Tag Archives: MindBody

Get moving outside and feel better inside

Connecting water and board at the beach in Southern California.

With Spring in full bloom, taking your exercise activities outdoors could not only boost physical health, but mental well being too, according to Mind, a nonprofit mental health organization based in the UK.

Mind recently conducted research on whether or not outdoor, “green” activities improved overall mental health. While the survey samples were small, the findings are strong. Out of 100 people polled, over 94% of commented that green exercise improves their mental health. Another test included setting up two contrasting walks with 20 participants in each group, one outdoors amongst nature and one indoors. 71% of  people experienced a decrease in the levels of depression after an outdoor walk verses 45% indoors.

Mind’s website offers suggestions for making an outdoor date and creative ideas to help inspire more outdoor activity.

Other suggestions?

Taking a stroll in Little Tokyo, Downtown LA

Morning – Find a park or outdoor space nearby offering sunrise Tai Chi.

Evening  – The classic after dinner stroll is a perennial favorite. A nice way to wind down after the day, digest dinner, and enjoy the night air.

Anytime – Pull together your own action/adventure team, and as a united front take on various outdoor challenges and activities.

 

 

Advertisements

Feeling Good

I consider myself moderately attractive. Some parts are better than others. I’ve been known to get a compliment or two on my backside,  in a lesser Kim Kardashian way, much to my dismay, because it is one of my least favorite attributes. I much prefer my eyebrows, which rarely get the credit they deserve.

The Womanly Ideal in 1910s according to Encyclopedia of Physical Culture

There is no perfect ideal that crosses all cultural boundaries and personal opinions, not even Angelina Jolie. In the African countryside of Mauritania, Jolie would be considered ugly. Large women are the ideal that the Mauritanian society finds appealing. Skinny is considered poor and weak. Young girls are often forced-fed to grow fat, mirroring Western culture’s less direct food deprivation through eating disorders and quick weight loss diets. Big or small, it’s all in the name of beauty.

Mauritania Woman

We are shaped, pun intended, not only by what we eat and do, but by our thoughts and actions. I’d bet you can think of at least one well-toned person who is unattractive based on their attitudes or deeds.

Comparing ourselves to the world around us can make us feel pretty low. I like to think we are works in progress, never quite finished, each with unique variations. Don’t be too hard on yourself. The scale and the mirror are shallow friends when it comes to support. In most cases, your body and mind themselves are your best friends. Who gets up with you every morning to start the day?

If you are about to undertake an ambitious health overhaul or wanting to improve yourself, keep in mind…it’s relative. Go slow. How you feel is most important. Sure, it’s a canned self-help answer, but it was canned well. If you feel good, keep going. If not, stop. Rethink the approach.

Celebrating the perfect, imperfect you is liberating, whatever your size, attributes, best and worst features. There’s no one else quite like you…that’s a pretty cool thought. Take care of what you have and stay moderately healthy.

Ending this post with the song of the same name. A little inspiration for your day from Nina Simone. Ms. Simone herself a strong woman, perfect in her imperfections.

Scooping the abdominals in sit ups

Last week we delved into what it means to  “scoop” the abdominals in Pilates. If you haven’t, I recommend starting with the previous post here.

Continuing the abdominal scoop adventure, today’s saga crosses paths with the #1 exercise culprit which, when done incorrectly, can lead to back pain and neck and shoulder tension…it’s the sit-up.

Don't do this

Try one, looking for these foreboding signs: Does your back tense? Do your legs pop up? Do your neck and shoulders round forward into your ears? Do you hold your breath? These are all signs your core is skipping out on the work. You may feel some ab muscles working, but, as mentioned in the last post, there are many muscles that make up the trunk.

Up. Up and away…

Try these deconstructed versions of sit ups for a few weeks. You may notice your core pulling in better, supporting your back and lengthening your posture.  The key is to scoop the abs and stretch and breathe while moving. Phew, that’s a tall order! Small and slow movements win this race, no matter your athletic ability.

The chest curl

The Chest Curl

How high can you curl your chest up while keeping the low back and belly down?

