Take care of mind, body and soul with these easy activities at home

FIVE-MINUTE MEDITATION

Brad Gibson, Community Dharma Leader, Long Beach Meditation | Ignoring the stock photo we used above, meditation can actually be done in any number of ways: sitting cross-legged on the floor, sitting straight-up in a chair, laying on the floor or even, Brad Gibson said, on a walk.

You can even do it with your eyes open.

“It’s just a matter of training the mind to be in the present to whatever is occurring in the present moment,” Gibson explained. “It could be anxiety, it could be sleepiness, it could be pain in the body; whatever is occurring is what you want to become in touch with what’s happening.”

“With practice,” Gibson continued, “you can train the mind to really slow down and the body to really calm down. And then that begins to permeate your whole day. You become aware of mind states like anxiety or depression or fear as they arise.”

Meditation in itself is simple, the tough part is turning it into a habit. Gibson recommends beginners just try this for five minutes a day:

  1. Set a timer for five minutes and begin by taking three deep breaths (breathe in through the nose and exhale out the mouth).
  2. Then close your eyes. If you want to keep them open, fix your gaze on one object, or the floor.
  3. Return your breath to normal and try to pay attention to what’s going on right in that instant. Listening to your surroundings is a good start. Can you hear the birds outside? The hum of the refrigerator? Maybe you can hear street traffic.
  4. Another common method is what’s known as a body scan. In essence, you’re individually focusing on different parts of the body. You can start with your head and move down the body. Ask yourself, how does each part feel? Does your head feel heavy? Is your arm tingly? Maybe there’s a slight pain in your knee. Without worrying whether or not these things are good or bad, you’re still accomplishing your mission: being present.

Gibson notes that having thoughts while your meditating is perfectly OK, so long as you’re having thoughts about the immediate present. Where you can go astray is if your thoughts turn to ruminations about the future or reflections on the past.

“Traditionally, we use the breath as an anchor,” Gibson said. “So if you’re focused on the breath, and the mind wanders away […] you can you just gently bring the attention back to the breath. If you do that for about five minutes, you may find yourself calming down a little bit.”

For those who like a little more guidance, Gibson recommends the meditation app, Headspace. Right now, Headspace is offering a free year-long subscription to anyone resident in L.A. county. To sign up, click here.

TRY THESE LOWER BACK EXERCISES FOR RIDING YOUR BIKE FARTHER, ONCE THIS IS ALL OVER

See?! I used to race bikes! Barcelona, 2015. Courtesy Asia Morris.

Asia Morris, Long Beach Post | Since spending more time at home, I’ve been stretching a lot more. By more I mean an inexcusable one time a week, if that, and incorporating that into my routine of a few lower back and butt strengthening exercises I know, when I get back on the bike for longer distances, will allow me to put in those extra miles.

As a former competitive cyclist, it’s something I should have already been doing before stay-at-home orders were issued, but now is not the time to be hard on ourselves, right? If we survive this thing, I think that’s enough. Still, it’d be nice to come out of this with a stronger back. So please enjoy the following exercises, accompanied by a few crude illustrations. And a cat.

CAT STRETCHES

File photo

I love these, it’s like slow-motion twerking and they’re super easy.

So easy in fact, it almost feels like you’re not doing much, or enough. But remember, our theme of safer-at-home this week is “You are enough!” So even if you’re thinking these stretches are too easy, you’re already exceeding expectations by trying them out. I like to do these at the beginning of my stretching session, they help me warm up and loosen the muscles of my lower back before I start using them a little more intensely.

Basically, get onto your hands and knees, then arch your back (imagine tugging your belly button up into your spine), then slowly, carefully, relax those muscles and droop your abdomen the opposite way toward the floor. Repeat 5 to 10 times.

BRIDGES

Whenever I do this exercise, Olivia Newton-John’s angelic voice singing “Let’s get physical, physical,” comes to mind and I imagine myself with a perm and in a leotard making exaggerated hip thrusts for a cast of overweight, shirtless dudes.

Yeah, the whole situation is cringy to the max, but I guarantee this simple maneuver will have you putting in more miles, on the bike, once it’s safe to ride more.

This terrible illustration is by Asia Morris. I promise this person’s neck is not broken.

Lying flat on the ground, place your feet flat on the floor, arms by your sides, and raise your booty off the mat, and squeeze. Squeeze those glutes! Lower, and then, repeat.

I usually do about 10 to 15 of these, twice, as part of my half-hour stretch.

SUPERWOMANS 

This terrible illustration is by Asia Morris. I swear this person’s hand is not wearing a shoe.

