Happy Friday everyone!
Friday, for me, is a day to reflect on the week that has just occurred, and regroup for the week ahead.... how do I do this for myself, you may ask? Well, I do these 3 nifty stretches that always seem to help me with inner reflection as well as rejuvenating my being. Watch the video below....
Legs Up The Wall:
Lay down on your back on the floor in front of a wall and literally put your legs up the wall. You want your hips to be as close to the wall as possible, so minor adjustments are made as you get into this position. Extending through your legs, you may feel a hamstring (back of the leg) stretch. Only extend the legs as far as you can maintain a healthy stretch without forcing anything. Feel your pelvis drop into the floor without tucking your hips or arching your back. Feel the pelvis and the head heavy into the floor, free of tension. Wrap your fingers around your ribcage and BREATHE. Try a 5 count inhale and a 5 count exhale through the nose. This counted breath helps you slow down and control your breath, and gets you to focus on being in your body. Holding onto your center (ribcage) while breathing helps you to actually feel tangibly how your body feels when it breathes. Do this 4 or 5 times and allow your mind to refocus and your body to become reinvigorated.
Figure Four Balance Stretch:
Standing up, you will use the wall for balance as needed and cross one ankle over the other thigh just above the knee, literally creating a figure four with your legs. Make sure your standing foot is parallel, and bend that knee, sticking your butt out behind you with your weight back like you are sitting in a chair. Feel your abdominal muscles lift in to support and stabilize you. If you feel like it, let go of the wall and make a prayer pose with your hands. Try that 5 count breath, in and out. This stretch really helps you to open up your hips and stretch the piriformis under the glutes. Make sure you do both sides.
Downward Facing Dog Shoulder Stand With Legs Up The Wall:
Get down on your forearms with your elbows under your shoulders, palms flat. Carefully walk your feet up the wall behind you and press your chest towards the wall, allowing your head to drop down relaxing the neck. There should not be any pressure on your hands. You want to open your chest and stretch your shoulders. Now also rotate the hips up, just like you would in a regular downward facing dog pose. You will feel your abdominals lift and engage and stretch. You may feel the backs of the legs stretch as well. BREATHE. 5 counts in and 5 counts out.
Now you may wonder why these 3 positions are good to get into.... Our legs are generally always below us, in a supporting role for the rest of our bodies. Reversing that supporting position by putting the legs above the heart is a good idea because we rarely ever do this, and it feels good and is good for us. Opening the hips that are generally not in an open position feels really wonderful too, maybe not at first because the body is so tight, but trust me, the more you do this, the better you will feel inside of your being. These stretches are another step to allowing yourself to get closer to feeling good in your body, and if you feel good there, your mind will be more focused and your intentions will be clearer. Not to mention, your spirit will feel more alive and happy as a result.
Nutrition Tip: Foods For Energy and Rejuvenation:
I know, I'm always promoting a mostly vegetarian diet, but that is because I have studied nutrition, and I find it to be the most beneficial way to eat for most people. So, here are a couple of foods to incorporate into your eating this week to help your energy levels and make you feel your best you. RAW SLICED ALMONDS, DARK LEAFY GREENS, YOGURT, BANANAS.
You can eat any of these foods throughout your day and they will help boost your stamina and your ability to focus.
Move well, Eat Well, Be Well,
Hello and happy Valentine's Day!
With the upcoming LA Marathon towards the end of March, I was thinking today about four specific exercises/stretches that are great for runners as well as everybody else. You see, we all tend to get tight hips from sitting at our desks, or from sitting in the car. For those of us who run, the hips can become tired and tight from the action of running. A big part of why this may be happening is that the gluteus medius, on the outer part of the hip and pelvic structure that lies underneath the gluteus maximus, has a tendency to being weak and tight. The gluteus medius functions as an aide in hip abduction, or pushing away from your center so that in your gait, your knees do not knock together. You can see that keeping it strong on both hips is important for the symmetry of a runner's gait. A tight psoas muscle can also be a contributing factor to a weak gluteus medius, but whatever the case may be in your body, it is important to keep everything strong, flexible and properly aligned.
So here are four exercises that are sure to help the situation. REMEMBER, THESE ARE FOR EVERYONE, NOT JUST RUNNERS! See the video below…
Number one: elevated gluteus medius hip lifts
Get on a step in your house or a curb outside, anywhere you can drop one leg down so that you can lower your body by bending one knee. Hips are parallel and square, and keep your spine aligned and your core engaged. This is working and strengthening the gluteus medius. 20-30 reps on both sides.
