By Jill Healy-Quintard
Move Your Body and Open Your Heart for Better Health Mentally and Physically
Working daily in Fitness, Health and Wellness I see people of all ages and fitness levels and when I see someone walk into a room or even my studio with shoulders rounded and a spine looking hunched I can’t help but see someone who needs to work on their posture, but I also see someone who might be stressed or in a job that has them sitting at a computer for long hours or even someone who does not feel particularly confident and positive about themselves and could also be suffering with mental health issues such as depression.
I have a mantra for my dance/cardio based classes where I say, “Lift Your Hearts and Your Heart Rates” and this class is a joyous happy class where we dance and move and feel the beat of our hearts, lift our arms and celebrate happiness.
When we round our shoulders, it is also an indication that we are protecting our heart from hurt or sadness and when our hearts are closed, we are less likely to be happy.
Research shows that there is a connection with physical posture and mental health and sadly due to many people’s work-life of sitting for hours, it makes it physically impossible to have good posture, which is why standing desks and moving between desks, spine twists (see below) and other exercises, plus simply standing to sitting and vice versa is recommended.
Changing work life balance by moving your body more and correcting posture will give you more energy, less stress and better productivity.
Without good posture, you are not able to be physically fit and this flows over to not being able to be mentally as fit either.
Good posture means your bones are aligned, your muscles, joints and ligaments can work as they are meant to work and your vital organs are in the right position.
Normal functioning of the nervous system and overall health is improved because the long-term effects of poor posture can affect digestion, elimination, breathing, muscles, joints and ligaments and a person who has poor posture may often be tired, unable to think clearly, work efficiently or even move properly.
The good news is that most everyone can avoid the problems associated with bad posture and you can make improvements at any age. Below are some YogaPilates Fusion® exercises to increase your postural and mental awareness. These will take around 10 minutes and can be repeated as often as you need to. You will find that your mental clarity as well as your posture will improve and you will also be a fitter, stronger person
The Roll Down: This will help to balance the muscles that support the spine as you gradually roll down towards to floor or mat or while sitting on a chair, at the same time drawing your abdominal muscles on the breath out…..Roll back up stacking one vertebra on the other till standing tall, crown of head to ceiling. Using the breathing pattern will also help oxygenate the blood and the flow to the brain will increase mental clarity.
Cat Stretch: On all 4’s inhale through the nose and on the exhale arch the spine drawing in the abdominals gently taking chin towards chest, inhale and reverse the other direction feeling each vertebra. This can also be done with hands on the desk and feet on the floor.
Spine Twist: One of the most important exercises for the spine and posture.
Anyone who sits at a desk or does not move in a variety of positions throughout the day needs to do this every day. Standing, sitting on the floor/mat or a chair, spine lengthened, crown of head to ceiling, inhale through the nose and on the exhale through the mouth turn to your right and take it to 3 little pulses on the breath out, inhale again and turn to your left are outstretched or on the knee if sitting at your desk.
Plank: Most important for engaging core, strength, balance, focus, alignment.
Place arms under shoulders and extend legs back engaging core. Picture the back as a plank, lengthened neck, core switched on and imagine balancing a cup of tea or glass of champagne on your back or on all 4’s. Inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth engaging core on the exhale. Hold for 3 inhales and exhales. This can also be done with hands on the desk and legs and feet outstretched behind.
Pilates Side Plank: Strength, posture, core engagement, power and the ultimate body stabilising, muscle alignment and cardio and strength building exercise. From a side sitting position raise to extended arm or elbow if having wrist issues on an inhale, go to knee or slide out both legs with top foot crossed over bottom foot for support. Extend arm laterally and feel the amazing benefit while holding for 3 inhales and exhales. This side plank position will also increase your heart rate thus increasing cardiovascular strength also while releasing ‘happy hormones’ for less stress and positive outcome.
“What I see and what I know is that when we physically use our muscles to help us move with greater ease, open our hearts, lengthen our spine and support and regulate our breath there is also a purifying and calming effect on our mental state.” Jill Healy-Quintard
If Dance is your passion put on a favourite dance track and dance like nobody is watching. This is for optimal mental health as Dance and Body Movement is well researched to decrease depression and anxiety. Dance will Lift Your Hearts, Heart Rates and Balance Mind and Body. When we dance along to the beat of music, the body secretes ‘happy hormones’, which help to improve your mood. Along with this, dance also helps in reducing the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
These ‘Happy Hormones’ are;
Dopamine is the ‘Reward Hormone’
Dance makes you feel good and when you get rewarded and/or praised, dopamine runs through your body. It is your brain’s reward system.
