Exercise, exercise, exercise!

Studies show that exercise stimulates the movement of immune cells throughout the body, boosting our ability to resist illness. It’s also known as an effective stress-reducer, and, it will help to ensure we get a good night’s sleep. Whether it’s a workout at the gym, a yoga class or a group exercise class, regular physical activity will result in fewer sick days. Following are some techniques you can practice on your own before joining us at the fitness center for classes and training.

Exercise 1:
Lie on your stomach on a mat or the floor with your legs outstretched behind you. Your toes are pointing toward the wall behind you. Reach your arms out overhead with your palms facing each other. Relax your neck and align your head with your spine.

Exhale. Deepen your abdominal and core muscles to stabilize your spine and slowly and strongly reach both legs away from your torso until they lift a few inches off the floor. At the same time float both arms a few inches off the floor. Keep both legs and arms straight and allow any rotation in the arms, legs, shoulders or pelvis. Your head is aligned with your spine. Do not allow your head to lift up or to droop toward the floor. Do not allow the back to arch. Hold this position briefly.

Gently inhale and lower your legs and arms back to your starting position without any movement in your low back or hips.

Exercise 2:
Come to an all-fours position on the floor mat, with your hands under your shoulders hands fingers facing forward. Engaging your abdominals to support the spine, step back one foot at a time, coming to a push-up position (plank). You hands should remain under your shoulders. Re-position your feet as needed to allow full extension of your body. Do no allow the rib-cage or low back to sag toward the floor or the hips to hike up toward the ceiling.

Exhale. Shift your weight back toward the wall behind you. This will cause your hips to rise up in the air forming an inverted V position. Your head should be aligned with your spine or slightly tucked. Try not to lift the head. Press your heels toward the floor. If your hamstrings are tight, you may allow a slight bend in the knees. Work toward straight knees, reaching the heels toward the floor.

Inhale and return your body to the starting push-up position, maintaining the alignment of all your body segments.

Exercise 3:
Lie on your back on a mat with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and heels a comfortable distance away from your seat.

Place your hands behind your head. Pull your shoulder blades together and your elbows back without arching your low back or causing your ribs to splay out. This elbow position should be maintained throughout the exercise. Your head should be aligned with your spine.

Exhale. Engage your abdominal and core muscles. Nod your chin slightly as you slowly curl your head and shoulders off the mat.
Pull your rib cage together and toward your pelvis. Keep the neck relaxed. Your feet, tailbone and lower back should remain in
contact with the mat at all times. Continue curling up until your upper back is lifted off the mat. Hold this position briefly.
Gently inhale and lower your torso back toward the mat.

Exercise 4:
Lie on your side on a mat/floor with your legs lengthened straight away from your body. Stack your feet in neutral position. Your lower arm can be bent and placed under your head for support. Your upper arm rests upon your upper hip. Your hips and shoulders should be stacked up and aligned vertically to the floor. Your head should be aligned with your spine. Engage your abdominal muscles to support your spine.

Exhale. Gently raise the upper leg off the lower leg. Keep the knee straight and the foot in a neutral position. Do not allow the hips to roll forward or back. Both knees should be “looking” straight ahead. Continue raising the leg until the hips begin to tilt, the waist collapses into the floor or until your feel tension develop in your low back or oblique muscles.

Gently inhale and return the leg to your starting position in a slow, controlled manner. After completing your set, roll over and repeat with the opposite leg. A common mistake is raising the leg too high in this exercise. Given the design of the hip joint, the thigh can only abduct (move out sideways) to 45 degrees. Any movement beyond that position involves movement of the entire hip and no longer targets the muscles intended for this exercise.

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