Lie on the back. Stretch and curl your chest up off the floor, keeping the low back on the ground and the abs scooped in. Push the back of your thighs into the floor.  Hold this lift for two breaths and then stretch back down.  Do not let the belly push out. (If the belly pushes out, you’ve gone to far and chances are your legs have popped up a bit and the shoulders are tensing forward.)

Keep it small! Focus on stretching the back and neck muscles alone the spine. If your neck is tensing, support your head with your hands. Try 10 of these.

The modified roll down

The Modified Roll Down

Sit up as tall as possible, As though your spine is lifting up by a string from the top of the head. (This alone should be work). If your back is strong the legs are straight out in front and together. If your back is tight and you feel leg strain, bend your knees and squeeze them together. Holding a tennis ball or pillow between the knees helps.

More challenging Roll down

From this lift, begin rolling back by curling the tailbone towards the back of the knees. Roll back one bone at a time to stretch the spine. Only go back as far as you can keeping the feet firmly planted on the floor, the legs from moving, and the shoulders relaxed. Hold this position and take two breaths. Curl back up into the upright position.  Again, it is important to keep belly scooped in towards the spine. If the belly is pushing out it is an indicator your spinal posture is crunched and not staying long and lifted. Try 10 of theses.

In either of the above moves, if you feel pain or pinching, STOP. It might be time for professional help.

Remember, the best way to get the most work from the trunk muscles is twofold: (1)  simultaneously lengthen while in motion. (2) Coordinate your breath with any movement.  The combination of stretch and strength with diaphram work produces a flowing, smooth, safer movement.

I didn’t say it was going to be easy…

Integrating mind and body into medicine

It is exciting to see the medical community steadily moving towards a well-rounded, holistic approach to health care.

Dr. Herbert Benson is a great example. He heads the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. Benson and his institute are working to integrate mind/body medicine into all areas of health care.

Benson sees health care as a “three-legged stool”:  one leg is drugs, another being surgical procedures, and the third as self-care or mind/body medicine which he classifies as the following:

The relaxation response (ways to de-stress, such as meditation)

Positive coping (cognitive behavioral therapy)

Physical activity

Nutrition

Social support

What’s great about the Benson Institute is not only are they promoting stress management for patients, but are educating doctors and health care professionals on how to integrate mind/body medicine into their practices, rather than just offering the text-book drugs and surgical procedures.

A quote from their own site states:

Primary care physicians often are taxed by patient complaints that do not seem to have a clear etiology, nor do the patients improve despite good medications and expensive procedures. Current studies show that stress or distress may have a significant effect on the onset, the course, and the management of many, if not all, diseases. Understanding a patient’s underlying stress physiology and coping mechanisms may enable physicians to better understand various clinical disorders and treat their manifested symptoms. -Benson-Henry Institute

Dr. Benson’s most recent book: Relaxation Revolution: Enhancing Your Personal Health Through the Science and Genetics of Mind Body Healing is now available.

You can hear an interview with Dr. Benson on the Diane Rhames Show, broadcast earlier today.

Psst! Sneak in Some Fitness Today

Just like with saving money, or cutting calories, the little things count. I believe people receive more benefits doing small things for themselves throughout the day than dedicating an hour to the treadmill. Little breaks and movements create appreciation and respect for our bodies, helping both the body and the mind. I encourage you to find your own creative ways to keep things moving. Here are a few simple starters.

Idea  #1.

Walk when you can. Park far away from the entrance and enjoy a mini-leisurely walk to the store.  As a gift, give yourself an extra 5 minutes of walking time to get where you are going. Just a few extra steps and deep breaths calm the mind in a surprising way.

Idea #2.

Stairs. It’s the big “no-duh”. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Draw your body weight up through the middle of the body, lifting weight away from your knees as you go up and down. Be aware of taking even breaths.

Ideas #3.

Jump or bounce around. Like Muhammad-Ali getting pumped up for the fight. Get up from your desk and just jump up and down a bit. Shake out your hands and stretch your neck. Get the blood flowing and move the computer and work stress out of you body. 30 seconds to a minute is all it takes.

