Finding Inspiration Series: Exercise
My 'Finding Inspiration' series was written out of a need that comes up in my practice, most often in Spring and Fall. I feel we all need a bit of encouragement and enlightenment now and then to help us move forward. Finding motivation through inspiration can be the spark which sets you on your way!
Exercise is what your body instinctively wants to do especially under stress: fight or flight, and it works. It burns off some of the stress chemicals which tension produces. Therefore, a tired muscle is a relaxed muscle. Regular exercise builds stamina that can help anyone battle stress. But even something as casual as a walk around the block can help you burn off some of the tension that you carrying around.
Stretching is a great tension reducer. Stretch your chest for better breathing. The tense musculature of a person under stress can make breathing difficult and impaired breathing can aggravate the anxiety you already feel. To relax your breathing, roll your shoulders up and back, then relax. The first time, inhale deeply as they go back, exhale as they relax. Repeat four or five more times, then inhale deeply again. Repeat the entire sequence four times.
People under pressure have a tendency to clench their teeth. Dropping the jaw and rolling it helps make those muscles relax, and if you relax the muscles, you reduce the sensation of tension.
Resistance is essential for making a muscle stronger. When a muscle has to work against a load placed on it, it adapts to the stress by creating new muscle fibers and making neurological changes that ultimately make it stronger. Muscles respond to virtually anything that offers resistance.
You need only to remember a few do-anywhere exercises:
*sit-ups for abdominal muscles
*push-ups for the arms, chest, and shoulders
*dips for the back of the arms
*squats for the muscles in the rear and front of the thighs
*calf raises for the lower portion of the leg.
You also might work some simple equipment into your regime. Both rubber bands and rubber tubing can add resistance, as can simple household items. To increase the resistance when you're doing squats, for example, you can do something as simple as hold soup cans or milk jugs filled with water.
Yoga and Pilates are also great and can be done at home. Many of the poses in yoga require using one's own body weight to load the muscles. Take the "warrior" pose, for example. It's essentially a lunge, one that works the muscle in the front of the thigh. Pilates is a series of exercises that involve slow, precise moves -- either using your body weight or specially designed machines -- to work
your muscles. You might work your abdominal and leg muscles, for example, by pushing against a bar on springs or by raising your legs when they're attached (by straps) to a pulley.
Exercise gives you energy. Study after study supports those words, including one by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. More than 200 federal employees were placed on a moderate, regular exercise program. The results: 90 percent said they had never felt better. Almost half said they felt less stress, and almost one-third reported they slept better.
Energetic exercise, aerobics, a brisk walk three to five times a week, for 20 to 30 minutes each time and no later than 2 hours before bedtime are extremely beneficial. If you're obese, if you need to drop 20 percent of your weight or more, losing weight will be a great help. Make sure you follow a sensible diet in combination with exercise.
Remember the key to doing exercise is to SCHEDULE it into your day.
Andrew Pacholyk, MS, L.Ac.
Therapies for healing
mind, body, spirit
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