Endorphins are ‘Natural Pain Killers’ and are our body’s natural pain reliever. When stress and discomfort causes wear and tear in our body, the hormones save us from any damage and are naturally released through dance and movement .
Oxytocin is the ‘Love Hormone’
When you are around someone with whom you bond or have trust with, oxytocin releases in your body making you feel happy.
Serotonin is the ‘Mood Stabilising Hormone’
This hormone regulates our mood, sleep, appetite, and digestion. It is a regulator for your mood. When you are feeling good you can thank serotonin. When you a feeling upset. It is time to boost serotonin and dance will increase these hormones naturally.
Check Jill Healy-Quintard on Spotify for “the best mixes” said Mel M (Body and Balance client)
Yoga Nidra is described as the waking sleep, as it can take the participant to a state of conscious deep sleep. It is a systematic method of inducing complete physical, emotional and mental relaxation. The practitioner appears to be sleeping but the unconscious mind is functioning at a deeper level. It is sleep with deep awareness. In normal sleep we lose track of our self, but in Yoga Nidra, while consciousness of the world is dim and relaxation is deep, there remains an inward feeling of lucidity and the experience may be absorbed and even recalled after. Since Yoga Nidra involves effortless relaxation it is best practised with an experienced and trusted teacher, who can verbally deliver instructions. The scientific studies have shown that people who practise Yoga Nidra experience better sleep generally, are more productive and less stressed. In our cities across the world we live in an over stressed, over stimulated environment and this is not going away. The result of this is people are feeling chronic exhaustion, adrenal burnout and daily fatigue and the stress of having to cope with this while looking after self and possibly a family, earn an income, provide daily living requirements and get enough ‘me’ time means … total burn out is fast approaching. Yoga Nidra is a simple, practised and researched method that will help address all these issues.
In a classic Yoga Nidra practice, the practitioner lies on a mat/floor on their back with arms away from the body and palms turned upwards. In Yoga terminology, this is called Shavasana or corpse pose.
Feet should be separated to approximately hip width apart, and toes falling outwards. Eyes remain closed throughout and adding a lavender pillow over the eyes will aid the sense of complete relaxation. It is best if the body is lying symmetrically. A good way to do this is to imagine a centre line running from the souls of the feet to the crown of the head.
This position is said to aid relaxation and influence the consciousness and prepares the mind/body for complete relaxation and letting go. It is also said it will balance the flow of life force or Chi throughout the body.
When I teach Yoga Nidra I include a focus on Intentions, which helps realising a resolve or something you want to achieve in your life I say, “See it, Say it to yourself, Feel what it is like and Make it happen”. I invite people to repeat this several times silently before moving into the verbal instruction of relaxation of muscles and body through naming eg feet, legs, torso and so on and then repeat the intention when coming out of deep relaxation. I also focus on breath before and after the deep relaxation.
Your Intention could be as simple as wanting more love in your life or being kinder to yourself, or something very specific like a great new job or giving up alcohol or smoking.
People who practise Yoga Nidra and Intention say by repeating an Intention to themselves have found that by being in this relaxed state helps it take root in the unconscious. This could also be called a post-hypnotic suggestion. People have also told me that they have achieved much after practising the combination of Yoga Nidra, Intention and importantly Mindfulness, by creating the moment they are in and letting go of sounds around them and daily stresses in as little as 10 minutes a day This practise has had profound results. Sessions can run from as little as 10 minutes to an hour or more .If you can find a quiet space this is the most important for Mind/Body balance and mental clarity.
All photos belong to Jill Healy-Quintard.
Written for YogaPilates Fusion® a registered exercise program designed by Jill Healy-Quintard for the ultimate Mind/Body/Balance Workout. Sydney, Australia, 2021©
Jill Healy-Quintard ‘s Fitness and Wellness history spans 40 years. Driven by her pro-age philosophy she takes pride in providing the latest research and information to keeping people fit and well mentally and physically at any age.
As Owner/Operator of Body and Balance Fitness and Wellness her goals include quality classes, Online, Live Streamed and Face to Face, sharing her extensive knowledge, presenting, writing, running workshops. retreats and global online programs . Jill has been recognised in 2020 by Fitness Australia as a Top 3 in Group Fitness Awards and as an Iconic Woman of the Century for her commitment to Fitness and Health in 2017 at the Women’s Economic Forum (WEF 2017)
Body and Balance Fitness and Wellness
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