Putting the moves on while at the airport lounge


This is what I’m talking about.

We sit all day. In the car, at work and home, and for hours at the airport and then onto the plane. We take the brunt of demands, sitting down.  We get agitated, crabby and stressed, but do we really do anything about it? Take some action? No.

I, for one, am not going to take this siting down anymore, and I ‘m starting at the airport.

And why not? More and more people exercise at the airport. While you might be the lone spectacle at first, others will soon get brave and follow suit. A call to action takes time.  It’s kind of amazing long we ignore the instinct to move around and stretch.

Here is a New York Times article from this week about exercise at the airport and suggestions for seated stretches.

Below are my recommendations when you are hanging around the airport lounge:

1. Modified Arching

Extension with arm push

don't do this

This is the antithesis of sitting all day and is very important for spine flexibility.

Lying on your belly. YES. In the airport. Arms are out to the sides and bend your elbows. Palms are flat and all 5 fingers are touch floor. Press Up. Sense the force of the push traveling up your arms, into your back and down your spine. Continue to push your arms down and out into the floor and raise your head and chest off the floor. Keep the back of your neck long. Let your chest feel broad, your neck free, and your spine feel long. The shoulder blades should be drawn together behind you. The arms stay straight. Hold and take deep breaths. If you feel pain in your back, walk your hands out in front of you further, or prop your belly with your jacket. If you feel pain in gluts or legs. Stop.

2. Cat and Cow

On all fours (hands and knees), draw your nose towards the knees, round the spine and drawing the belly in. Next, extend your neck and tailbone up towards the sky, allowing the spine to sink towards the ground. Take deep breaths and move back and forth through these two positions, rounding and arching the back.

3. Roll Downs against the Wall

These feel great and provide a much needed spine stretch. Keep your tailbone fixed to the wall and follow the pictures and images below:

drape and reax the neck. Tailbone stays fixed!

drape and reax the neck. Tailbone stays fixed!

Roll up by lifting each bone away from the next as it presses into the wall. Create space between vertebre.

Roll up by lifting each bone away from the next as it presses into  the wall. Create space between vertebre.

Arms can remain by your sides as well. Let the spine slide upwards against the wall, stretcing towards the ceiling. Enjoy taller posture!

Arms can remain by your sides as well. Let the spine slide upwards  against the wall, stretcing towards the ceiling. Enjoy taller posture!

Don’t be shy. It’s for your own mind and body. Join in the movement revolution and I’ll see you at the airport. We can exchange knowing glances as we lay on the airport floor…


The Science of Living a Healthy Life

In case you missed it, The Wellness issue of NY Times Magazine came out last week.

There is, of course, loads of fodder for healthy living; relationships, mental health, exercise, the food critics diet, and even a little interview on the many joint replacements of Jane Fonda.

The article Weighing the Evidence on Exercise promotes the long term metabolic and health affects of exercise, and shuns the assumption exercise will immediately aid weight loss.  Out of this entire wellness magazine, the last sentence in the above article proved most striking.  It is a quote from Associate Professor of Kinesiology at U Mass, Amherst, Barry Braun, and his words speak volumes:

One thing is going to become clear in the coming years, Braun says: if you want to lose weight, you don’t necessarily have to go for a long run. “Just get rid of your chair”.

What does that mean?

Let’s be clear. It doesn’t mean a treadmill desk is going to be the answer to life’s problems.

What it does means is all the little things we do throughout the day add up to make a big difference. It means, keep moving!

“Getting rid of the chair” means balancing our relatively recent technological advances with what the human body is built to do: move.   We have not yet evolved to large brain blobs being fed by tubes and hovering in glass jars, so might as well keep those limbs working.  If we open up to new concepts and ideas regarding balancing our lifestyle choices (changing dated habits in our work, family, home and school schedules) the world will follow suit. Afterall, the world is our playground, not our work station.

Perhaps the new motto for the next decade should be: “Sit Less. Live Longer.”

…Or for those with a darker sensibility in the aging spirit of post punk I like “Sit still and die.”

Your own genius suggestions are highly encouraged.