If your definition of exercise is stretching… for the TV remote, walking… to make coffee, and bending… to squint closer at your laptop screen, then read this article on 5 types of exercises that won’t have you digging deep into your pocket to sign up at the gym, where you’ll probably go for exactly a week, but ones that will improve your body and feed your soul.
Pilates is a system of exercises developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates to strengthen the human mind and body. Pilates believed that mental and physical health were interrelated and today, the exercises are practiced worldwide. There is some evidence that Pilates alleviates lower back pain, improves balance in the elderly, and helps muscle conditioning in healthy adults.
If practiced consistently, Pilates improves flexibility, builds strength and develops control and endurance in the body. The practice is based on nine principles: Breathing, concentration, control, centering, flow, postural alignment, precision, relaxation, and stamina.
Unlike stretching or fitness, the physical practice is just one aspect of yoga. Yoga is unique as it connects the movement of the body and the fluctuations of the mind to the rhythm of our breath. Connecting the mind, body, and breath helps direct one’s attention inward teaching us to recognize our habitual thought patterns without labeling, judging, or trying to change them. We become more aware of our experiences from moment to moment. The awareness that we cultivate is what makes yoga a practice, rather than a task or a goal to be completed. By doing yoga your body will most likely have more stamina and become much more flexible, as will your mind.
Oh, and if you’re wondering what “Om” means, it’s a soothing and uplifting mantra traditionally chanted at the beginning and end of yoga sessions and is said to be the sound of the universe. Everything that exists pulsates, creating a rhythmic vibration that the ancient yogis acknowledged with “Om”. We may not always be aware of this sound in our daily lives, but we can hear it in the rustling of the autumn leaves, the waves on the shore, the inside of a seashell.
3. Tai chi
Tai Chi is a Chinese martial art that combines movement and relaxation that is good for both body and mind. In fact, it’s been called “meditation in motion.” This martial art comprises a series of graceful, gentle movements, one transitioning smoothly into the next. Since classes are offered at various levels, tai chi is accessible — and valuable, to people of all ages and fitness levels. The slow pace of moves in Tai Chi allow one to focus on each one improving concentration while also controlling breathing through various exercises. It’s especially good for older people as balance is an important component of fitness, and balance is something we lose as we get older. Meditation is also part of Tai Chi and there are several types of mediation around. Controlled breathing meditation, for example, allows more oxygen to be inhaled. Guided meditation brings peace and relaxation. Mantra meditation is excellent for those who need to chant certain words or phrases to concentrate, bringing peace of mind, and ensuring that stress — and negative thoughts, are driven away.
If meditation and breathing (or balancing on one foot) is not for you, but you seek exercise that involves faster action, but is still good for your soul, then swimming is the perfect workout. The buoyancy of the water supports your body and takes the strain off painful joints so you can move them more fluidly. It’s especially good for those with arthritis as it is less weight-bearing. Research has found that swimming can also improve your mental state and put you in a better mood. Water aerobics, another option, helps you burn calories and tone up.
Walking is simple, yet powerful. It can help you stay trim, improve cholesterol levels, strengthen bones, keep blood pressure in check, d lower your risk for a number of diseases (diabetes and heart disease, for example), and also lift your mood. A number of studies have shown that walking and other physical activities can even improve memory and resist age-related memory loss. Best yet, no paying for classes or gym memberships as all you need is a well-fitting and supportive pair of shoes!
So here’s to finding the perfect exercise that keeps you in shape and in balance — mentally and physically…