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The 20-Minute Mind/Body Workout

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Workout 5: Relaxation

Workout 5: Relaxation

You'd think relaxing would be second nature, but the fact is most of us are just too darn keyed up to wind down. That's why we asked Annette Lang to develop these "active" relaxation exercises. "Relaxation helps you regroup and recover," she explains. These moves also improve flexibility and help prevent injury -- especially if you sit in front of a computer most of the day.

Belly breathing: Sit up tall in a chair (or lie down with your knees bent, feet on the floor), placing both hands on your belly. Inhale through your nose, feeling your belly gently expand as it fills with air, then gently pull it in as you exhale through your mouth. Repeat 20 times.

Seated twist: Sit tall on a chair. Place your right ankle on your left thigh and gently turn toward the right. Hold there for 5 full breaths, deepening the stretch with each exhalation. To increase the stretch, gently pull your right knee toward your chest. Do the exercise 5 times on each side.

Side stretch: Lie faceup with knees bent and feet on the floor. Cross right thigh over left, allowing both legs to gradually fall to the right; you should feel the stretch along your left side. Hold there for 5 breaths, deepening the stretch with each exhalation. Return to center and repeat, switching legs. Do the stretch 5 times on each side.

Back and neck stretch: Sit up tall in a chair. Lower your right ear toward your right shoulder, feeling a stretch on the left side of your neck and upper back. Hold for 5 full breaths. To increase the stretch, place your right hand on the top of your head and gently pull down.

Mindful meditation: Sit quietly with your eyes closed. Be aware of thoughts that come and go, but try to keep your mind calm the entire time -- don't let anything linger in there for too long. Remain seated like this for at least 5 minutes.

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, April 2007.


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