We are all affected by stress to different degrees at different stages of our life. Everyone defines stress differently and have a different threshold for that stress. We all display stress differently. Any stress that we experience, both real or imagined, has an effect on our body tissues via our Nervous System.
Stress increases the drive of the ‘fight or flight’ side of the nervous system, sending blood to our arms, legs and brain so we can run away from the danger or stay and defend ourselves. Relaxation between the stressful events allows for the ‘rest, repair and digest’ part of the nervous system to send blood to our organs to support our body to rest and recover. Each time we have a stressful reaction in the body, we need to be able to allow the body space and support it to return to balance and repair any damage that was done in the stressful phase. These days most of us live in a constant ‘fight or flight’ state and our body is unable to complete the recovery it needs to get up the next day and do it all again, and eventually the system breaks down.
The following 7 exercises are designed to be able to be completed within
5 minutes in your home or office…one for every day of the week.
These exercises will improve your breathing, flexibility and energy. They will stimulate more oxygen and nutrient flow to your tissues, improving the health of your muscles, organs, bones, immune system and more. These are best done out in the sun in the morning, with your feet in contact with the earth – ie bare feet on the grass.
Some points on breathing for full benefit, breathe in and out through your nose, unless otherwise stated below. Breathe fully, using the diaphragm. When you breathe in, allow your tummy to expand forward and when you breathe out, let it sink back in. For more deeper cleansing breaths, as you breathe in, push the diaphragm muscle down, and breathing out, pull the tummy in and diaphragm muscle up into the ribcage.
1. Increasing lung capacity, clearing stale air from lungs
Sit in a comfortable position. Take a breath in to the count of 3, out to the count of 6 then breathe in for 4 seconds, breathe out for 8 seconds, increasing this count by one second every breath. When you have reached as long as you can, reduce your breaths by 1 second each and work back down to 3:6 seconds. Repeat 3-5 times. Set the intention to get one more count each time you do this exercise.
2. Improve flexibility, increase blood flow
Perform 3-6 cycles of the Sun Salutation, standing on the floor, or on a chair – standing or seated.
3. Pure relaxation
Lay on your back, arms relaxed at your side and take 10 of the deepest, longest, slowest breaths. Try making a hissing ‘s’ sound on the out breath to lengthen the exhalation and more fully empty the lungs.
4. Deep cleansing
Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Raise arms overhead, reaching for the sky. Exhale through your mouth as you bend forward to reach for your toes (keeping knees slightly bent). Compress your chest and push upward with your diaphragm to completely expel stale air. Inhale through your nose and mouth as you straighten to standing, reach your arms to the sky. Push down with diaphragm and expand your chest. Hold your breath in this position for 5 seconds. Repeat 5-10 times.
5. Relax muscles, melt tension
Alternating between a) contracting the muscles and then b) relaxing the muscles completely. Imagine contracting the muscle by tightening through the area indicated and hold for 5-8 seconds. Breathe out on the relaxation phase and let all tension go from the muscle, as if you have just popped a water balloon and the water (tension) is running out. After 5 seconds move to the next area.
Progressively move through areas of the body in this sequence:
Right foot – Right lower leg – Right whole leg – Right buttock – Left foot – Left lower leg – Left whole leg – Left buttock – Right hand – Right forearm and hand – Right whole arm – Right shoulder – Left hand – Left forearm and hand – Left whole arm – Left shoulder – Abdomen – Chest – Lower Back – Upper back – Neck – Shoulder – Scalp – Face.
After completing this series, take 5 deep, full breaths into your abdomen to the count of 4 seconds, and breathe out for 8 seconds, imagining any residual tension dissolving. Repeat this series if required.
6. Increase flexibility, lubricate joints, boost energy
Stand with feet shoulder width apart, arms out in front with your elbows slightly bent as if you are loosely hugging someone. Breathe in to expand your tummy, then your lower ribs expand out then your upper ribs expand up. As you do this expand the ribs, lift your arms up above your head. Breathe out and allow ribs to descend, bringing your arms back down, almost to your abdomen.
Begin by breathing small, slow breaths synchronised with the arm movements. Increase the rate of breathing with arm movements over 30 breaths until you are breathing as fast as you can, then reduce the rate back to slow over the next 30 breaths. Perform this 60 breath cycle 5 times.
7. Relax, balance the nervous system, calm the mind, balance right and left brain
Sit in a comfortable position. Hold the right nostril closed with your index finger and slowly take a breath in through the left, release the right, and close the left nostril with your thumb and breathe out through right.
Breathe in right (left blocked), out left (right blocked). Continue this cycle for 10-100 breaths each side.
We hope you take up this challenge of adding 5 minutes of self care to your day for the benefit of your body and mind. Check out our other articles packed with simple and practical ways to improve your health including the 6 foundations of your health, including – clean water, fresh air, sunshine, movement, sleep and fresh food. If you have any questions, or would like specific advice on movement, breathing, health or exercise please contact us on 07) 3208 8308 or book instantly online.
Written by Dr. Jess Harvey B.Sc. (Anat, Phys), B.Ap.Sci (Comp. Med.), Ma Osteo., Registered Osteopath and Director of Head 2 Toe Health, a multidisciplinary clinic in Brisbane also providing Acupuncture, Massage, Life Coaching and Counselling – where we aim to get you as well as possible, as fast as possible, permanently. We believe in a thorough approach to restoring and maintaining health and address many aspects of our lifestyles that can contribute to pain, stiffness, dis-ease and disease. For any further information, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07) 3208 8308.
This information is intended as a general guide only and is not specific for any particular condition or situation. Please seek specific advice from a healthcare practitioner before beginning a new nutrition or exercise program.