Stress Busters!

By Riva Preil

Believe it or not, relaxation is within reach. Before spending large sums of money on expensive massages or spa treatments, I encourage you to try the following user-friendly, at home strategies…

1. Designate personal “you” time at least three times per week for half an hour each. Take advantage of this time to engage in activities that are geared solely and exclusively to…YOU! For example, read a book, play a musical instrument, write a letter, or watch an entertaining (preferably humorous) television show or movie. Laughter works wonders for our central nervous system and muscles!

2. Take a nice walk in the park.  Both a nice languid stroll as well as a brisk power walk will improve blood flow and help reduce stress.

3. Hot baths work wonders. Fill your tub or Jacuzzi, light the candles, power up the music (highly recommended is Pandora’s relaxation station!), power down your iPhone, and sink down into the water. Allow the heat to suffuse your body until you can physically feel yourself relaxing. Empty your mind. Listen only to the music, not that to-do list in your head.  (If you are having trouble turning down the volume of that voice shouting out your to-do list, I recommend keeping a pen and paper nearby.  Jot down anything you are afraid of forgetting. Putting it on paper will “permit you to let go.”  It is recorded in a safe place and you can return to it LATER.  This will allow you to live the here and now, the PRESENT, in a more relaxed state.)

4. After your bath, stretch the warmth with a cup of tea- try chamomile or mint, which calm the stomach, or green tea, which tames the body’s free radicals.

5. Dress in loose fitting clothing- tight clothing can increase skin irritations and can decrease blood flow.

6. Adjust your sitting surface- find a chair or cushion to help alleviate tailbone and or perineal pain.  Search on the internet for “sitting cushions”- many are designed with cut outs to decrease pressure to areas prone to irritation.

7. If Pilates or spinning is your preferred exercise of choice, try substituting a relaxing Yoga class or home DVD instead.  The stretches combined with deep breathing have an extremely calming effect on the body.

8. Last but not least, many people find meditation to be a wonderful stress reduction technique. There are many books, tapes, and online courses that teach the right way to perform meditation. Once you learn how to properly meditate, it’s a great way to gain a sense of calm and stability that lasts. And, like deep breathing, it’s something you can do anywhere, anytime for a few minutes to get a quick hit of relaxation.

Don’t you feel more relaxed already?  Please enjoy any and all of these techniques, and may your body reap the relaxation benefits!

(Adapted from Amy Stein’s Heal Pelvic Pain)

Pilates: Year in Review

By Denise Vidal

This time of year is filled with family, friends, good food, and lots of laughter. However, with all of the goodness that the holidays bring, there can also be a lot of stress and anxiety that come with the season.  To combat these stressors, take a moment for yourself to review some of the Pilates exercises that we have done thus far. Whether you choose to focus on your breath, mobilize your spine, or stabilize your pelvis, these exercises can work as meditations to calm you during the stress of the holidays and new year.

In this blog we’ll review one of my earlier entries. As always, if your experiencing any back or pelvic pain, consult your doctor or PT before attempting any of these exercises.

You can do this exercise either lying down (preferable with knees bent), sitting or standing.

We’ll start by focusing on your breath.

Believe it or not, there are different ways to breathe. You can breathe into your belly, or you can breathe into your ribcage. The Pilates method focuses predominantly on ribcage breathing, however, for a healthy core one should be able to access both types of breath.

Put your hands around your waist and inhale through your nose. Imagine your breath swirling down to the base of your pelvis, and as you exhale imagine your breath floating up into your ribcage.

Do this 5 or 6 times to slowly open and extend your breath.

Once you have made this connection, use the following visualization to engage your core:
Imagine a soft, squishy ball inside you abdomen. Inhale as described above, then, as you exhale imagine both your navel and your spine moving towards each other to squeeze the ball.

On your next exhale, imagine that the sides of your waste are narrowing to squeeze the ball.
Progress your abdominal engagement by imaging both visuals at once: the navel and spine narrowing towards the ball as well as the sides of the waist narrowing towards the ball.

Do this exercise once a day to lessen your stress and increase your strength.
Have a Happy New Year!