Saturday, December 10, 2011

Wind Down With Mind-Body Exercises

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And enjoy these potential benefits

Exercises that help relax your mind and body may offer a number of physical and emotional benefits. An example is controlled breathing exercises that can help you calm down.

The Cleveland Clinic mentions these possible benefits of mind-body exercises:

  • A reduction in anxiety and better control of pain.
  • Improved sleep.
  • Reduced need for pain medications after surgery.
  • Fewer post-surgical complications, shorter hospital stays and faster recovery.
  • A stronger immune system.
  • Improved feeling of well-being and a greater sense of control.

Calming/Relaxation Exercises

From the Cleveland Clinic

The goal of calming and relaxation exercises is to help change the way you perceive a situation and react to it — to help you feel more in control, more confident or secure, and to activate healing processes within the body. Become aware of any tension, anxiety, change in breathing, or symptoms that you recognize as being caused or worsened by stress. When you take about 15 minutes daily to practice these exercises to help “quiet” your mind and help your body become more relaxed, you can then call upon this ability with a shorter relaxation exercise at a stressful time.

Relaxation Breathing Practice

Be aware of your current breathing pattern and learn how to change your breathing rate from fast, shallow chest breathing to slow, abdominal breathing.

Focus on your breath while you place one hand on your chest, the other over your navel. Imagine there is a balloon in your abdomen. As you take a slow, deep breath, focus on inflating the balloon in your abdomen. You will notice that your abdomen will rise much more than your chest. As you exhale, just let your abdomen fall naturally.

The goal is to learn how to breathe at 6 breaths a minute, about 3 or 4 seconds inhaling and 6 or 7 seconds exhaling. Once you have the slow, deep breathing accomplished, don’t worry about counting and imagine breathing out any tension in the body or thoughts that get in the way of comfort and relaxation.

If it helps, you can imagine a spot located on your abdomen, just below your navel. Breathe into and through that spot, filling your abdomen with air, allowing it to expand. Imagine the air filling you inside from your abdomen, and then let it out, like deflating a balloon. With every long, slow breath out, you should feel more relaxed.

Try this exercise that incorporates a few different relaxation techniques:

Begin by interrupting your normal daily thoughts. Think about what is going on around you. Then switch your thoughts to yourself and your breathing. Take a few deep breaths, exhaling slowly.

Mentally scan your body. Notice areas that feel tense or cramped, such as your neck or shoulders. Loosen up these areas. Let go of as much tension as you can.

Slowly rotate your head to the left in a smooth, circular motion, leaning your left ear to your left shoulder. Rotate your head to the right in a smooth, circular motion, leaning your right ear to your right shoulder. (Stop any movements that cause pain.)

Roll your shoulders forward and backward several times. Let all of your muscles completely relax.

Recall and focus on a pleasant memory.

Take another deep breath and exhale slowly. You should feel more relaxed.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation involves sequentially tensing and then relaxing specific muscle groups in the body, one at a time, and progressing throughout the entire body.

The key to this exercise is to tighten a specific muscle group for at least 5 seconds until you feel the tension, and then release the muscles for 10 seconds, noticing the difference in how the muscles feel before and after the exercise.

You can start by relaxing the muscles in your legs and feet, working up through each muscle group to your neck, shoulders, and scalp.

Mind Relaxation

Close your eyes. Breathe normally through your nose. As you exhale, silently say to yourself the word “one,” or any other short word such as “peaceful,” or a phrase such as “I feel quiet” or “I’m safe.” Continue for 10 minutes. If your mind wanders, gently remind yourself to think about your breathing and your chosen word or phrase. Let your breathing become slow and steady.

While the exercises described are not alternatives to medical or surgical treatments, they provide a powerful way for you to actively participate in your own health care, minimize pain and insomnia and promote recovery.

More details from the Cleveland Clinic website HERE

Jennipher Walters recommends Tai Chi as another Calming/Relaxation Exercise

Also known as moving meditation, Tai Chi combines mental concentration with slow, controlled movements to focus the mind, challenge the body, and improve the flow of what the Chinese call "chi," or life energy. If you've ever seen someone doing Tai Chi, it looks like a slow and graceful low-impact dance.

But Tai Chi isn't just slow dancing; it has serious health benefits, including improving heart function and decreasing blood pressure and stress reduction. In fact, a May 2010 systematic review in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that Tai Chi was effective in reducing stress, anxiety, depression and mood disturbance, and increasing self-esteem.

How to incorporate Tai Chi in your life: Sign up at your local health club or community center for a series of Tai Chi classes with an experienced instructor. Practicing formally in class each week will give you the skills to practice Tai Chi on your own!

Jennipher is a certified personal trainer, group exercise instructor, and lifestyle and weight management consultant. She blogs regularly about her own fitness adventures at

CLICK HERE for more information on Mindful Movement - Taichi/Qigong and the venue in Klang.

1 comment:

  1. If you want to exercise your whole body during your cardiovascular sessions or are concerned about your joints, an abdominal exercise machines may be ideal for you.