Detoxing? You can still be active

Spring is here! This means that I’ll be cleansing soon. Last year I did a month long cleanse from the Blessed Herbs company. During which, I eliminated alcohol, caffeine, gluten, dairy, meat, and refined sugar from my diet. This year I am just going to do a week of the herbal cleansing but keep the strict diet for another two weeks. It helps that other people at work will be on the same cleanse so we can all keep each other motivated and on track!

Keeping a specific diet is hard, and this cleanse really limits what we can consume to clean and easy food to digest. What is did teach me last year though was that the body responds better to unprocessed foods and that is always the healthier choice. It helped me keep a few of my habits and addictions in check as well. Sugar? Coffee? I love it, but maybe only in moderation.

Last spring I remember the first week was the hardest, especially going cold turkey without the caffeine in the morning to help me get through the day. This year I am going to start cutting back and switching to tea a week early and plan on keeping an exercise routine as well.
Even though during a cleanse your body is going though some changes, staying active will help keep your energy level up.

What I recommend:

If your cleanse significantly cuts the amount of calories you are eating, don’t continue with strenuous exercise. This could lead to injuries and over exhaustion. Instead, focus more on stretching, walking, and localized strengthening.

Spinal twists can be especially therapeutic while you are detoxing because of their cleansing like nature. Joseph Pilates used to tell there clients to imagine wringing out the lungs while twisting the spine. In yoga theory, twists are usually done first to the left and then to the right in accordance to the anatomy of the large intestine to promote healthy digestion. In a spinal twist your internal organs are gently compressed. This can help increase circulation to the area. It will also feel really good on achy lower backs.

The traditional Pilates Hundred is also a great exercise to do while cleansing. It is challenging for the core, the breath is integrated into the movement, and the pumping of the arms will increase circulation and warm up the body quickly.

Planks are an exercise that will never let you down. Holding the position will challenge almost every major muscle group. Try the full plank or balance on your forearms. Add leg lifts or push-ups for an extra challenge.

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On Walking

There’s no excuse. If you can walk, you can exercise. Whether you are trying to lose weight or just want to be more active, the first step is to simply start moving. You’ve probably heard it before but the littlest changes in your day can make a huge impact on how you feel. Taking the stairs whenever possible, getting up from the desk as often as you can, taking a walk after dinner, parking the car further away than usual are some simple ways to get a few extra steps into the day.

Walking is the most basic and accessible form of exercise. A study published in 2008 in the January issue of Archives of Internal Medicine reported that those who had a higher level of physical activity actually had cells that appeared younger than their sedentary counter parts. This suggests that regular exercise can help prevent age related illness. What more motivation do you need?

Besides the age slowing benefits, walking is good for blood circulation and keeping your joints healthy. What is that old saying, a rolling stone gathers no moss, or a moving gear never gets rusty? Our joints were made for moving, so keep them healthy and strong with regular exercise.

By watching New Yorkers all day through the window on East 11th Street, I’ve come to realize that everyone has their own gait. Most people don’t think about the way that they walk. Why should they? It’s a skill learned pre-cognition, before our first memory even. I’ve talked briefly about being aware of your posture, and the same goes for when you are on the move. Keeping your shoulders over your hips is just as important as keeping your head in line with your spine. Jutting your head forward as you are rushing to the train won’t get you there faster, it will only give you a neck ache. If you are walking as a form of exercise, focus on the back of the leg (the glutes, hamstrings and the calves) to propel you forward and always remember to wear supportive shoes!

Now that the weather is getting nicer I suggest you put your favorite songs on your ipod, grab your sneakers, and head outside. Even if just for fifteen minutes. You have to start somewhere, right?

Sit up straight!

Posture is simply the position of the body when sitting or standing. While you might think it would be a rigid position, it should actually be anything but static. Good posture aligns the bones and muscles to work the most efficiently so that it requires the least amount of energy. Any posture that forces certain muscles to strain is going to have repercussions. The body is designed for movement so keep that in mind when “sitting up straight,” it’s usually not a great idea to try to lock joints and muscles into place.

The word posture also has some other connotations dealing with projecting attitudes, often in a way to impress or mislead. This seems fairly logical given that we can read a lot about a person by their posture. And it works both ways. Try feeling confident slouched over in your chair…. Now sit up tall, shoulders wide, chin lifted horizontally- it’s like being a totally different person.

Most of posture correcting techniques or methods deal with breaking bad habits. Once you recognize when you are not in an ideal posture it’s easier to change into a more supported position. Having a sense of body awareness is crucial, not only for correcting posture but also coordination and balance. Body awareness and posture also play a role in overall body language, which sometimes speaks louder than you might think.

But the real kicker with bad posture is that it contributes to chronic back pain. A lot of people spend most of their time sitting in front of a computer. It’s important to make sure you are getting up to stretch your legs and walk around periodically throughout the day. Staying in one position for a long period of time is stressful on the body. In order to improve your posture you will need to strengthen the muscles that run on either side of the spine. These muscles, especially the erector spinae, support your spine in an upright position. The reason why it’s often difficult to keep the back straight when sitting down is because of weak erector spinae.

The baby swan exercises in Pilates targets this muscle. By extending the back without using your hands to push you up, you are forced to use the muscles of the back. Do these exercises very slowly to make sure you are not using momentum or letting other muscles compensate.

Lie down on your stomach, engage your abdominals and place your hands, palm over palm, underneath your forehead. Slowly lengthen your spine to lift into an arc coming up only as high as you can control. Just as slowly lengthen the spine to lower back down. Do 4-6 repetitions and then stretch out the back by sitting in child’s pose or cat pose on all fours.