Number two: side lying leg lifts
Lie on your side, stack your hips and bring your legs slightly in front of you. Raising your top leg, straighten it completely and flex your foot, toes pointed down towards the ground with the leg parallel. The leg should rise up-and-down with the hips stacked 20 to 30 times and repeat, then switch to the other side.
Number three: Crescent kneeling stretch
Get into a lunge with the back leg kneeling down and the toes relaxed. Reach that same arm as the leg is back up and do a slight side bend. This gets the psoas muscle, hip flexor and quadriceps stretched as well. If this feels comfortable, bend the back shin off the ground and reach around and grab the foot, deepening the quad stretch. Do both sides.
Number four: cat/cow hip circles
Getting on all fours, hands under shoulders, knees under hips, start in a curled "cat" position and slowly stick your butt out to the side, circling the hips into an arch to the other side and back through a curled center. Go both directions.
NUTRITION TIP: Complex Carbohydrates for your run
Distance runners need fuel for their bodies so it is a good idea to try the following recipe…
Try steaming up some brown rice with vegetables and shrimp. Whatever your favorite veggies are, throw them in and a little shrimp for protein. This dish has a tendency to not weigh the body down… AND has just the right amount of complex carbohydrates to help you run the distance. If you like heat, it is a good idea to throw in some red pepper flakes… Studies have shown that this spice is particularly good for a runners recovery.
OPENING AND EXERCISING THE HIP REGION KEEPS THE SPINE HEALTHY, THE LOWER BACK STRONGER, AND CAN REDIRECT YOUR ENERGY INTO A POSITIVE GROOVE.
Move Well, Eat Well, Be Well,
Everyone is always asking me, "How do I get YOUR body?"
I usually laugh it off and reply, "All our bodies are different and I can tell you what I do personally to work out, but the best thing is to let me help you to find what works best for YOU." However, executing ANY movement, mine or yours is definitely a good thing.
With this in mind, I decided to share a 15 minute dance/Pilates combo, since that is where I come from, that works your entire body, and yes, it is a part of what I do daily. Naturally, I have included a video below...
Plies--These are a great way to warm up your legs and open your hips. A plie is like a squat, but you should allow a natural external rotation, without forcing your hips to turn out. Hips, knees and ankles should be in alignment, and try to keep your heels planted on the ground while performing plies. Breathe in and bring your arms up through your center and as you exhale, semi circle your arms down and open them to your sides, while plie-ing, or bending the knees. Repeat this 5 times, allowing your plie to deepen and your breath to warm your body. Make sure you are not sticking your butt out and arching your back as you do this. You want to align your bones on top of each other. Ears, shoulders, ribs, and hips should all be in alignment. Your tailbone drops to the floor like an anchor. Do not tuck under in the hips.
Turn your feet parallel and circle your arms up over your head. Reach out in front of you, hinging at the waist for a flat back reach forward. You should be looking at the floor and NOT locking your knees. Now plie and open your arms to the side while you remain in a flat back position. Then return to straight legs with arms over head, still in a flat back. Repeat this movement just 3 times, and then let your arms drop down and curl your spine to roll up. Repeat one time.
Bring your feet parallel under your hips and roll down to the floor. Walk your arms out until you are in a plank position. Tailbone in line with your head, pressing through your feet. Now lower to your forearms so that your elbows are directly under your shoulders. Imagine you are dragging your chest forward and keep your body as flat as a board. You want to breathe and with every exhale, think of engaging your abdominal wall. Hold this for 30-60 seconds.
Come down onto your knees and sit in a balanced position on your "sitz" bones. Practice holding your shins and lifting your feet. You do this by engaging your core, so keep that abdominal wall lifting while at the same time lifting the lower spine. Try not to collapse the low back. Hold for about 30seconds and then keeping control, roll yourself down to the floor keeping your feet flat and knees bent at a 45 degree angle. Heels in line with your hips.
Check out your back and make sure you maintain a neutral spine position: no tucking, no arching. Try to feel your tailbone relaxed on the floor, as well as your back ribs (much harder to do this) on the floor. Now reach the legs out in space, feet together, legs extended, while at the same time reaching the arms opposite over your head behind you. Take a breath here and then as you exhale, sweep your arms around, lift your head and look at your legs, and hug your legs into your chest. Repeat this 5 times, ending with your legs extended up to the ceiling and your palms flat on the floor by your hips.
