The body’s a vehicle for the finer self—the spirit within—during its Earth experience, and it’s good to keep the vehicle in fairly good shape. These 12 daily (or near-daily) exercises do the trick pretty well for me… along with some occasional aerobic exercise (hiking, biking, jogging, swimming, climbing stairs….).
I’ve been doing these simple exercises almost daily for the past decade or so… gradually adjusting and fine-tuning them over the years as I’ve chatted with physical therapists and fitness people. The 12 exercises below are what I’m doing lately (March, 2013). They take about a half-hour to complete when I do all 12 in one session… which is rare.
Yoga on the floor. I might do the six yoga exercises (dark figures) when I get home from work… or after I climb out of bed in the morning… or before climbing into bed at night. I always do the yoga-like exercises on the floor. These exercises keep my body limber and flexible.
Isometrics in bed. I do the six isometric exercises (light figures) at any convenient time that I’m in bed… sometimes in the middle of the night when I wake up from a dream and can’t get right back to sleep, or sometimes during the day when I’m reading a book, or sometimes after I wake up in the morning. In any case, I always do the isometrics while lying in bed… the first three while lying on my back, and the other three while lying on my stomach with my toes hanging over the end of the bed. These are great exercises for keeping the body toned and looking fit.
Counting and breathing. I coordinate each of these exercises with my breathing while counting quietly in my head… one beat (1-2-3-4-5…) per second. The four active yoga exercises (#1, #2, #4, and #5) use a complete in-out breath every second or beat. I breathe only half as fast for all of the other (stretching-flexing) exercises… so that each in-breath takes about a second or beat, and each out-breath takes a beat, and a complete in-out breath takes about 2 seconds.
Breathe continually throughout the exercises.
Don’t hold your breath, especially during the isometrics.
About Each Exercise
1. Spinner: The first one’s easy: Stand up and spin in a circle 25 times, about a spin per second.
2. Neck and back stretch: While kneeling, hands dropped to your side, shoulders relaxed: Move your hands behind you and grasp the first two fingers of one hand with the other hand. Chest out, head back, lean forward with back arched inward… then relax the arms and head on the floor with back arched outward. Then back up to original position. Do this 5 times, each time taking about 5 seconds and 5 complete breaths.
3. Leg lift and twist: Lying down, raise one knee as shown, then drop it over the opposite leg, using the opposite hand to press the knee downward to the floor. Hold it for about 10 seconds. Do it 5 times with each leg.
4. Crab: Sit up with your legs together on the floor in front of you, put your palms down on the floor beside you, and look down at your navel. Then… raise your torso toward the sky and bend your head back so you’re looking behind you. Then return to the sitting position looking down. Do that 25 times… 25 complete breaths… 25 counts or beats… breathing out during the stretch, and breathing in toward the sitting position.
5. Straight-arm pushups: Lying on your stomach, palms-down next to your chest, straighten your arms, pushing your torso up off the ground, so your body’s an inverted “V,” and look back under your body. Then… Keeping your arms straight, lower your body to the “cobra” position with knees and toes touching the floor and your eyes looking up at the ceiling, then return to the inverted “V” position. Do that 25 times… again, counting to 25 in about 25 seconds… breathing out during the downward motion, and in during the upward motion.
6. Leg-bicep stretch: Lie on the floor in a doorway (or next to the upright end of a wall or a square column or a tall, sturdy piece of furniture…) so that one hip is next to the upright corner. Lift the other leg—the outside one—cross it over the body so that the ankle catches on the corner. Use the inside arm to push on the knee to straighten the leg, and hold it for several seconds (anywhere from 6 seconds to 20 seconds), then relax by bending the knee for 4 seconds, then straighten and stretch again. Do the stretch-relax combination six to 12 times with each leg, until the leg feels well-stretched. Don’t overstretch and strain the muscle; you can “back up” away from the doorway or upright corner to lessen the stretch.
