7 exercises that boost your energy
No time for a nap? Take action to boost your energy with these seven revitalizing exercises
1. Breath work
Inhale quietly and slowly, allowing your abdomen to rise, to the count of 4, pause holding the air lightly to the count of 4, exhale slowly, allowing your abdomen to contract, to the count of 6. Repeat four times. The simple act of slow, deep breathing can be incredibly energizing – and relaxing.
2. Brisk walk
If I had to choose one energy-generating activity to recommend above all, it is walking. Walk at a pace brisk enough to increase your heart and breath rates; maybe tackle a few flights of stairs while you are at it. As you walk, actively engage your core, monitor your posture, be aware of the range of motion in your hips and thighs, and breathe consciously, working your ribcage like a bellows. You might look a little strange to the casual observer, but you’ll feel so much better when you are finished. With a little practice (and creative visualization), you may even give the impression to others that you are expert enough to be counted in the ranks of professional walkers – after all, racewalking is an Olympic sport.
3. Seated Warrior (Virasana):
This is a very simple stretch and a phenomenal way to expand your breathing capacity (if you have trouble with your knees or back, do this sitting in a chair, not on the floor). Kneel on the floor, shoulders back and down, neck and spine in a straight line perpendicular to the floor. Lower your buttocks to your feet. Raise your arms in front of you to shoulder level, tightly interlock your fingers, palms facing you. Now rotate your wrists and forearms so that palms face out, fingers away. Maintain your posture. With fingers clasped and palms facing away, raise your arms until palms face the ceiling. Keep your shoulders pinched back, sternum lifted, chest expanded, relax throat and neck. Look straight ahead, body and neck in a straight line perpendicular to the ground – no tilting. Breathe evenly and hold the posture for one minute or as long as it’s comfortable. With time you can extend this to five minutes. Bring your arms gently down to your sides. Place palms on the floor, kneel, stand up first with one leg, placing hands on knee for leverage.
4. Downward-facing Dog (Adhomukha Svanasana)
This simple yoga posture definitely gets your circulation going, but it’s not recommended for individuals with high blood pressure, frequent headaches, or who are pregnant. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, core engaged, head in a straight line with your spine. Take an abdominal breath. Bend from the waist until your palms touch the floor (it’s OK to bend your knees). Place your right foot back about four feet from your hands. Now place your left foot alongside your right so that your butt is in the air, heels on the ground, and you are in an inverted “V” position (again, it’s OK to bend at the knees if it’s uncomfortable to straighten your legs all the way). Straighten your spine (no hunching over). I like Rodney Yee’s description in his book, Moving Toward Balance, “Practice with bent legs, emphasizing the lift of your sitting bones . . . Feel the integration between the length of the sides of your waist, the opening of your chest and the extension of your arms.” B.K.S. Iyengar further recommends tightening muscles at the top of the thighs and pulling in the kneecaps. Just hang out there for a moment, breathing quietly, arms and back straight, heels on the floor. Now bring your right foot back close to your hands, then your left foot, and slowly stand.
5. Qi Gong Energy Ball
With this exercise, visualize yourself holding a large ball of energy, move slowly and focus on breathing – your arms should move with very little effort, almost as if they are moved by an invisible energetic force. Feet are parallel, knees slightly bent, butt tucked under, arms at your sides. Take a deep, abdominal breath in and out and continue to breathe consciously throughout the exercise. Begin by allowing your arms to float slowly up, shoulder-width apart, palms facing each other as though you’re holding a giant beach ball of energy, waist high in front of you. Bend your arms at the elbows, bringing the imaginary ball closer to you. Now slowly rotate wrists to face palms away from your body and push the ball away until your arms are straight, stepping forward onto your left foot (knee remains slightly bent). Allow arms to float wide apart so that you make a T, bring arms gently down to sides with palms facing each other as you step left foot back to its original place. Float arms upward again, in front of you, holding the ball of energy. “Lift” the ball over your head and let go, now allow your arms to slowly float back down to your sides, breathing quietly, core engaged, butt tucked under, shoulders down and back. Repeat, this time stepping right foot forward.
Jumping rope is the best, full-fitness, aerobic energy-generating exercise, but it’s not always convenient to whip out a jump rope. You can hop up and down just about anywhere – next to your desk, standing in line at the bank, waiting for a train. Hop thirty times; finish by standing for a moment with good posture and taking four slow abdominal breaths.
7. Rock out with your iPod
No explanation necessary. Freeform dancing is not only fun, but allows you to log an aerobic workout without the psychic pain.
Excerpted from Power Up by Woodson Merrell, M.D. Copyright © 2008 by Woodson Merrell, M.D.. Excerpted by permission of Random House Canada, a division of Random House of Canada Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.