Stress is everywhere. We find it at work, in traffic, in mortgage bills, in deadlines, in our personal insecurities as well as many other places in our reality. For the majority of my life, I thought stress was something I would have to live with and that I could do nothing about. For the longest time, I was unaware that this Neuro-Biological response was ruining my health on many different levels. I was the person who got sick every couple months, would be constipated frequently, would frequently have mood swings, would have daily food cravings, would have anxiety running rampant when I had no reason to be anxious, add a stream of many other problems and you have yourself a very unhealthy human being on the brink of ruining his body and brain. After living many years of unconscious self destruction, I hired a trainer named Robert North. I had hired the guy primarily to help me with my functional anatomy, little did I know that this guy was about to flip my reality upside down. He explained to me that stress wasn’t just a mental reality in our heads, but that it was a physical reality that our body internalized whenever we went through any stressful thought patterns. As I studied further, I learned that the body can be in the stress mode of “fight or flight” with out actually having to go through physical bodily action that most animals go through, to get into that Neuro-Biological state. Now why would this be important? When your body is under stress it doesn’t care for things like the proper assimilation of nutrients or the sustenance of our immune system, so it prioritizes the stressor at that moment and the breakdown of tissues, rather than recovery and relaxation. So when I would be hurrying to drive from one client’s house to another for training, my body was going through the physiological reaction of running sprints, while I was sitting in my car. Add to the fact that my Catabolic, high intensity workouts were adding more stress to my body and you have the recipe for a self destructive health disaster.
At this point it was quite clear that I needed to strategize differently when it came to my personal exercise and fitness regimens, especially my client’s exercise and fitness regimens. I began to study exercise methods that activate the part of the nervous system responsible for recovery and healing, the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). That means that the movements would be catered more towards relaxation, rather than intensity. Rather than pushing the body towards hyperventilation, we push it to a more controlled relaxed breath pattern. I started using exercises in Paul Chek’s: “Eat, Move and Become Healthy.” They were great in helping my body manage its stress response and building a good foundation on where to start from, but the method didn’t go far enough for me. Most of the movements were too rigid and constricting to the body. My personal perspective on Parasympathetic (relaxation) exercise is that moving gracefully with your body, much like a dancer, should be the ultimate key to getting a good effect. Mesh proper rhythmic breathing patterns along with the movement, coordinate the two, and you will have yourself a stress management system that goes far enough. If we allow the body to open and release the stress and tension it carries, then we can find a compensating measure strong enough to satiate the stress response in our body. The beauty of my method is that it there’s also a place to progress to, which means you can increase your body’s adaptability to stress. Best of all, you only need a couple of 2 or 3 pound weights!!! Here are three of the most basic stress management exercises I frequently use with my clients:
Exercise 1.) Baby Pendulum Swings – We want to make sure the body is in a centered stance and that the weights are swinging freely without strain coming from the shoulders and neck. Breathing is absolutely key in all of these exercises, do not forget to emphasize breath. In this specific exercise, we want to breath as slowly as possible. Make sure you really breath in as much oxygen as possible.
Exercise 2.) Two-arm Pendulum Squat – Same non-strain in the shoulders and neck through the movement. We inhale the breath at the top, exhale at the bottom of the movement. If you get confused with the breath pattern, think about waking up in the morning and stretching out your arms. You’ll probably notice that you’ll inhale with the stretch coming upward.
Exercise 3.) Cross-country Skiers – Again, no rigid movements with the upper body. We maintain a good posture while swinging the weights in opposite directions. In this exercise, I like to count how many swings I can get and the inhale and exhale. As of now, I’m at about 26 for in inhale and 26 for an exhale. If you can only get a couple swings per inhale/exhale it means you need a ton of practice.
I would highly recommend doing this circuit 3x around and do each exercise 2-3 minutes long at a time. If you master it enough and bring your hands together, you will feel the chi energy that your body emits when doing these exercises. This is a great method to use when it comes to setting the brain and body into meditation. Try it out! If you have any further questions, feel free to e-mail me at: [email protected]