Take your hands behind your head, elbows wide, curl up to the edges of your shoulder blades and with the legs straight and feet together, lower lift your legs, while maintaining the curl up of the head and chest. Make sure you are not swinging your legs or arching your back. Repeat this leg lift 5 times. Ending with your legs into your chest, rock yourself until your are sitting.
From your seated position, bring yourself to standing with the feet under the shoulders, feet parallel. Reach the left arm overhead, stretching to your right briefly and then pull the elbow to meet the thigh, lifting your left leg with a bent knee, and turning out from the left hip. This engages your oblique muscles as well as your supporting leg muscles. As your leg comes down, reach that arm back up overhead, arching to the right, and let the body half circle around towards the floor down to the left foot, following the movement back up. Then repeat the whole thing on the other side. Alternating sides, you will do this 4 times on each side. It's great for coordination, balance, and core engagement.
With the feet and legs still parallel, reach the arms overhead and rise up onto the toes, finding your balance. Align your bones, zip your belly button up toward your ribcage, and feel your tailbone drop like an anchor to the floor. Hold this balance for 60 seconds! If you're feeling up to it, add a port de bra, or arm movement illustrated in the video below. If you fall, get right back up there and finally, end in a little plie.
This is a great total body tone, with special attention to the core. I love creating movement that challenges those who are not used to thinking about more than one body part at a time to do so, because keeping your brain active is so important. When your brain says to your body, "hey there, I'd like you to circle your arms overhead while at the same time bending your knees without sticking your butt out, and keeping a lift in your abdominal wall," the synergy of your mind and body keeps both parts active and healthy. Coordination exercises create more balance and strength within your body and mind.
NUTRITION TIP OF THE WEEK: BRAIN FOOD
What are some good foods for your brain? Curry cauliflower and walnuts.
Curry powder tastes great and has natural properties that help your brain to function better. Walnuts and cauliflower are also great brain foods, so try some! By the way, cauliflower has choline which has Vitamin B and boosts brain health.
Move Well, Eat Well, Be Well,
The Importance of Breathing
This week has been by and large about learning to breathe through whatever stress you may be experiencing. Three of my clients asked me, "how do I breathe?" So, I wanted to share with you a couple of things I told them to try.
First, you should find a comfortable place to sit. It can be on the floor or in a chair, or you can lie down on your back on the floor. What I like to do if I'm going to focus on my breathing is to set an intention. I write this down so that I can focus on that intention as I breathe. It helps to center the mind and body as one. You can write ANYTHING you desire. It can be, "I want to do 8 more reps of bicep curls today" or "I want to relax in traffic today." Whatever it is, try to make it something positive. Get comfortable and make sure your weight is evenly distributed through both hips. Close your eyes and think of elongating your spine. Wrap your hands around your ribcage and as you inhale through your nose, allow the fingers to separate apart. As you exhale through your mouth, feel your fingertips draw towards each other. Now try this in a five-count breath pattern: Inhale for 5 counts through your nose and exhale for 5 counts through your mouth. Breathing in this way allows your jaw to relax a bit. I have illustrated what I'm talking about in the video below...
This whole thing, breathing is excellent for strengthening your lung capacity as well as aiding the oxygen flow to your brain so that your thoughts can become clearer. Breathing and centering our bodies with our minds and souls helps us to connect to living within ourselves so that we can become more productive and whole beings.
Why did I teach you to breathe laterally into your ribs, you might ask? Well, this is an old Pilates breathing method and I believe it works. Breathing this way allows you to also keep your core engaged because you have moved your breath up a bit instead of allowing your belly to relax and breathe frontally into your diaphragm. This is just for starters, though! I actually love to eventually teach people how to breathe frontally, as well as into other areas of the body. Isolating where you breathe is a great technique to get you another step closer to becoming in touch with your body.
NUTRITION TIP OF THE WEEK: RELAXING FOODS:
I'm typically promoting a mostly vegetarian lifestyle, so try a potassium rich food like winter squash with black beans that are high in magnesium which can help relax your muscles. This combo is great for reducing stress and increasing relaxation! You can top it off with some camomile tea with a teaspoon of honey to deepen your tranquil state.
Move well, Eat well, Be well,