Mind-body fitness, like mind-body medicine, honors the connection between your physical and mental well-being. Learn how to integrate outer movement and inner focus with these suggestions for peaceful and empowering workouts.
General Principles Behind Mind-Body Exercise
Pay attention. As you would imagine, mindfulness creates the foundation for integrated workouts. Let go of daily concerns. Be aware of your movements, thoughts, and feelings. Enjoy the changing sensations.
Breathe deeply. Abdominal breathing is one way to calm your mind and energize your body. Experiment with three-part breath filling and expanding your abdomen, your lower chest, and finally your upper chest. Reverse the flow as you exhale.
Relieve stress. Physical activity is a constructive response to tension. Exercise lowers your levels of stress hormones and raises your endorphins.
Be flexible. Listen to your body to tell when you’re ready for a change from your planned workouts. Maybe you need an active rest day doing gentle stretches instead of your usual run.
Practice deliberately. There’s a natural tendency to gravitate towards tasks we’re already good at. You’ll make more progress if you structure your workouts to target the areas where you want to grow.
Boost your immune system. A little time at the gym can help you manage chronic conditions and catch fewer colds. You may even recover from surgery faster.
Develop spiritually. Incorporate your beliefs into your routine. Study chakras or give thanks to God for your body.
Feel happier. Twenty minutes of exercise can enhance your mood for up to 12 hours, according to one University of Vermont study. Plus, those effects seem strongest when you start out feeling blue.
Specific Workouts for Mind-Body Exercise
Practice yoga. Yoga’s original purpose was to condition the body to be comfortable in seated meditation. You can experience benefits whether you follow the spiritual teachings or just like downward dog.
Do Pilates. Pilates is much younger than yoga, but many of the exercises are similar. It may be a good option if you’re less interested in the spiritual aspects of yoga.
Study martial arts. Meditation in motion is a term often used to describe martial arts, as well as yoga. Tai Chi can be an especially good choice for seniors because it’s gentle and challenging.
Take a walk. Treadmills have their place, but heading outdoors makes exercise seem like less work. Aim to take more steps each day.
Dance around. Dancing gives your whole body a workout while your mind is busy learning the steps. Take a class that suits your ability and plays the music you love.
Work on balance. Remember balance while you’re training for strength, aerobic capacity, and flexibility. Being steady on your feet sharpens your thinking, and may even help you to live longer. Ride your bike or try standing on one foot while you’re on the phone.
Sit and meditate. Have you been dreaming about a workout that would let you remain sitting down? You’ll probably need to do more than meditate, but some advanced practitioners believe that a supple body is one result of deep and prolonged contemplation of virtuous objects.
Train your mind and your muscles. Mind-body exercise will enhance your mental and physical fitness. Taking an integrated approach to your workouts allows you to enjoy exercise more and achieve the long-term results you need for greater health and wellbeing.
So, you want to lose weight, but you hate working out. What can you do? Are you doomed to be overweight and out of shape forever?
I have good news for you. Shedding weight is not just about how many calories one burns, but about what changes one can bring in one’s overall lifestyle.
This is where yoga comes into the picture. It spiritually brings you closer to your body, giving you the power to change the way you eat, exercise, and live. Plus, it’s a huge hit among celebrities who are concerned about their health.
“Yoga has brought me to the part of religion I really like — the positive sides of religion, the parts we all share, rather than the things that create separation,” said model Christy Turlington in an interview with Oprah Winfrey.
And plenty more celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, Halle Berry, Madonna and many others are already reaping benefits from the sophisticated mind-body exercise, Yoga.
“It completely changed my life,” Anniston said in the intro to her yoga teacher’s workout video, Yogalosophy. “It’s one of the most fun workouts I’ve ever had . . . So have fun and work hard because it will totally pay off.”
But, a question widely perturbing people is whether this no-strain exercise can actually help in weight loss? It is true that Yoga does not have the same calorie burning capacity as any other aerobic exercise.
Still, many people say that the act of doing yoga keeps them working out – such as Julianne Moore, who practics Ashtanga yoga.
“I do Ashtanga yoga three times a week, and I run a couple of times a week, too,” Moore says. “I really like yoga; I enjoy the actual doing of it, so it doesn’t feel like the agony of the gym felt like to me.”
According to statistics, if a person weighing 150 pounds does yoga for an hour, the numbers of calories he’ll burn is around 150.
This when compared to swift walking for an hour is only half the calories burnt. But such statistics are only one side of the picture.
According to a well known yoga instructor, Dana Edison, director of Radius Yoga, Yoga helps one get in touch with their body like nothing else, and it can certainly helps you shed the extra kilos off.
Edison explains that weight loss comes from an attitude change towards one’s lifestyle, and not just exercise.
Yoga bears a spiritual connection with both the body and the mind. It prepares you for change, a change in the way you think about food and how to get over destructive eating disorders. Yoga lets you spiritually connect to your body thereby helping it adapt to changes.
In addition to this, studies also reveal that Yoga helps in lowering the stress hormones in the body and increases insulin sensitivity, which directs the body to burn fats rather than storing them, leading to effective weight loss.
All this will depend on the way one practices Yoga. So, here’s for you some of the most effective Yoga poses that help in weight loss.
A note before you start practicing these poses, always begin yoga after a warm-up of 5 minutes. Hold each pose for at least for five slow and even breathes, counting up to 5 for every inhale and 5 for every exhale.
