Monday, February 19, 2018

Alternative Exercises

Note: This post was first written back in December and editing proved too much of a boon so...

There seems to be an alternative to everything these days... and that's a fact. But lately, I've been experimenting with "alternative exercises" to my standard yoga routine. In Connecticut, where I exist devoid of yoga memberships, I find it hard cough up mucho money during (and after) the holiday season to purchase a pack of yoga classes which I could otherwise get on the cheap back home. Of course, there are deals on Groupon but who has time for forethought in December... or ever? Ergo, this Christmas I've attempted to search for "alternative exercises" which my fiance claims, "keeps my puppy (a.k.a. anxious) energy at bay." Additionally, they also keep my pocketbook from becoming devoid of any cash. A few alternatives lie below.

1. Cleaning: I love cleaning but recognize that others don't. If this is the case, fear not, there are many other forms alternative exercises (a.k.a. yard work). But in the winter, deep cleaning the home is a good way to attain a workout while remaining indoors. Plus, you're likely already getting the house ready for company and/or cleaning up their shit, sooooo...

Although winter is a great time for a good clean, it wasn't until last summer that I gave my abode a real scrub from top to bottom. Having gone without any formal workouts that day, I was still exhausted and famished by the end of my activities (which seemed to include 15 - thousand loads of laundry). And so, scrubbing, mopping, vacuuming and running up and down the stairs to do laundry can all serve as activities which simply keep our bodies (and cardiovascular systems) moving. Always a good thing. Do a few activities at a time, come back, do a few more. Don't feel pressure to clean straight through... no one likes a try hard.

2. Shopping: As stated above, sometimes it's just good to get the blood (and body) moving. Sitting all day (to use an extreme example) has been shown to, 'negatively impact the health of your heart and blood vessels,' according to a report released by the American Heart Association. While it's often difficult to find scholarly sources on some subjects, the dangers of #sedentarylife seem to be ubiquitous. Thus, according to The Washington Post, "sitting for long periods of time slows blood circulation," that sacred process which delivers oxygen and nutrients throughout our sacred bodies. Sitting, by contrast, can pool blood in our legs while our glutes remain unused and grow soft, damaging our stability (also according to the WaPo). In general, this is a long-winded way of saying that walking through the mall can be better than binge-watching the latest show. And since you've likely completed your holiday shopping, it can be an excuse to make those returns you need.

3. Check Yo' Posture: While it's something of a micro-movement, checking in with your posture is something your can do no matter where you are or what you're doing. When we maintain poor posture (whether sitting or standing), our muscles can strain and thereby compress the blood vessels meant to provide them with oxygen.  Proper posture can sometimes open said gateways and allow everything to go with the flow, so to speak. It's a small movement but, when done consistently, can add up to big results. In order to specifically check in with your posture...

Good posture for good photos says Blake Lively.

Check in Consistently: In order to improve one's posture, one must first remember to do so. For me, this means consistently remembering to check my posture on the daily... multiple times each day. In order to quickly check in with your posture on the regular, there are essentially two things I like to do.

Ensure your chin is parallel with the floor. Yes, it's straight from the Royal Family's playbook as I've read that Kate Middleton and her contemporaries must employ said posture when they're out and about... and why not? While good posture can help us live our best lives (stand tall, right?), it also helps us look better in pictures (think selfies).

Relax Your Shoulders Down Your Back: While the exercise above is easy enough (it's quick, painless and breaks up the monotony of the day), really relaxing our shoulders can be difficult. To an extent, throwing anything out into the universe where we no longer control it... whether it be a truthful statement, an action we can't take back or a pivotal choice... can be scary. In a similar sense, allowing for gravity to take over our bodies to the extent we don't have full control of them can be equally as awkward and often engenders a feeling of letting go (at least in my experience). However, as hard as it can be to emotionally let loose our shoulders from our ears, the physical act of relaxing them is equally as easy. Simply take a deep breath in, hold it for a few seconds, and allow your shoulders to roll down your back on the exhale. As your shoulders roll down, you'll likely notice your spine straightening up, allowing less strain on your muscles and for oxygen to move more easily throughout your body.

4. Warm Foods: I know it sounds odd but hear me out. It's a scientific fact that when matter heats up, molecules move around more freely. And exercise, through heating our bodies and making our hearts work harder often pumps more blood around our system... delivering oxygen and nutrients more efficiently to our cells. And so, in some cases, if you can't workout... eat. In general, consuming warm drinks such as tea and even soup can help improve our blood's circulation or even help our joints (in the case of bone broth). A few teas and soups I like to make in the dead of winter include...

Chai Tea: Combining warm water with black tea and cinnamon (among other things), chai tea is great for our bodies. While, as stated above, warm water can aid the process of circulation, cinnamon is a well-know anti-inflammatory. And while UC San Diego Health noted that 20 minutes of exercise on the daily can have anti-inflammatory effects on the body, a cup of chai can be a bit more comforting in the winter months. Amirite?

Soups: I love soups. And while resistance training and other forms of exercise have been shown to strengthen the muscles around your joints bone broth or the base of most easy soups have been shown to aid the joints as well. According to Dr. Josh Axe, "[a]s bone broth simmers, collagen from the animal parts [bones] leaches into the broth and becomes readily absorbable to help restore cartilage." According to the same source, age can essentially wear down our cartilage and both exercise and bone broth can help (albeit in different fashions). The delicious recipe can be found here.

4. YouTube Yoga: Despite all the options above, if you must get a workout at home, YouTube Yoga is a thing and while gym memberships can reach triple digits if you in the city, such videos (while not ideal) do provide a decent workout for a big, fat zero-percent of the price. And, while I'm at home, I often like to indulge in yoga of the more mild variety meaning both Yin and Nidra Yoga. I've included a few links above and below but know that my next post focuses almost exclusively on the rankings of such videos.

So there you have it... everything from the more strenuous labor of cleaning to the more simple act of checking in with your posture. In the end, whether we are engaging in intense exercise or simple movements, any action we take which allows blood and oxygen to flow well through our bodies is always beneficial. One need not make a trip to the gym (or buy an membership) to do so.