Saturday, November 28, 2009

Post-Thanksgiving Exercise: Think Pretzels

Even with willpower, it's hard to avoid overeating at Thanksgiving. There is just so much good, comfort food on the table. If, like me, you overindulged on turkey, potatoes and pie, and if your blood pressure is starting to rise with all the activities planned for the next month, I have an exercise for you.

Twists stimulate the organs and also enhance the exhale, the relaxing, calming part of the breath. They can be done seated, standing, or lying down, making this a versatile pose to incorporate into your day.

As noted in this Yoga Journal article which shows three easy twists, it is best to elongate the spine the spine before twisting. It is also best to flex the spine afterwards. You can use the Personal Wave or Old Faithful undulations to accomplish both.

In her video, Strength & Spirit, acclaimed yoga teacher Ana Forrest says, "Spiral up, don't grind down." I find that good advice for any movement, especially twists.

Also, focus turning with your exhale, draw in your lower abdominals to support your low back, and initiate the spiral action from the base of your spine working up. Extending your exhale gives you the opportunity to go deeper into the twist and further calm your nervous system.

As noted in the Barber Pole undulation, the slower your movement, the more you will activate the smaller, core muscles around your spine.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Exercise of the Month: Nose Circles

The British may be known for their stiff upper lips, but Americans may be known by our stiff necks. Tension at the base of the skull, limited range of motion in the neck, and headaches are experienced by many adult Americans – especially if you sit in front of a computer. Here’s a quick and easy exercise to take the pain out of your neck, called Nose Circles.

1. Sit with good posture so your spine is aligned, shoulders are relaxed and head is not forward.
2. Put your palm flat against your nose. Draw a circle with your nose on your hand. The smoother you can make the circles, the more tension you will release.
3. Go the other way.
4. Spiral in and out.
5. When you get the hang of it, you don’t need your hand against your nose. You can just draw the circles in the air.

This contracts and relaxes the suboccipital muscles at the base of the skull so the head can float more freely on top of the spine.

This exercise is excerpted from the newly published, 7 Undulations to Relieve Office Tension, available for free by clicking on the link.