ABCs to Tight Abs

You can perform this isometric exercise while lying in bed, sitting at your desk, standing at the sink—and even as you surf the web!

Assess your posture. Pretend you have a string at the top of head pulling you up. Feel the space between your vertebrae in your spine.

Place your hands on your lower belly and cough to feel your transverse abdominal muscles

Breathe with a soft ribcage. Rather than expand your ribcage in and out in an exaggerated manner– keep your ribs soft and allow the breath to move through your abdominals (up and down). Continue to breathe as you

Contract the “coughing” muscles (transverse abs) deep in your lower belly.

Try to keep lengthening your spine, pulling in your lower ab muscles, and breathing as you continue to read. Properly and frequently performed, this exercise can train your lower abs to naturally engage throughout all your activities—which will eventually lead to flatter, stronger belly and healthier back.

 

Swish and Shrug

Feel fresh, no stress!

Equipment: mouthwash

Position: Standing in front of the mirror; ready, set, swish . . .

Simple exercise: Shrug your shoulders (up and down), move your shoulder blades (forward and back), rotate your shoulders (in each direction).

Benefits: Loosens neck and shoulder muscles.

Have fun, get creative, and share your ideas . . .

Animal Intelligence

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Have you ever noticed how animals keep fit? My cat Max is in great shape. When he gets up from a nap, he automatically stretches. When he needs to get his ya-yas out, he chases dust bunnies. And he’s certainly strong enough to pounce up his cat tree. He gives his body what it needs, when it needs it. No grueling gym workouts necessary . . .

Let Go and Get Long

Aside

Back in the day when I taught “go for the burn” aerobics, some students would leave class before the final stretch. Later I’d ask why they had left and they’d say, “well, I mainly want to burn calories” or “stretching is boring . . .”

Picture ballet dancers and their beautiful bodies. Those long, lean muscles are achieved through both lengthening and strengthening exercises. Dancers spend hours stretching.

One of the great things about stretching is that you can truly do it while you’re doing other things, like watching TV or reading.

Have a seat on the floor. Sit with your legs extended in front of you and lean forward over your legs. Your muscles become more flexible as they warm up. Take time to hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds, breathing deep and easy. Don’t force the stretch. Just let go and get long.

Forced Breathing

Another way to relax and restore natural breathing patterns is to practice forced breathing. Forced breathing involves consciously squeezing more air out of your lungs by using the muscles between your ribs.

Take a deep breath in through your nose — let it out through your mouth — and as you let it out, squeeze out more air, and more air, and more air, and even more air . . . squeeze it all out! Use your whole belly to continue to press out more air. Then, inhale.

Continue several rounds of forced breathing.

Neck Nirvana

I spent last week in NYC walking and carrying a heavy handbag, which made for a tight neck and tense shoulders. So while in Chinatown, I got a fabulous quickie neck massage.  Here’s a fun, easy way to fit in a neck stretch — all you need is a small hand towel.

Stiff neck . . . no more!

Equipment: hand or dish towel

Position: Standing or sitting, hold on both ends of the towel with your hands, placing the middle of the towel behind the back of your head.

Simple exercise: Use the towel to guide your head forward, tucking your chin to your chest and gently tugging forward for a deeper stretch.

Benefits: stretches your neck muscles.

Have fun, get creative, and share your ideas . . .

Wash, Push, Pull

I do this exercise 10-20 times in the morning and night after I wash and dry my face. The bathroom is transformed into the perfect gym complete with mirrors!

Assist with the resist!

Equipment: hand towel

Position: Standing with your feet hip width apart, hold towel tautly over head, gripping hands shoulder-width apart.

Simple Exercise: Slowly pull the towel down to the front, with your arms straight and then push the towel back up, resisting the movement in both directions.

Benefits: Tones the muscles in your arms, chest, shoulders, and back.

Have fun, get creative, and share your ideas . . .

Shower Power

Whether you shower in the a.m. or p.m., use the therapeutic effect of warm water to help you wind up or wind down your day.

Equipment: Shower

Position: Standing in the shower with warm water flow centered on upper back and feet hip width apart.

Simple exercise: Drop your chin to your chest and interlace your hands in front of your body to round and feel a stretch in your upper back and shoulders.

Benefits: Stretches upper back and shoulders; feel stress melt away and energy increase.

Have fun, get creative, and share your ideas . . .

Roll a Pearl

When you get a kink in your back, the first thing you may want to do curl into a little ball with your knees in your chest. Another option is to move yourself in the opposite direction. This is also a great exercise if you frequently find yourself hunched over a computer . . . like me.

Position: Lying, face down with nose to the floor and arms by your sides, extended with palms up.

Find a pearl and polish this one off!

Simple exercise: Pretend to roll a pearl forward with your nose, lift your chin, then your chest with arms bowed behind you. (This is a Pilates move that is a bit like “cobra” pose from yoga.)

Benefits: Strengthens upper and lower back; stretches front of neck and chest; tones the back of your arms.

Have fun, get creative, and share your ideas . . .