe and Japan to create its inner and outer layers. This five-layered mask includes a three-layer polypropylene filter for the inner layers, which the CDC suggests may enhance droplet-filtering efficacy. $20, on sale

For paying it forward: Beyond Yoga In This Together Mask

Beyond Yoga, known for its comfy yoga apparel and clean designs, has made the natural transition to creating face masks to wear while practicing yoga. This mask is made with the same fabric as their clothes (read: soft, comfortable, and flexible) and comes in a variety of lovely designs. The straps can be fastened into ear loops or tied behind the head, allowing for easy convertibility and fit. But the best feature? When you purchase the two-pack, Beyond Yoga donates a mask to essential workers who need them. All you have to do is email [email protected] to request masks for your organization. That’s some Karma Yoga for you. $25 for two

The ideas offered in this article are for informational purposes only. They are not intended as medical advice, professional diagnoses, opinions, treatments, or medical services to you, or any other individual. It should not substitute for the advice of your physician or healthcare provider. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult your physician directly.

Ingrid Yang, MD, JD, E-RYT-500, C-IAYT has been teaching yoga since 1999 and is a physician specializing in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Her expert grasp of anatomy and human physiology bring a unique, thoughtful and joyful experience to the practice of yoga. Ingrid is also a certified yoga therapist under the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) and a Reiki master of the Usui tradition.

Ingrid’s homemade borscht

 

 

Ingrid’s homemade borscht

I love vegetables. So this recipe calls for more vegetables than the typical borscht recipe, and I skip the potatoes. You will need a handb-lender and a heavy hand for the salting!

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 medium beets, cooked to tender, and chopped
  • medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon of dried)
  • 6-8 celery ribs, cghopped
  • 4-8 carrots, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6-8 cups water
  • Dill for garnish
  • Sour cream or homemade yogurt to dollop on top
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Cook the beets until well done (whatever technique you use, I use my instant pot)
  2. In a large 6 quart pot (or larger), cook diced onion with olive oil, thyme and a sprinkle of salt, until translucent
  3. Discard thyme stems, and add chopped carrots, sauté about 3-4 minutes
  4. Add chopped celery, sauté until carrots and celery are tender. Add a bit more salt and pepper here.
  5. Chop beets and add to pot with 6-8 cups of water.
  6. Cook down for approximately 20 minutes.
  7. When done, take a handblender and create up the veggies to make a thick, chunky blend – so you can still decipher to separate vegetable, but the different flavors meld together.
  8. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot with a dollop of cream or yogurt and dill.

Dr. Yang on Get Healthy 360 Podcast

Listen to Dr. Yang’s interview with Dr. Kris Ferguson on her transition from economist, lawyer, yoga therapist and physician. Learn about all things yoga, life transitions, and finding your calling in life. https://gethealthy360.com/yoga-motivation-and-finding-your-calling-in-life-ingrid-yang-md-jd/

 

When will life be back to normal?

When will life be back to normal?

Let’s face it. We are tired. I am tired too. I’m tired of not embracing my friends. I’m tired of not going out and only eating the food I cook myself. I’m tired of not traveling or not conducting work meetings in person. The sacrifices are worth it, but it has been demoralizing for all of us, and let’s be honest – it feels like it’s been FOREVER. But it hasn’t been forever. Just a half a year of soul-searching and character-building. But it helps to have an end in sight. So, when WILL this end? Here’s my messy, but hopefully realistic, estimate:

Based on the information we currently have (keeping in mind, the information is always changing), we hope to have a vaccine by December of this year. It is then projected that we will have about 700 million doses by April 2021 of said vaccine. It will likely be that many people will not want the vaccine right away due to trust issues (more on this in a future post about the safety of vaccines). So, even if we could vaccinate everyone within the first few months, due to delay by many skeptics, we likely will not have the required amount for herd immunity until the 3rd quarter of 2021.

Therefore, in reality, by the time enough people are vaccinated so that there will be enough impact to start thinking about nearing normalcy will be in the 3rd or 4th quarter of 2021… and that is pending availability of a vaccine by December of this year.

So… time will tell. This is just my best estimate (not a medical opinion, just an anecdotal estimate), based on the data (that is always changing!) on when we may get back to a sense of normalcy. How long will the immunity (and thus, normalcy) last? This will be addressed in a future post!

But for now, having an estimate helps me cope… knowing that this won’t go on forever. Sure, it may not be as soon as I want, but waiting until next year is *not* forever. And until then, let’s continue doing what we know works: socially distancing, washing our hands, and wearing masks. And when the time comes, we will be well-positioned to take on our 2021 normalcy with good health and embrace our friends with strong, COVID-free arms.

Love, Dr. Yang

What are you doing to settle into your heart and spirit?

“At the still point of the turning world… there the dance is.” T.S. Eliot

This past week I participated in a yoga nidra immersion. I have felt a lot of vata energy, and the immersion helped me feel grounded amidst the chaos that has been life these last few months. Next week, I will be participating in a week-long yoga nidra retreat (all online, of course), and I am looking forward to it. More chaos, change and unrest will come… and I hope to be grounded in my nervous system before it all makes me dizzy. I am learning to dance with the turning world, feel its rhythms and ground my soul. What are you doing settle into your heart and spirit?

