pilates inspired practice.
Let’s face it – a large part of our day tends to include staring at a screen. Though there is momentum behind the standing desk phenomenon which I wholeheartedly support, in general I am an advocate for simply choosing to move more throughout the day. Not just an hour at the gym, a 30 minute swim or your weekly Pilates class (which I know you keep up with!) but finding ways to incorporate more movement into your life to boost our physical and mental health.
In terms of how to begin making this shift, my biggest tip is to set a timer.
If I know I have a lot of work to do on the computer, before I start, I set a timer for 30 minutes. Once the timer goes off, I stop (important!) and either get up and do some movement, meditate, go for a quick walk, go up and down the stairs in my apartment building or some combination of all of the above. NEVER have I regretted this choice. I am always more refreshed, focused, and creative afterwards. Before I work again, I set a timeragain for 30 minutes and repeat.
So without further ado, here are my top three go-to computer breaks:
Some guidelines: Begin standing with the feet hip width apart or a little bit wider if that feels more comfortable for you. Begin to let the body shake. Start with a gentle shake while feeling your feet on thefloor and all the joints loose, especially the jaw. Let the breath flow freely. I like to inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth, often sighing as I exhale. You may find that you want to shake more vigorously or softly. Trust those impulses and follow them. Or you may find that you want to shake one or both wrists or arms, etc. There shouldn’t be any localized pain sensation as you are shaking. You may notice tensions or your muscles feeling tired over a broader area in the body.
For the most benefit, try to shake for 10 minutes.
Why shake? It’s a great way to release physical tension, stress and stagnant energy. It increases circulation and creates heat in the body. I like to think of it as a reset button for the body. There is also literature about the healing benefits of shaking. If you find that you enjoy it and are curious to find out more about this angle, check out Peter Levine’s book Healing Trauma.
2. Arm Swings!
Some guidelines: Begin standing with the feet a little bit wider than hip-width apart. Bend the knees ever so slightly. Start to let the arms swing from side to side. As one arm moves in front of you, it bends and wraps to the other side, the opposite arm swings back behind you, bends and also wraps to the opposite side. Let the tops of the shoulders stay relaxed away from the ears. The feet remain planted into the floor but the hips are allowed to sway from side to side. Decide if the head wants to follow or trail behind the movement or move in time with the arms. Find a way to swing that feels good for you. Knees never lock. Jaw is relaxed. Breath is moving freely. Let the eyes scan the room as you go from side to side. Give those eyeballs a chance to move around in their sockets! It’s super intuitive and rewarding.
You can swing for any amount of time, with 2-5 minutes being a general suggestion. We use the swing in the Quick Energy Booster and Stress Buster videos.
This is especially useful if you feel like you are hitting a creative or technical wall. Instead of continuing to beat your head against the wall, take a break. It will help reduce stress, anxiety and much more.
Some Guidelines: Set a timer for 10 minutes. Find a comfortable seated position. If you can sit cross-legged on the floor - great. The arms can land where they feel comfortable. As long as the spine is long and you’re in a shape you feel like you can hold – you’re ready to go. Start by focusing on the breath. The inhalation is in through the nose and out through the nose. Let the mind rest on the breath. Feel where the breath travels. You could say to yourself, ‘nose, throat, chest, ribs, belly’ on the inhalation and ‘belly, ribs, chest, throat, nose‘ on the exhalation. The goal is not to shut off the brain. Think of the thoughts that enter in the mind as passing clouds. You don’t need to get caught up in any narrative. I fit happens, no worries. Just come back to the breath.
If this 10-minute meditation practice feels good for you, there are a number of ways to proceed. Let your intuition guide you as you find different aspects of the body to focus on. For example, trace the body in the mind with the intention of trying to feel where the skin ends. There are also thousands of visualizations or themed meditations available and I would encourage some internet research or ask friends/family/trainers if they have suggestions.
What’s your favorite ‘computer break’?
I hope you enjoy these ideas to help release and strengthen the shoulders. Take your time and let me know how it goes!
