Outdoor

Pocket this anti-stress routine for troublesome days

Between the pandemic, forest fires, and a presidential cycle, collective stress is at an all-time high. Gently Practices that allow your nervous system to reset are more important than ever.

Childlike movements like rocking, rolling, and crawling can help relieve stress, explains Dani Almeyda, a personal trainer who teaches restorative movements to clients and coaches at the Original Strength Institute in North Carolina. The developmental movement patterns we learn as babies help us build strength and coordination to walk and run. Now they can help release the sympathetic nervous system, commonly known as combat or flight mode, and put the body in a parasympathetic state or a rest and digestive mode, explains Almeyda. They can also release tension, move your joints smoothly, and provide moderate strengthening.

This recovery routine from Almeyda and Tim Anderson, a personal trainer and co-founder of the Original Strength Institute, can be performed anytime, anywhere. Do it when you feel like pressing reset: first thing in the morning, after your workout, or during an afternoon break-in. Roll out a yoga mat or blanket, or find a carpet area to comfortably rotate through the exercises. First, focus on your breath and gradually go through the movements to awaken your muscles and joints without putting any strain on your nervous system.

The movements

(Photo: Courtesy of the Original Strength Institute)

Crocodile breath

What it does: Slow, deep breaths lower your heart rate and blood pressure, and provide more oxygen throughout your body. All of these help put your nervous system in a parasympathetic state.

How it goes: Lie flat on your stomach with your forehead resting on your hands. Put your tongue on the roof of your mouth, which opens your airways and allows you to get more air into your lungs, explains Almeyda. Inhale deeply through your nose and inhale with five points to fill your stomach (not your chest) with as much air as possible. Then relax and exhale through your nose with five counts.

Volume: Continue to breathe in and out for two minutes.

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(Photo: Courtesy of the Original Strength Institute)


(Photo: Courtesy of the Original Strength Institute)


(Photo: Courtesy of the Original Strength Institute)

Nodding and turning

What it does: Relieves tension in the neck and shoulders.

How it goes: While you're still on your stomach, prop yourself up on your forearms so they are right in front of you. With your shoulders relaxed and your chest forward, slowly look up at the ceiling, and let your head follow your gaze. Then slowly move your gaze to the floor and try to look down at your belly button. Lift your head back to the center and look carefully over one shoulder and then over the other. This is a repetition. Stay relaxed and keep breathing deeply in and out of your nose and fill your stomach with air.

Volume: Do ten full rounds of nods and rotations.

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(Photo: Courtesy of the Original Strength Institute)


(Photo: Courtesy of the Original Strength Institute)


(Photo: Courtesy of the Original Strength Institute)

Egg rolls

What they do: Physical contact is good for our brain and body. For example, hugging has been linked to increases in oxytocin, a hormone that promotes relaxation and lowers anxiety. These movements mimic that feeling, no buddy required. The gentle back-and-forth motion is also a self-calming technique (think: rocking a baby).

How to do them: Lie on your back, pull your knees into your chest and tuck yourself into a ball. Hold your knees tight and look gently down at one shoulder. As you turn your head, let your body roll onto that side like an egg. Once you are on your side, gently rotate through your neck and upper back. Look down and over your shoulder, which is touching the floor, and stretch even lower. Just twist as far as you can and take a deep breath. Then slowly look to the other shoulder and let your body roll in the opposite direction. Hold your body tight.

Volume: Keep rolling for a minute.

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(Photo: Courtesy of the Original Strength Institute)


(Photo: Courtesy of the Original Strength Institute)

Four-legged friends

What they do: These repetitive, gentle movements and deep breaths relax the nervous system. "They also feel great and help keep important joints – like shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles – moving," says Almeyda.

How to do them: Get on your hands and knees with your feet bent. Your shoulders should be stacked above your hands and your hips above your knees. Keep your chest and head high so your spine can curve slightly. Slowly rock your hips back towards your heels until you feel a gentle stretch in your ankles. Then rock forward as far as you feel comfortable. Align your movements with even breaths.

Volume: Rock back and forth for a minute or two.

fitness(Photo: Courtesy of the Original Strength Institute)

Hand-knee crawling

What it does: Since most of us haven't crawled in years, this can be a bit of a challenge at first. Coordinating the movement of your opposite limbs really wakes up the brain, explains Almeyda. Hand-knee crawling also gently engages your hips and shoulders, which become stiff when you sit for long periods of time.

How it goes: As with the previous movement, start on all fours on the floor so your shoulders line up with your hands and your hips line up with your knees. With your chest forward and head up, start the movement by stepping forward with your other hand and knee. Let your spine curve naturally. Keep switching sides, making sure to look straight ahead all the time.

Volume: Continue crawling for a minute or two.

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Main photo: Bonnin Studio / Cavan

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