implementing mind-body connection into training and movement
Training and moving is a good way to get out of your head and into your body.
When it comes to training; intention is everything. Whether it's stretching, a warmup, yoga, or a more intense training session; consciously going through the movements will make a day and night difference on the effects it has on your brain and body. Mental and emotional health are intimately intertwined with physical health; emotion is created by motion.
Studies show that the mindful movement and breathing done during exercise activates a relaxation response via the vagus nerve. Consequently, mind-body connection takes the nervous system out of the “fight or flight” response associated with stress.
Some of the ways I like to work on this is by implementing meditation through the week, which I find carries into everything else, including my workouts and sport. Working on strengthening the mind will help push the body, not necessarily through a hard workout only, but also connect more during other strenuous activities.
Implementing different ways of exercise will challenge the mind to connect more to the body in order to learn new things. Think of learning a new sport, or being a beginner and developing a new skill. This might look like taking yoga for the first time, which is a great way to incorporate breath work into movement. Breathing is an important and often overlooked part of training and moving.
When I work with my clients, we take some time at the beginning of our sessions to warmup and assess the body and how it’s feeling that day. Sometimes there are areas that need more focus. While going through our dynamic warmup, we focus on matching breathing to movements. Once we move on to the resistance training part of the session, we carry on the breathing focus, connecting an inhale with the eccentric part of the movement and an exhale with the concentric contraction.
Going through our everyday life and falling into a mundane routine can easily put us into auto mode, disconnecting us from our body and mind. This is why it’s important to create some rituals throughout the day to make sure we are staying present. It could be a morning routine or a pre-bed routine where you go over ideas or revisit good things that happened that day. We can also implement some movement throughout the day, not necessarily working out, it could also be dynamic stretches to make sure we are in tune with our bodies.
Here are some simple exercises you can do while taking a 10 minute break from work during the day.
90/90 Reaches: Set yourself up making sure both front and back knee are at a 90° angle. Keep a tall chest and long spine, take a deep inhale and bend at the hip towards the front knee while you exhale. Go down as far as you can without rounding your back. Come back up to the original position and reach your arm through the space between the other arm and torso, reach as far as you can as you exhale. Repeat 8-10 times on each side.
Bench Stick T Spine Opener: Grab a chair or bench and a broom stick. Get on both knees, holding the stick with your palms up and hands shoulder width apart. Place elbows on the edge of the bench. Take a deep inhale and sit back onto your heels, bring head through the space between your arms and bring the stick towards you back as you exhale. Repeat 8-10 times.
World's Greatest Stretch: Assume a half kneeling position with a good amount of distance between the knee of the back leg and heel of the from leg. Place hand parallel to the front foot, reach other arm towards the sky during an inhale and bring elbow to the ground as you exhale. Perform 8 reps each side.
Crab Reach: While sitting down on the ground make sure you have an equal amount of distance between feet, glutes and hands, fingers pointed towards the back. Take a deep inhale and bring hand next to your face, hips towards the ceiling while keeping heels on the ground, squeeze glutes and follow your hand with your eyes leading you towards the floor as you exhale. 8 reps each side.
Toe Touch to Deep Squat: Grab your feet or ankles as you inhale and bend the knees with an exhale, getting into your deepest squat and hold for 2 seconds. Perform 8 reps.