The mystery and myths of muscle cramps

Many myths surround the how and why we get sudden cramps.

You’re not alone in jumping in the night because of one. Muscle cramps happen suddenly and often excruciatingly, leaving a palpable knotting of the muscle. They can happen to anyone, with or without a history of nervous or metabolic disorders. Cramps can occur during sleep, strenuous activity, or pregnancy. It’s not clearly understood why we get these sudden cramps, but research shows that the likely causes of these types of cramps are multifactorial and caused by changes in the neuromuscular system. One hypothesis is that nerves malfunction. Overly excited muscle neurons go a little haywire in a feedback loop either from the receptors in the muscle, or spinal nerve pathways.

Other causes of cramping are straining or overusing a muscle, or not enough blood getting to the muscle. Sometimes this malfunction is related to metabolic disorders, or a health problem such as a spinal cord injury, medications, or a pinched nerve in the neck or back.

But still, many myths surround the how or why. Regarding exercise- associated muscle cramping, 92% of athletic trainers and most people believe that dehydration or electrolyte imbalance is the cause. Or, perhaps eating more bananas is the answer? If you have a family history of cramping, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor for any possible calcium or potassium supplement recommendations. If you are healthy, there are few well-designed experimental studies supporting dehydration or electrolyte imbalances. First, the best immediate response for cramps is gently stretching the taut muscle. It’s been argued that since static stretching quickly relieves cramping, then how could it be that dehydration is the problem, as no liquids or electrolytes are added to the body with simple stretching. Second, cramp- prone athletes often drink more fluid than athletes without a history of exercise- associated muscle- cramping, ( EAMC ) and it’s found that even when sport drink consumption matched sweat loss, EAMC still happened 70 % of the time. The most interesting argument against dehydration being the culprit is that dehydration affects the whole body, not just the calves, quads or hamstrings, the muscles that are more prone to cramping.

Myths 2 and 3 : Sports drinks and bananas for electrolytes.

If you’re active, you need to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. But you don’t want to overdo it, whether you are simply gardening, or playing two and a half hours of tennis. If you did play tennis, or any other sport for that amount of time, you would need the equivalent of approximately six and half teaspoons of salt replaced. Keep in mind that a typical sports drink contains only 0.44g/L of sodium. That would mean you’d be drinking gallons of fluids, which can be deadly. It’s not uncommon, sadly, that sports enthusiasts and athletes can die from water intoxication, called hyponatraemia. Rather than relying on sports drinks, it’s important to replace electrolytes at meals. Drink enough water throughout the day. As we age, we sometimes forget to drink enough because the thirst impulse becomes weaker.

Another myth about cramping is to reach for a banana, as the potassium in bananas can relieve cramping. Bananas are a healthy snack, but it takes at least 30 minutes to see an increase in new potassium ions in the blood after eating one. So far, there isn’t any evidence that eating bananas effectively prevent or treats EAMCs.

Because immediately stretching a cramp helps it subside, another factor may be in play. Tiny fibers, myofilaments, in muscle may overlap each other when muscles are already tight, and can bunch up even more, resulting in a sudden cramp. I’ve often experienced hamstring cramps going into an advanced yoga lunge if I haven’t previously stretched them enough beforehand. Though the cause of muscle cramps is still a bit elusive, recent evidence suggests that muscle overload is a factor. Stretching still appears to the the best treatment for those sudden cramps.

Click on the link for an effective calf stretch . https://vimeo.com/230657677

Published in the Idaho Mountain Express August 25, 2017.

Deep sleep for glowing health

    Starting as early as 30, improving the quality and quantity of sleep can eliminate future risk of memory loss and a wide range of mental and physical disorders. UC Berkeley researchers think that nearly every disease killing us in later life has a causal link to lack of sleep.

    If you have trouble sleeping more now than when you were younger, don’t worry that this is how your nights will be from here out. Generally, you will be able to fall back asleep as fast as you used to with a strategy. Researchers find that the aging brain has trouble generating the kind of slow brain waves that promote deep restorative sleep, called deep non-rapid eye movement. This time-out for the brain helps sort the unimportant to important information from the hippocampus, to the prefrontal cortex, which consolidates information into long-term storage.

Here are some suggestions to how you can get the sleep you need:

Daytime routine

 Caffeine: Generally, caffeine lasts for five to six hours in the body. Try to not have caffeine later than mid-afternoon.

  Naps: Naps are great, but no later than mid-afternoon.

  Late-night eating: Try to avoid eating less than three hours before bedtime or overeating at dinner.

