In my last column, I wrote about the value of relaxing and lowering our energy levels to allow our bodies to restore and repair themselves from the daily challenges and stresses of life.
I wanted to continue that theme in this column with a few easy exercises to encourage your body to relax. Rather than working out, these are called working-in exercises. These consist of small movements you can make without any equipment and that can be performed anywhere.
However, the benefits are huge, from a physical and a mental standpoint.
Working out is about energy expenditure. While there might be a runner's high or a few moments of euphoria involved, the goal of working out is to stress the body and tear muscle down to make it stronger.
Working-in exercises are the opposite in that they consist of gentle, energy-building exercises. They supply energy to the organ systems as well muscles, while the rhythmic movements also massage the internal organs.
These are wonderful exercises to perform whenever you are feeling stressed, lethargic or want to be active but don't have the energy for a full-on work-out. Here are three of my favorites:
Breathing squats • Stand comfortably with legs wide enough to allow you to squat down so your thighs are parallel or lower. Keep your hands at your sides. Inhale through your nose, then squat down as you exhale. Go as low as possible, pause, then inhale as you return to standing.
Keep these slow, going at a pace that allows you to move without increasing your breath from its natural rhythm.
These are a great way to increase flexibility, work on squat form and tune into your breathing. You'll build energy and feel more relaxed at the same time.
Leg tuck • These are good because being on the ground helps you stay or become grounded. This is an ideal exercise to perform at night before going to sleep or if you are traveling and feel disconnected or scattered.
To begin, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the ground. Take a couple deep breaths to help the body relax and to help you connect to your muscles and the feeling of being on the ground. Inhale, then draw the legs into the chest as you exhale. Inhale as you return the legs to the floor. Repeat 10 times or more. Just like the breathing squats, perform these movements slowly so your breathing stays in its natural rhythm or gets slower and deeper. This exercise has the added benefit of massaging the internal organs of digestion.
Shoulder clocks • Stand with your arms at your sides in a relaxed posture with knees slightly bent. Visualize your shoulder as in the middle of a clock. Elevate the shoulder toward the ear, then roll the shoulder forward around the clock. Inhale as you move through the back half of the clock (7 to 12 'o'clock) and exhale as you move through the front half of the clock (1 through 6 o'clock). Keep your head forward and arms relaxed. Do 10 circles in each direction, forward and backward, on each arm.
In addition to encouraging your shoulders and arms to relax, which seem to be tension spots in nearly everyone, this exercise is helpful because the upright position encourages you to draw your shoulders back and out of the rounded-shoulder posture.
Also, if you notice one area or another is difficult to move through, it's a good indicator that you might need to additional stretching in the area.
Lya Wodraska is a certified CHEK Practitioner and holistic lifestyle coach. E-mail her at Lwodraska@sltrib.com.