Mind vs. Muscle: Workouts for Body and Brain

by TJ Davis | August 26th, 2010 | Yoga

Fitness is a goal that many of us share, and for most people today, the emphasis goes beyond just the physical. Complete fitness is about finding balance in body and mind. Several types of workouts now focus on the mind-body connection. These include yoga, tai chi, and Pilates – including the newer Windsor and Stott methods. Each of these programs has its own unique elements, but they all have a few things in common.

Pilates, tai chi and yoga all focus on balance. These methods teach various techniques that correct and enhance posture while developing lean muscle through slow, flowing body movement. Such techniques help to develop body balance and improve overall physical fitness. But balance in the body is only half the battle. Creating balance within the mind promotes relaxation and reduces stress. Some people achieve this mind balance through meditation, and try to establish physical balance separately via some fitness regimen such as running, cycling and/or weight training. While this can be effective, it is certainly not as time or energy efficient as a total mind-body workout.

One thing that all of these methods share in common is an emphasis on proper breathing. If you are not breathing correctly as you exercise, you cannot receive the full benefits – physical or mental – of the workout. So, how do you know if you are breathing right? Lie down on your back and watch your torso as you breathe in and out, or place one hand on your chest and one on your abdomen to feel the movement. If your chest rises and falls with each inhalation and exhalation, you are not breathing properly. If you are breathing into the diaphragm – a muscle located below the lungs and above the stomach – you should be seeing your belly rise and fall with each breath. Practice diaphragm breathing by inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth slowly several times each day until it becomes natural for you. Not only will this technique relax you, it will allow you to take in more oxygen per breath, which is vital to proper muscle development and overall bodily health.

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All health and fitness information is provided for educational purposes. Please consult with your physician before beginning any exercise regimen.