Evening routine

 Minimize screen time: Turn off your iPhone, iPad and TV to minimize screen time.

Bedroom: Have your bedroom quiet and dark, and a cool temperature. Core body temperature drops with the onset of sleep, but then increases because of a greater blood flow to the skin, so have comfortable bedding. Around 9 p.m., your body produces melatonin, which helps control your sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin is a natural hormone made by the pineal gland, located just above the middle of the brain. When the sun goes down, the pineal turn on signals in the brain that controls hormones, body temperature and other functions that play a role in making us sleepy or very awake. Its transmission is better promoted in a dark environment. Melatonin level stays elevated typically throughout the night, and drops before the light of a new day. When traveling, pack an eye mask and earplugs.

    Meditate in bed: Promote relaxation by relaxing as much as you can once you get into bed. It takes practice, but focus on slow, quiet breathing. A simple breathing practice can consist of only a few minutes to reconnect to mind, body and spirit. Keep focusing on your breath, and let any thoughts go. If you start to think about things, give yourself credit for noticing that your mind has wandered, and return to gentle breathing.


 Connie Aronson is an ACSM-certified exercise physiologist at the YMCA in Ketchum. Learn more at www.conniearonson.com.

Published in the Idaho Mountain Express May 5, 2017

Breathe out to lose fat?

Breathe out to lose fat?When you stand tall and lift your chest, don’t you feel much better? You look better also, as your posture improves. Breathing capacity improves, as your diaphragm lifts to help expand your lungs. We need to breathe to live. Breathing sustains us and can also teach us about our current physical and psychological state. You get some great news, hold your breath in anticipation, or exhale out to relax more. Our wavelike breathing is our life force, but did you know that breathing out makes you lose fat?

    The rate and depth of breathing is influenced by changing levels of carbon dioxide, oxygen and hydrogen ions in our blood. When it comes to losing weight, why is breathing so important? And where does the fat go? Does it turn to energy or convert to muscle, as commonly thought? The process is all about biology, as fat mostly converts to carbon dioxide and leaves the body through breathing. Scientists, in a report published in the British Medical Journal, explain how our lungs unlock the carbon stored in fat cells. Replacing one hour of sitting with jogging, for example, raises the metabolic rate to seven times that of resting and removes an additional 39 grams of carbon stored in fat cells. Our lungs are responsible for weight loss, via our inhalations and exhalations. The diaphragm, like a big parachute, contracts and relaxes nonstop, drives respiration and is the central breathing muscle.

Get good at breathing

  Running up a flight of stairs is one of the best ways to improve cardiovascular fitness. It’s a practical, quick and easy way to breathe hard, and gain some fitness in a busy day. But for the rest of the time, what if you became really good at breathing?

     It helps to understand just how much space the diaphragm needs to expand and fall with inhalations and exhalations. The diaphragm sits beneath the lungs and is above the organs of the abdomen. It is the major muscle that drives respiration. Respiration consists of moving gases in and out of the lungs, and circulation is the transport of these gases to the tissues.

    Like a lopsided mushroom, the diaphragm is attached to the sternum and the lower six ribs, and to the first three lumbar vertebrae, via two tendon-like structures called crura. The crura, like strings, extend down to the psoas and lower back muscles. The joints of the lumbar spine and upper back also play a part in how well the diaphragm expands and contracts, and therefore the quality and depth of breathing.

    At the top of the diaphragm, a central tendon attaches in front of the pericardium, the covering of the heart. Equally, the muscles of the abdomen and the external and internal intercostal muscles assist in drawing the ribs in and out. Normal breathing is rhythmic, driven by neuronal networks within the brain. Breathing also depends on the elasticity of the lungs; they have to lift and fall back. Breathing needs a lot of space, from the heart riding up and down on the lungs, to the spine stretching to accommodate inhalation, as well as the stomach muscles and pelvic floor. So it comes as no surprise that posture, standing or sitting tall, with the chest lifted, stomach in, can help you breathe and move better. Worth a big exhale.

Parachute breathing exercise

  Imagine the diaphragm to be a parachute. As you breathe in, the center of the parachute drops downward, the sides billow and the cords loosen. As you breathe out, the canopy expands upward as the cords become taut and anchor down toward the pelvic floor. (Adapted from the Franklin Method )

Published in the Idaho Mountain Express March 10, 2017

3 Top Hip and Back Stretches- You don’t have to be sore after a workout

These 3 moves will help you recover and realign after a big day on a bike, 1/2 marathon, or strenuous hikeAll target the hips, to help extend the body upwards and undo much of the tightness of not only the hips, as well as the back, shoulders and calf muscles.