7. Leg-bicep, shoulder flex: Lying on your back in bed, raise the knees so that the feet are flat on the bed. Clasp your hands below the navel, then flex 1) the muscles in the shoulders and 2) the leg biceps. Hold it for about 25 seconds.
8. Bicep, calf flex: From the same position as the previous exercise, bend your elbows, then flex 1) the arm biceps (the front of the upper arms), and 2) the calves. Hold it for about 25 seconds.
9. Forearm/wrist, ankle flex: Lying on your back, legs straight out, flex your forearms, wrists, and ankles, as follows:
For 8 seconds, bend the wrists forward, fists clenched, while turning the ankles inward, soles facing each other, toes wiggling.
For 8 seconds, bend the wrists backward with fists still clenched, while turning the ankles outward.
For 5 seconds, bend the wrists forward, hands open, while turning the ankles inward, soles facing each other, toes wiggling.
For 5 seconds, bend the wrists backward, hands open, while turning the ankles outward.
10. Tricep, gluteus flex (i): Lying on your stomach, head raised, legs extended, flex 1) the triceps (back of the upper arms) and 2) the backside. Hold it while counting silently to 25 for about 25 seconds… breathing in for one second then out for one second… each complete in-out breath taking about 2 seconds.
11. Lap, shoulder flex: Still on your stomach, head raised, clasp your hands behind your back and raise them up, away from the body… and flex 1) the shoulder muscles and 2) the lap muscles (front of the upper legs). Hold it for about 25 seconds.
12. Neck, shoulder, lower-calf flex: Still on your stomach, head raised, with hands clasped behind your back, flex 1) the shoulders and neck, and 2) the small area between the ankles and calves. This time press the hands downward into the back, putting more tension on your neck muscles. Hold it for about 25 seconds.
(Finally, as always, if you have any health issues, contact a physician or physical therapist before starting a new exercise regimen….)
Adding the Mantras and Controlled Breathing
These exercises are good in their own right, but when you add the spiritual component (with mantras and controlled breathing), they can change your life in wonderful ways.
As you’ve gathered by now, each exercise is done in five even breaths. You breathe…
Out – In – Out – In – Out – In – Out – In – Out – In
Once you work your way up to the full program, you’ll be doing each exercise five times, which means 25 complete breaths with each exercise before moving on to the next.
These are the two mantras, which reflect the true nature of our highest spiritual self:
- We’re all one, we all want love and happiness.
- Cherish myself, cherish myself today; cherish others, cherish others today.
Very simple, but also life-changing when the knowledge they contain becomes ingrained in our conscious thinking.
So, putting the two together—breathing and mantras…
Breathe out on the HIGHLIGHTED WORDS, and breathe in on the words or spaces between those highlighted words.
For the yoga routines:
“We’re ALL (breathe in) ONE, we ALL want LOVE and HAPPI-ness.”
For the isometrics:
“CHERISH myself, CHERISH myself TODAY. Cherish OTHERS, cherish OTHERS today.”
Try reciting those a few times (silently, in your head) while breathing at a steady rhythm, until it becomes natural and comfortable. Remember: Exhale on the highlighted words, and inhale in-between those words.
And finally, once you’ve become familiar with the exercises and comfortable with the coordinated breathing and mantra, pull them altogether into a most rewarding workout! Within months you’ll start looking great and feeling great!
Note: I adapted the mantras from teachings of the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, who recommends several daily practices that quickly strengthen our noble side: 1) Start the day with a five-minute reflection on the fact that we’re all connected to each other and we all want the same thing—to be loved and to be happy. 2) Spend another five minutes cherishing our self while breathing in, and cherishing others while breathing out. 3) Throughout the day practice cherishing everyone we meet. 4) Continue to do this despite our moods and the way others treat us. Doing this daily can quickly polish up our noble side and etch a contagious smile on our face throughout the day.
Other posts on health and well-being:
Cleansing the mind — Some great exercises — Are you an extrovert or an introvert? — Know thyself — Nonfunctioning alcoholism — Addiction — Mental illness: barriers lost — What shapes children the most as they grow?