1. Shoulder Blade Release
We'll begin with a release so you can get deeper in the following exercises as well as bring awareness to this area. We're trying to soften the fascia and muscles around the back of the shoulder - specifically the serratus anterior, rotator cuff muscles, latissimus dorsi and teres major. So, find your tennis ball (or other preferred self-massage tool) and make space at a wall!
2. Arm Half Circle at the Wall
The ribs and hips move as they want. If it feels like too much of a stretch or too intense in general, simply step further away from the wall. To make the sensation more, take a step closer to the wall but always keep at least some space between the inside shoulder and the wall.
Repeat on the other side.
3. Elbow Squeeze #1
4. Elbow Squeeze #2
*When this starts to feel clear, slide the hands further back along the ribs so they rest more towards the side of the ribs than front.
5. Wall lean
Stand sideways to a sturdy wall. Find a distance where the inside hand can be on the wall, with the elbow bent, and you are leaning in a straight line in to the wall. The hand is a little bit below shoulder height, and the elbow points down to the floor. The feet are close together. This is your starting shape. You can always adjust the distance from the wall to make the exercise easier or more difficult.
The goal is to feel a sense of effort in the upper arm muscles and possibly also underneath the armpit on the back. Abdominals are also supporting. Ideally the shoulders feel more relaxed afterwards.
Congratulations, you made it all the way through! I hope you're feeling stronger and more relaxed around the neck and shoulders.
This series is designed to bring some awareness to the buttock/side leg area. Specifically the deep rotators and gluteus medius. Please, be patient! I often find that when we practice on our own we don't give ourselves enough time - the first few runs through the series will take a bit of time but eventually it can become a nice flow. Maybe you start with one or two of the exercises and gradually add more. Or perhaps one of them resonates with you more than another? Enjoy the process of learning what your body needs today!
standing breath with active feet
Begin standing with the feet in parallel. You could have a block or book between the feet as long as it puts the feet hip-width apart or just a bit less.
knee circles on all fours
Begin on All Fours. Breath is flowing throughout.
Repeat 5 times with the left knee circling. Then repeat on the right side.
You may feel some effort building in the buttocks as the knee circles. Move slowly and feel how the femur bone is rolling in the hip joint. If you aren’t able to come onto All Fours, play with a version of this action standing with the hands resting on the wall.
side-lying leg press
Lie down on the right side with the head resting in the bottom arm, knees bent, heels in line with the sitz bones. To find the starting position, stretch the top leg long and move it behind you on the floor. As the leg moves backwards, allow the top hip and upper body to roll forward so that the top hip points downwards and the top leg is internally rotated (toes point downwards). Feel both space and length between the top ribs and the top hip. Keep this space throughout.
Notice the upper leg bone rolling in the hip joint and keep the low back long. The focus is on the glute medius which will contract in the middle of the top butt cheek and is closer to the sacrum than outer hip. TIP: If you're not sure what's working to lift the leg, use the top hand on the buttocks to feel what area is contracting.
Stand on the right leg and use both hands to hold the left knee so the left leg is mostly relaxed into the hands and the arms are working to support the weight of the leg. The focus is on the right leg. Breath is flowing throughout.
Repeat at least three times and then change to the other side.
This is of course a balance challenge! Stay playful and notice the effort building in the standing leg - in the buttocks, perhaps also in the leg and/or calf.
To increase the difficulty, tip the pelvis further so that eventually you could look between the legs to the wall behind you!
tennis ball release
Try to stay on each side for at least 2 minutes. The breath should be full on the inhalation and soft on the exhalation.
time to stretch!
Take one of the two stretches below and repeat on both sides. Stay at least 10 deep breathes in each position.Try to feel even on the back of the pelvis and gently press the sacrum down towards the mat for a more intense stretch. Finally, check that the neck feels comfortable. Ideally the eyes are pointing towards the ceiling - it could be helpful and nice to rest the head on a cushion.
optional: repeat knee circles on all fours
Repeating the knee circles on all fours can give you feedback about how the exercises influenced your mobility. Perhaps it feels more fluid now, or the range has changed, or.....
Congratulations! You made it all the way through!