A beginner’s guide that will help you understand your body and establish a strong stance in the world.
With yet another lockdown upon is, it might be a good idea to think about how you can make the most of that additional leisure time you now can (or have to) spend at home. When it comes to your everyday work-out, I recently compiled a list of ways to kickstart your cardio routines. Given that we’re currently approaching the colder months of the season, you may however find yourself lacking the motivation to grab your running shoes and go outside — and with gyms closed as well, the treadmill is unfortunately no longer an option for most of us.
A popular way to work out comfortably from the confinement of your own home is without a doubt yoga. Especially since the beginning of the pandemic, yoga classes have proven a valuable pastime, as the lessons can easily be taught remotely via video conference. And there are many proficient teachers out there who are perfectly able to introduce you to the greater depths of the sport.
However, it may seem a little overwhelming to immediately commit to an online course if you have never practised yoga at all and jump straight into it. If that is the case and you feel some uncertainty if you can follow a list of remote instructions, I compiled a helping guide on the basics of mobility, which will give you a better sense of little improvements you can include in your everyday life, and which may encourage you to find out more about how your body works. Here it goes!
Don’t stand around like you don’t care! What I mean is, like you probably know there are healthy and unhealthy ways to sit at your desk, the same idea applies to something as basic as standing. With the right amount of focus, you can even turn standing around into an exercise that will improve your core strength:
1. Do start at the very bottom of your body, in this case your feet. Imagine using them to grip the ground, in similar fashion a monkey can easily use its feet to pick up an object. By using the weight of your own body, you should be able to build up a consistent tension that increases your stability as a starting point.
2. Next thing, contract those abs! Do think about it this way: try building up tension in your abdominal area like you want to squeeze out the final drops of juice from an orange. An analogy my coach likes to use and which I always found quite fitting for the exercise. At the same time, you should try to contract your buttocks and maintain your hips in a straight line.
3. Now the shoulders. Don’t pull them back! I know, I know, that’s what they always tell you, right? Chin up, shoulders back. While that may look good at first sight, it is unfortunately not the best way for you to position yourself. On the contrary, do bring them slightly forward. You should however always pull them down slightly at the same time, you don’t want your shoulders anywhere near your ears. The idea here is to get your shoulder blades aligned to your hips (which are straight, remember?).
4. Last but not least, your precious head! Instead of thinking about raising your chin, do imagine the top of your head being attached to a string, which somebody constantly pulls upward (so in opposite direction to your shoulders and feet).
Tried each of these steps? Great, now do all of them at the same time! This may sound easier than it actually is. If you followed the aforementioned list, I imagine your feet may have already relaxed by the time you started thinking about your shoulders. At least that was my experience when I tried this for the first time. It is rather difficult to combine all of these different tensions simultaneously. But, it is something that you can easily practice anywhere you are, so do give it a go! For one thing, it is good for your overall posture, for another, a yoga teach will unfortunately have trouble seeing little details like that through a webcam. Learning to contract your body efficiently can thus be considered a little head start to your first online lesson.
Another area where the devil is in the details is breathing. When you take part in a yoga course, you may hear things like “be mindful of your breathing” or “relax and breath”. But what does it actually mean to focus on your breathing and relax? How can you do that? Again, let me help you out with a small exercise, which you can easily practice anywhere at any time, whether you’re sitting at your desk, standing in a queue at the grocery store, or simply lying in your own bed: Square breathing. Here’s how it works!
Don’t think about breathing as deeply as you can, but rather as equally as you can: 4 seconds of continuous inhaling and 4 seconds of continuous exhaling. In between, 4 seconds of holding each time you inhale or exhale. Do think about it like your breathing cycle is following along the lines of a square box (hence the name of the exercise). Again, a very easy task at first, but quite difficult to maintain over a prolonged period of time.
I know, these two exercises may seem easy, but learning to control both your core tension and breathing mechanism can be of great benefit to your overall bodily health. Do try them out and see if you can practice them throughout the day. Ideally of course, both at the same time. Once you master those basic steps, you will find that it will become much easier to follow the instructions of a remote teacher, who guides you through a series of more intricate positions and contortions. Don’t underestimate how much of a difference something as simple as standing or breathing properly can make.