I refuse to call these Supermans for the sole reason that I am a woman and do not identify with the square-jawed, impossible-to-achieve picture of masculinity that, personally, I think is more damaging than inspiring than fans are willing to admit. Of course, I guess the same sorta thing applies to Superwoman, too. Geez! What can we call these?! How about flopping fish?

Anyway, simply lay on your stomach, stretch and raise your arms out in front of your body, keeping your legs on the ground. Raise both your hands and feet and hold, then return to start.

Sometimes I also like to do small, fluttering kicks like I’m learning how to swim, which makes simply holding the position a little less boring. Repeat about 10 times.

SPEND 20 MINUTES WITH TRAINER LISA KAMMEL

Wellness Wednesday 💕🙌🏼

Posted by Executive Fitness on Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Lisa Kammel, Executive Fitness | As soon as gyms were ordered to close, Executive Fitness owners Lisa and Casey Kammel took their workouts straight to Facebook, where they’ve offered free, live workout sessions at noon Monday through Friday, from recovery stretches to more intense strength training. Here’s a quick workout you can do from home provided by Lisa; you can do 20 sets in 20 minutes:

Squat and punch: wide stance, lower into a squat. As you rise, punch forward across your body, alternating sides. You can hold waterbottles to increase intensity.

Jump rope: arms at your side in small wrist rotations as you jump and skip in place.

Plank taps: plank with arms on an elevated surface like the counter or a sturdy chair, on your knees or on your toes. Pull core tight and stable. Gently alternate taping your shoulder with the opposite hand. Keep hips square to the floor.

Squat thruster: holding something with weight to your chest, lower into a squat. As you stand, press the weight overhead. Keep hips tucked and core engaged.

Walkouts: with soft knees, lean forward and walk hands to high plank position (add push-up if feeling feisty). Pull core tight, walk hands back to standing and clap. The clap is important as YOU are your own cheering section in today’s workout!

Repeat these five for four rounds, sipping water in-between.

ANTI-ANXIETY BREATHING EXERCISE

Drew Wall, Yoga on the Bluff, Yogalution Movement | Pre-COVID, yoga instructor Drew Wall learned of a nifty breathing exercise that, he says, is highly effective in reducing anxiety, especially when someone is experiencing a panic attack. Walls says an exercise like this can help people feel comforted, anxiety or no.

To get started, you’ll want to situate yourself in a sitting position; cross-legged on the floor or upright in a chair will do just fine. Next, you’ll want to place hands under the opposing armpit. So, the left hand goes under the right armpit, the right hand goes under left.

This position, Wall said, expands the rib cage which is important because when people are in a state of panic, the muscles around our rib cage tighten. Make sure that you reach your elbows down as far as you can, this will ensure that you sit up straight, and will expand your rib cage even further.

“This exercise gives you the feeling of being swaddled,” Wall said. “Which is one of our most animalistic, instinctive comforts.”

While in this position, you’ll want to spend about three or four minutes breathing, deeply.

“We just want to focus our energy on the changing shape of our belly.” Wall explained. “It takes all of your attention down into your rib cage and belly and it gets you out of your head, which stops the spinning of anxiety.”

Part two of this exercise asks you to pay attention to your breathing. Walls said to ask yourself, which nostril, if any, is taking in more oxygen than the other? Your aim is to split the airflow evenly between both nostrils. The exercise itself is pointless, Wall said, splitting airflow evenly between the nostrils doesn’t bring the anxiety down in itself, but what it does is give your brain something to focus on, which helps control spiraling thoughts.

“It helps me to be able to kind of clearly pick apart the layers of emotion that I’m dealing with and begin to deal with them one at a time; so I can start, you know, taking bites out of the apple.”

PRACTICE FALLING ASLEEP

LIVE CHAT: Why sleep is so critical during COVID-19 and how to get more of it

Shirley Furman, Mental Health Nurse Practitioner and sleep specialist | Have you found yourself sleeping more since stay at home orders were issued, or sleeping less? It’s not surprising that people now living under the weight of new financial and health stresses would see their sleeping patterns completely disrupted. Mental Health Nurse Practitioner and sleep specialist Shirley Furman says that’s OK, and that this global health crisis may actually be an opportunity to work on our sleeping habits.

Some tips Furman gives throughout the Live Chat (click the link above to watch) include:

  • What you should do if you’re laying in bed, awake and restless
  • Why getting enough sleep is so important for your immune system, especially now
  • Why it’s not just OK you’ve been sleeping more than usual, but necessary
  • How to look at sleep in a healthier, less judgmental way, especially when it comes to “oversleeping”
  • Tips on how to train your body to fall asleep at a reasonable time

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