On the physiological level, the chair pose helps in firming the butts and the thighs. It also helps in improving the body balance, coordination and stamina. To practice this, stand with your feet together, with the toes forward and arms at the side.
Then inhale and raise the arms over the head, place your palms forward.
Now, exhale and sit back (pose like you’re sitting back) at about 45 degree.
Contract your abs and hold the back straight. Take about 5 to 10 breathes and slowly step back.
In case you’d like to make it easier for the first few days, the best way is to not bend the hands and the thighs beyond 30 degree when you sit in the chair posture.
To make it more difficult, lift your heels off the floor, and try to balance on the tips of the feet.
The crescent pose is helpful for firming up the abs, hips and thighs. Easier than chair pose, it reaps almost similar benefits i.e. Increases stamina and improves the body posture.
For getting into the pose, you need to stand with both your feet together, and arms by your side. Then to begin, inhale and raise your arms over the head, reaching your fingertips towards the ceiling.
Hold the position for a few breaths, say about 5 breaths. Exhale, and bend forward by shifting the body weight on the hips.
Bring your hands to the floor. If you’re not comfortable putting all the weight on the hips, shift it back to the knees. Inhale and then as you exhale, step your right leg back, with the knee bent at an angle of 90 degrees. Inhale again and raise the arms overhead.
Hold in this position for a while and return to the standing position. Repeat it over with by stepping the left and the right feet back, alternately.
Rocking boat is a perfect exercise for firming up the abs and the back. Somewhat tricky, the yoga pose is going to help in making the belly flat and strengthen the abs muscles.
For the pose, begin by sitting on the floor, with your knees bent and hands on the thighs.
Sit upright with the head in line with the body. Lean back at an angle of 45 degrees, raise the feet so that the calves are parallel to the floor, and the toes are pointed. Inhale and extend the arms and the legs, and keep the legs together.
Exhale and inhale again in the same pose. When you inhale, lower the torso and legs to bring the body into a wider V shape. Exhale and raise the torso, repeat this exercise several times, to begin with say about 4 to 5 times.
The exercise can be made easier and more difficult; depending on how much comfortable you are with the pose. To make it easier hold the back of the thighs with your hands and keep the leg bent. To make it a bit harder, once you reach the V shape, extend the arms over the head, which will greater pressure over the abs.
The bridge Pose is a unique yoga postures that works in a dual manner. On the one hand it effectively helps weight management, and on the other hand, it effectively relieves body tension and enhances body flexibility. Its gentle inversion works with gravity to flex the entire chest and shoulder area.
For achieving the pose, lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat and hip distance apart on the floor. Keep arms flat on the side by the body, with the palms open upwards. Once in the position, press tour weight on the feet and lift the body, with your hips rising to the ceiling. Then try bringing your arms underneath and try to clasp the hands together. This step is the trickiest and may not be achieved in the first try.
Finally roll the shoulder blades towards each other hold the position for about half a minute or a minute, depending on what is comfortable. Release and roll back slowly. Repeat this about two three times.
Have you tried Bikram Yoga?
It’s a favorite of actress Rebecca Romijn, who says she can’t recommend it enough.
“At first, the idea of doing a 90-minute workout in a 105-degree room sounded like torture,” Romijn says. “But the sweating is exactly what I became addicted to. My body changed dramatically almost immediately. Within three classes, I noticed less belly fat.”
She adds that her knees and legs are stronger than ever now, and that her arms have definition for the first time in her life.
“And my posture is much, much better. I also feel completely energized from all of the deep breathing,” Romijn adds. “I leave class relieved of any anxiety I went in with, and the sweating and detoxifying make my skin feel great.”
Walking meditation is something that’s quite new to me. I’ve tried to meditate many times, but my mind always wanders or I fall asleep.
I didn’t realize meditating was possible while walking until now.
So you ask, what is walking meditation?
Walking meditation is about being mindful of your movements and the world around you. By being mindful you’re aware of what’s going on around you.
I walk around my neighborhood almost daily. It allows me to refocus my thoughts on something besides life with lupus and fibromyalgia.
Walking meditation is a creative way to redirect my brain. Since I’m an over analyzer it works for me. It allows my mind to escape from life’s anxieties too.
Walking meditation isn’t learned overnight. In the beginning, practice one mindful exercise at a time.
For a few days, focus on lifting one foot at a time and touching the ground as you walk slowly. Being mindful means you feeling every step.
As you walk focus on feeling the ground below you. Is it rough? Smooth? Have hills and valleys? Muddy? Sandy? Wet? How does the grass feel on your feet?
After mastering your steps, you should focus on another part of your body. Focus on swinging your arms while you walk. How do the movements make you feel?
Work on controlling the speed of your arms. As you continue your walking meditation, add more mindful actions
Some Mindful Actions:
Focus on your hip movement
Be mindful of your breathing
Watching clouds build before a storm
The heat or wind hitting your face or back
During my walks, I’ve noticed a lot more things doing walking meditation then I have in the several years I’ve lived here. I didn’t know we had several cherry trees, the earth smell near the woods, the silly things people do, and more, I look forward to walking every day.
Everyone’s meditation is different, but what’s most important is being able to let go. Being mindful of the world around you allows you to relax more and feel whole.