Inner Peace & A Hot Body
Zen & Creating Your Best Body
The new fitness model bridging the mind-body connection and your fitness routine is about to give you plenty of benefits- lower stress, more flexibility and strength all while taking your energy to the next level. It’s called “Integrative Fitness‘.
Imagine for a moment a dimly lit room, the smell of incense filling the room as you sit crossed leg on the floor, what picture comes to mind? A yoga class or possibly a meditation class?
That was the past, but now mind-body workouts are no longer just confined to yoga or other “zen” like modalities. They can happen anywhere, at the yoga studio, in the gym or on your daily run. I first heard about this new trend reading an article in Women’s Health magazine this past winter and decided to make it a part of my own self care. Integrative Fitness is a more holistic way of becoming fit. This integrative approach treats the whole person, mind, body and spirit, but more importantly, if tended to like a beautiful garden, can last year after year leading to a lifetime of health and vibrancy.
People need to find something they love and that can sustain them for a lifetime of healthy living. There is no magic bullet that works for everyone, yoga is not a panacea, weightlifting and high intensity training aren’t everyone’s cup of tea either.
Our Health Crisis
There is more information today than ever before about health and wellness, yet we are the most unfit society in human history. Along with all the growth in gym memberships over the past 2 decades, we now have new technologies giving us tools like Fitbit and other fitness trackers, but nothing seems to be touching the decline with sustainable fitness. “People are breaking down with more frequency“, says Jill Miller, fitness therapy expert and author of The Roll Model. She goes on to add, ” We have more conveniences, but they’ve inconvenienced us structurally.”
The biggest culprit of all this is stress. Stress leads to anxiety, which we now have more of than ever by the way. Stress can trigger depression, chronic sleep problems, heart disease and yes, even cancer.
Brandon Marcello, PH.D , a High Performance Specialist has studied this phenomenon and has concluded that ,” the problem is being stuck in that state 24/7.”
He tells us our nervous system controls unconscious bodily functions, like breathing and digestion and has 2 switches. Sympathetic ( a.k.a. fight or flight the response which increases heart rate and adrenaline) and the parasympathetic ( the rest and digestion counterpart that tells your mind and blood pressure to relax.) The problem as he puts it is “we live in a sympathetic -dominant world and most of our health issues are due to excessive sympathetic activation. Our sympathetic nervous system is overactive and can’t get back to a resting state”.
So now lets look within for some lasting solutions. This will take some adjustments in your thinking and stopping some negative self talk about this being some “airy-fairy” kind of approach. (you’re doing it right now aren’t you?) Taking an integrative approach means considering how all the dots are connected, it means bringing an intentional and mindful attitude to all your workouts or as I like to say, ” I open to the flow and love of who I am becoming .” We don’t want to just look better, we want to actually be healthier. To do this we must consider many factors when we approach our workouts, there is a delicate balance to always keep in mind to keep you coming back.
This delicate balance keeps you focused on one person, you. How are you feeling today,in this very moment? Did you get enough sleep last night? What food did you eat to fuel your body and how awesome or crappy was your day today? When you have that paradigm shift in your thoughts you’re saying to your subconscious mind, ” I’m reclaiming my life and I matter, regardless of what chaos is happening in my outer world.”
This integrative approach is a more loving way to bring your spirit into your health goals. Be kind to yourself when you can’t do all you plan on doing because ultimately life gets in the way. Make adjustments, there is no right or wrong way to do it. Can’t do a whole hour of yoga, take 10-15 minutes to set the tone of your day with a mindful Sun Salutation from your favorite yoga practice. Or after a particularly tough day at work and you can’t get to the gym to burn off steam, take yourself for a walk in nature to feed your soul with some much needed quiet and calm. The choice is yours.
Holistic Fitness- Begin The Change
“Odds are one of these techniques will jump out at you because it’s something you now your program is missing, or it’s something you’ve been wanting to try,” says Marcello. “That’s where I’d begin.”
1) STATE OF READINESS
This strategy is all about measuring how you are feeling today. How hard you can push yourself, how much “charge” is in your battery today. If you approach a workout depleted, you won’t reap the benefits you should. Taking the time to pour into yourself should build you up and give your body what it needs.
Ask yourself some simple questions, how are you feeling on a scale of 1- 10? How sore are you from your last session? And ultimately, what can I achieve with the current energy I have.