How to strengthen your lungs

With COVID-19 causing us to stay indoors, we tend to sit more, exercise less, and thus, use our lungs less efficiently. To get your lungs into better shape, your go-to option should be regular old physical activity — the kind that gets your heart rate up. Anything that makes you breathe faster is basically a breathing exercise, whether it’s biking for 20 minutes, swimming, walking, or practicing pranayama (yogic breathing exercises).

Staying active is especially important because lung function will decrease with neglect. Without use, the muscles that support your breathing become weaker and your lung tissue will lose elasticity. Studies (and common sense) have shown that exercise boosts lung function.

So, what should I do? Aerobic activity! It helps air get into the deepest parts of your lungs. And if there are any pollutants you’ve inhaled, aerobic activity helps you clear them out and decreases your risk of infection or pneumonia. Aerobic fitness also helps your body obtain oxygen from the environment and use it in the most efficient manner. So, if you happen to get COVID, and you’ve been doing cardio, that’s going to help you.

What’s important for lung health is to exercise at an intensity that quickens your breathing rate. Many of us don’t like the discomfort of heavy breathing, but when we push ourselves just outside of our comfort zones, we achieve the largest gains. That includes our lung health too.

Aerobic activity is also great for your muscles and weight maintenance. Sometime in the near future, this pandemic shall pass, and when it’s no longer acceptable to wear pajamas all day, it will feel good to put on those old jeans and leave the house. We’ll get through this, friends!

My last piece of advice? Mix it up! Just running every day will wear at your knee and hip joints, so make time to stretch, strengthen, and work on your range of motion! I participate in a different activity each day whether it is running, a HIIT class, biking, yoga, or a brisk walk. It’s all good for you and cross-training helps to preserve your joints.

So, get out there! Today! And strengthen your lungs, body, and spirit!

Love, Dr. Yang

COVID lies behind us, before us, and with us.

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”― R.W. Emerson

COVID lies behind us, before us and with us. And while I’d argue that the pandemic isn’t “tiny,” as the days and weeks and months roll on, I’ve become increasingly convinced that what lies within each of us is greater than the virus… especially when we stand together. Thank you for the fortitude to continue to socially distance, wear masks, and be kind to those around you.

Love, Dr. Yang

Happy anniversary to the passing of the ADA.

Last week, July 26th, 2020 was the 30th anniversary of the passing of the American Disabilities Act. This historic federal legislation enhanced and extended civil rights to millions of Americans. Shortly before the act was passed, disability rights activists with physical disabilities coalesced in front of the Capitol Building, shed their crutches, wheelchairs, and other assistive devices, to pull their bodies up all 100 of the Capitol’s front steps. As the activists did so, many of them chanted “ADA now”, and “Vote, Now”. Jennifer Keelan, a second grader with cerebral palsy, pulled herself up the steps, using mostly her hands and arms, saying “I’ll take all night if I have to.” This direct action is reported to have “inconvenienced” several senators and to have pushed them to approve the act. The ADA improved access to public services, the built environment (e.g. sidewalks with curb cuts and accessible pedestrian signals), understanding of the abilities of people with disabilities, established a right to equal access to public services and has demonstrated the contributions which people with disabilities can make to the economy and society as a whole. Disparities still remain in employment, earned income, Internet access, transportation, housing, and educational attainment, and so much more, and the disabled remain at a disadvantage with respect to health and health care. We have so much more work to do. As a former rehab doctor, I saw firsthand these inequities and wanted so badly to level the playing field in some way, in the ways I know how. Thus, this book. Because yoga isn’t about fitting into our western paradigm. It is not about about making people fit yoga. It’s about yoga fitting people. Real people. All people. Because yoga IS for every body. I hope this book does justice to those that have fought for equal rights and equal access. I hope this is a book that Jennifer Keelan would be proud of. I hope that this book teaches people to do yoga who never thought they could before. Happy anniversary to the passing of the ADA. Look out for the book in November. Yoga is for every body. Yes. I mean it.

Spread the word – Covid isn’t gone.

This story is getting old, but seems like it still needs to be told over and over again. I just admitted a COVID patient who is young (early 30s) and has no medical problems who went from room air to requiring HFNC (remember the equipment I said was running frighteningly LOW in my post last week?!) and is now on the brink of intubation within the 8 hours since I admitted her. This could be you.

So let’s reiterate the points: 1) COVID-19 is not just a “bad flu”, 2) Today I can use an anti-virals, steroids, and other experimental therapies to help COVID-19 patients navigate more safely through their disease course. I didn’t have any of these options 3 months ago. I hope this patient will survive because of these new discoveries. What other tools will we have to fight COVID 3 months from now? Delay getting this disease as long as you can – we will have a better chance to cure you and get you through this terrible disease.

Thanks for listening and spread the word.

Love, Dr. Yang

**Radical art and mural by @austinzart