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Balancing mind and body

Balancing mind and body

Exercise is a well-known method of relieving stress; not only can it improve the quality of your sleep, it can raise your mood and energy, all of which are necessary to make a difficult day a bit easier to handle.

To celebrate National Stress Awareness Day, we caught up with Pilates expert and Psychodynamic Counsellor Agneta Lindberg to find out her favourite exercises to get your mind and body in check. Agneta not only has 3 decades of experience in the industry, but her holistic approach to fitness allows her a unique insight into balancing mind and body. Her London-based Studio Lindberg specialises in Pilates and works extensively with participants wishing to improve posture, balance and stability.


Here are Agneta’s top strengthening and balancing exercises to work your body and your mind:

THE TIGHTROPE

Stand upright, with your feet on an imaginary tightrope; i.e. Right foot in front of your Left, and toes of left foot touching the heel of your right foot. Extend your arms out to the sides to increase your base of support, and with a good spinal posture.

Source: tribesports.com

In order to create the best balance, you need to switch on your core support. Imagine that you are wearing a tight belt around the pelvis and draw your lower abdominal area inwards and upwards. Begin to engage your inner things, pelvic floor and gluteal area. Ensure all your toes, especially your big toes, are well in contact with the floor.

The Exercise: Just standing in this position is going to challenge most muscles of the body, including your concentration (which of course isn’t a muscles, but it aids in coordination) - now, being to rotate your head from side to side. Most people will find this very hard and will struggle to balance. If you need more challenge, lower your arms down by your side. If you need more challenge still: close your eyes, arms down by the side and head turning side to side, with your feet on a very small base of support, the tightrope. Start with 10 slow rotations. Then change lead leg.

THE PLANK-SQUAT

This exercise will challenge your upper body strength, mid section and legs, as well as your balance and coordination.  Position yourself in the Plank position, i.e. with arms straight and hands on the floor, and your legs fully extended, and on your toes. Make sure you switch on your ‘core support’, i.e. draw your belly button in so that your back is not sagging.

Switch on your buttock muscles, and maintain a great posture of your neck and head, aligned with the rest of the body. Keep your hands where they are, the feet where they are, and SIT BACK/SQUAT back, so that your knees bend and your hips end up over your knees. Then move forward, straighten your legs, so that you return to your starting position.

It’s almost like doing a squat/knee bend, standing up, the only difference is that your hands are on the floor (so you get the benefit of strengthening your upper body and shoulders).  Start with 5 really high quality ones, add on as many as you can WITH GOOD FORM. Stop immediately if your body loses its good posture, or you are not able to keep your back safe. Build up gradually.  



Image source: shape.com

THE TOE TAP

This is a great abdominal and back strengthener. Lie on your back with your arms down by your sides, head on the floor, legs bent and feet off the floor. In order to keep your back safe, you gently flatten your back on the floor, or ‘imprint’ (as this indicates a gentle position, rather than anything forced and strained) by drawing your lower abdominal area inwards, almost as if you are trying to flatten your stomach area a bit.

Breathe higher up, in the rib cage area.  With your knees bent, begin alternating the ‘toe tap’, right foot to the floor, and back up, then left foot tap the floor, back up. You will feel how you have to work your abdominal and back area to keep your back imprinted on the floor, as you are moving your legs. Keep your neck relaxed, arms long and extended down by your sides, and your head on the floor. Try 10 alternating taps, then 20. Stop immediately if your lower back starts lifting off the floor, as you don’t want to have light shining through between your back and the floor. 


Take a mental note of how many repetitions you can do successfully, perhaps keep a log, and over time you will see your improvements. Recognising progress and enjoying what you have achieved, is a great way to emotional well being as well as physical ability.

Agneta has been a health and fitness expert for FHM magazine, a regular contributor to Running Fitness, and has prescribed exercise for Men’s Health, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, She, and RED Magazine. Follow Agneta on Twitter and Facebook to get the latest tips on staying stress-free.