Foam rolling, or self-myofascial release can help with athletic recovery

Foam rolling, or self-myofascial release can help with athletic recovery

1.Foam Roll Quads
 
Foam Rolling is a self-myofascial release stretching technique that regenerates and rejuvenates muscles and other soft tissue affected by an overzealous day on a bike, or on the trails.There are 4 quad muscles in the upper leg, and the outer most one, the rectus femoris, when tight, pulls the spine towards the top of the leg, causing hip or back pain, or  hyper-extention of the spine in an effort to stand up straight.Place the roller perpendicular to your thigh and lie over it. Find any sore spot and hold your body weight there for a few seconds until the tissue releases. Roll each leg for one minute. ( If rolling hurts your shoulder, lie on the floor with a tennis ball )
 
A "do-anywhere" great hip, upper back and calf stretch
2. Step Back with Arm Reach
 
This integrated exercise helps realign the entire body by combining a calf and hip flexor stretch, while strengthening the muscles of the upper back and shoulders. Stand with you feet hip-width apart and take a big step back with your right leg. Simultaneously reach the right arm upward.Keep the back leg straight, heel down. Push your hip forward without arching the lower back. Instead, extend from the upper back. Hold for 2-3 seconds. 6-10 reps on both sides.
 
3. Spine Extension The majority of the muscles in the hips originate at the lumbar spine, cross the pelvis, and attach to the top of the femur. This exercise stretches the whole front body,, and spine extensors, undoing much of the forward bending of many activities, plus feels great. Place your hands, fingers pointed down, firmly on your lower back. Inhale, and extend the spine as you lift your chest. Exhale, as you return to neutral posture. Repeat 6-8 times. 
 
Stretch your low back with this standing stretch.

Stretch your low back with this standing stretch.

 
Photos by Hallie MacPherson
 

Why Yoga Works – The Top Reasons to Try It

malasana

Yoga is good for the mind, body and soul.

Yoga might be the only time in your busy day that is truly yours; a time when all of your attention is directed to exactly what you are doing. Today over 15 million people in the US know the value of doing just that-relaxing with yoga. The yoga that we practice today rises out of an ancient meditation heritage dating back at least 4,000 years. Fast forward to today’s crazy hectic pace, especially with the approach of the holiday season, the benefits to your physical, mental and emotional health are top reasons why yoga still works.

1. Stress relief. Yoga reduces stress by encouraging relaxation and lowering the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Yoga teaches you how to breathe more fully by taking slower, deeper breaths. Known as  pranayama, breathing more fully helps improve lung function and trigger the body’s relaxation response. By changing our pattern of breathing, we can significantly affect our body’s experience and response to stress. Other benefits include reduced blood pressure, cholesterol and heart rate,  improved immune system as well as reduced anxiety, depression, fatigue, insomnia, and easier pregnancies.
2. Pain relief. Next time you have a headache, neck, back, or other chronic painful conditions, yoga can help. In the largest US study to date, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, yoga or stretching classes were linked to diminished symptoms from chronic low back pain, more so than a self-care book. Both the yoga and stretching class emphasized the torso and legs. Researchers found that the type of yoga, called viniyoga, which adapts and modifies poses for each student, along with breathing exercises, works because the stretching and strengthening of muscles benefit back function and symptoms. Many people with chronic pain shy away from yoga’s misleading reputation for requiring supple joints for fear of getting hurt. But the same goes for approaching any new activity with too much gusto, writes Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., in Yoga For Pain Relief . Instead of pushing yourself to your limit, think of staying in a 50-60% effort zone.

3. Better Posture & Better Bones. Yoga helps to maintain your muscularity and that helps with maintaining your posture. It also helps with stretching all the muscle groups that support better body alignment. For women, increasing research is showing that exercise is a means of preventing the risk of various cancers, particularly breast cancer. The reasons are twofold, in that both the physical effects and indirect effect of adding yoga as a form of exercise prevents weight gain.

4. Befriending Your Body. For anyone who feels ashamed or self-conscious about their body, yoga can help you become an alley with yourself instead of an adversary. Our obsession with thinness equates the physical practice as a good way to sweat/ get /thin/quick; all about the outer body. Yet yoga primarily evolved for a subtle and more powerful connection of the inner world: the mind, senses and emotions. Today 90% of all women and junior and senior high school girls, respectively, dislike their bodies and are on a diet. ( 15% of these girls are actually overweight.) It doesn’t help that classes might be packed with thin fit people. While yoga does teach you to use and discipline your body to be strong and flexible, the emphasis is on your body as a whole entity: living, changing, accepting and alive in the moment.