2) BREATH AWARENESS
Breath is life. Learning this one critical aspect of your being will help you take charge of a myriad of concerns in your life. Most importantly controlling those involuntary (mostly unconscious) inhales and exhales. By doing so you achieve better focus, relieve stress and create mindfulness in all you do. In your workouts you can achieve 3 important benefits:
*Pump Up Energy– Try this, with your mouth closed, inhale and exhale through your nose (like coughing through your nose) about 3 breaths per second for 15 seconds. In yoga it’s called Kapalabhati or Breath of Fire because heat is produced.
*Get Stronger– Core stability is guaranteed while lifting with a slow controlled exhale after every weight lifting rep. In yoga, the breath builds and maintains your strength .
*Fall Asleep Faster And Recover Better From Exercise-Do 4-6 rounds of deep relaxation breathing. It looks like this: inhale for 4 breaths hold for the count of 6- then exhale, doubling the length of the exhale. 4-6-8 * inhale for 4* hold for 6 * then exhale for 8.
To give you a more comprehensive description of alternative breathing techniques check out this great link: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART00521/three-breathing-exercises.html
3) MINDFULNESS TRAINING
This is without a doubt at the top of the list when it comes to Integrative Fitness. Becoming mindful is key to everything you do and hope to achieve with your workouts. Here are 3 keys to keep in mind:
Set Your Intention
Before you begin decide what you want to accomplish in the session. Not the bigger picture of thinner thighs one day but what instant gratification do you want to see from your time spent that day? Do you want to feel more empowered and stronger when you leave the session.(mind) Or do you want to push for the last squat and feel the fatigue in your muscles. (body) Whatever your smaller goal, setting an intention will help you stay focused and keep the mind chatter and drifting to a minimum.
Create An Affirmation
Affirmations reprogram the negative mindset to positive outcomes. In the beginning, if you’re not in the habit of using affirmations it might feel foreign to you. What’s most important is that it is always stated in the positive and always acknowledge it is happening in the present. Pick encouraging words that you can identify with and give yourself a quick boost of confidence . Use it when your mind starts to drift or your feel like calling it quits. Say something like “I am perfect health, I am strong, confident and I’ve got this!”
Set A Timer
Sometimes counting reps feels mechanical and less motivating. It also puts limits on your abilities. Next time you hit the gym, try setting a timer for a specific time rather than limit your mind to ” I have 8 reps to do.” Use a timer and see how many reps you can do for 90 seconds, you might just surprise yourself and do much more than you thought you we were capable of. Your body will show the benefits much faster with this approach than with letting your mind limit you!
Your subconscious mind doesn’t know the difference between reality or imagination. If you close your eyes and imagine yourself doing anything, your brain acts exactly as if you’re doing that task. Marcello says, ” there is a now famous study that shows a group who thought about using a weight machine (but never did)who saw almost the exact same strength gains over two weeks as those who trained 5 times a week.”Amazing!
Visualization is a powerful tool if you use it. Most of us give up developing a visualization practice that can benefit your workout much to soon. . Take the time and see yourself doing what it is you want to do with your workout goals . See yourself lifting that extra weight, holding your yoga pose that much longer or running those extra 2 miles. When you finally see progress after making the shift, visualizing will be a major component of your fitness regime.
5) Deep Relaxation
Yoga practices have known about this precious gift for centuries. Deep relaxation refers to winding down a session with a dedicated ending and integrated focus. Why it helps? The body gains its greatest benefits when it’s at rest, especially after any physical activity. Your body needs the time to integrate the movements, restore and recalibrate it’s energy for optimal benefits. It’s like rebooting your computer.
Sit or lie down, close your eyes and breath deeply. Do nothing but let your body do its magic. Minimum requirement is 5 minutes, but for greater integration 20 minutes is recommended .
6) Myofascial Release
The fascia is the web like system of our connective tissue that holds and separate all our organs and muscles from head to toe. Myofascial Release involves manipulating or massaging specific areas of the body to reduce pain and inflamed or restricted fascia, increasing circulation and mobility. Fascia is abundant with sensory neurons, so it helps alleviate pain and can increase “proprioception”, your unconscious body awareness.
Because the interconnectedness of the tissue, you can have a ripple effect whenever Myofascial Release is used. When the practitioner is working in one area, neighboring areas can reap the benefits. There are many qualified practitioners to choose from. Research this Myofascial practitioner directory to find someone in your area:
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Written by : Alice Wilcox
Reference: Women’s Health Magazine – April 2016