This article was originally published in the Idaho Mountain Express. November 16, 2012.

Connie Aronson is an American College of Sports Medicine Health & Fitness Specialist. Visit her at: www.conniearonson.com

Easing Pain with Yoga

Erich Schiffman Moving Into Stillness 2009

There are many reasons to practice yoga although it is essentially a practice intended to make us wiser, calmer, and better able to understand things. If you breathe, you can do yoga. If you are willing to pay attention to your thoughts and feelings, you can do yoga. And if you suffer from chronic pain, yoga can be a powerful compliment to physical therapy, medical treatment or surgery. The key to understanding chronic pain , pain lasting longer than 3 months, is exactly what modern science and yoga teaches: a mind-body connection that doesn’t differentiate physical pain, such as chronic neck pain, and emotional pain, such as depression. Practicing healing breathing and meditations, done anywhere, and at any time, can diminish this kind of suffering.

Calming the Nervous System
Our brain does a fine job of alerting us to incoming threat signals for our safety, but with chronic pain, the body and the nervous system becomes hyper alert, out of proportion with the actual physical pain. Stanford University professor  Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D. ,in her book Yoga For Pain Relief, explains how you can thank our nervous system and its ability to learn in response to experience, called neuroplasticity,  for that. When you balance on one leg, she writes, the nervous system  becomes  more sensitive  to signs that you are in danger of falling. It also becomes more skilled at using that information to trigger a physical response to keep you in balance. The same holds true for pain, in that the nervous system “gets better” at being in pain, detecting threat and producing the protective pain response. It turns out this also leads to increased sensitivity in areas of the brain that detect any other kinds of conflict. Neuroplasticity can also be a solution, she writes. You have to teach your mind and body something new. The Yoga Sutra , the classic  text on yoga , describes  conflicts and false perceptions, such as” I am never going to get rid of this pain”, as Avidya. Avidya literally means “incorrect comprehension.”It clouds of perception of things.
3 Minute –Meditation

Teach yourself something new by redirecting your mind to your breath, the life force in all of us. Practice this simple meditation to reprogram the biology of any pain you have, and allow your body to heal and thrive. (Adapted from Emotional Freedom by Judith Oroloff M.D.)
•    Find a comfortable quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. Settle into a  relaxed position, or prop yourself  on your bed, with pillows supporting you, so you won’t fall asleep.
•    Focus on your breath to quiet your thoughts. Eyes closed, gently place your awareness on your breath. Be conscious of only breathing in and out. Notice your thoughts, but don’t attach any judgment to them. Just let them float away & gently return to focusing on your breath. Relax a little more.
•    Breathe in calm, breathe out stress. Let yourself feel the sensuality of inhaling as you first fill your chest and then fill the abdomen, and exhale as you release the abdomen and then finally empty the top of the lungs. This stretches your spine and straightens your back. With each slow, deep breath, feel yourself  inhaling calm, sweet as the summer jasmine, then exhale frustration. All negativity is released. Your body unwinds, lulling your biology. You’re cocooned by the safety of stillness. Keep refocusing on your breath and the calm. Only the calm.
There are many ways to describe the meaning of yoga beside the classic definition of one with the divine. No matter what name we use for the divine, anytime we feel in harmony with a higher power, that  too, is yoga. One of the most influential yoga teachers of our time, Sri T. Krishnamacharya,  spent  most of his life helping people with all sorts of illness. For one person, it might have been a more physical practice, for another, prayer and meditation might have been more appropriate. What ever you choose, practice it if only for a few minutes each day, as simple as breathing .

Connie Aronson is an ACSM Health & Fitness Specialist located at the  YMCA in Ketchum, Idaho. She is currently at her annual yoga retreat, with big Montana skies.

In Health, Small Changes Count

Regarding your health, small changes matter.

Popping up into a handstand  is easy. All you need is straight strong arms and  up  you  go. I used to do them easily. But then I developed chronic nerve pain in one of my legs, and going up was out of the question. I avoided them for years in yoga class. When my symptoms healed and  it was time to go up, fear took over. All I could think of  was buckling, which I did, again and again. In  Fierce Medicine, author and yoga pioneer Ana Forrest  writes about a Brave-Hearted Path. What if we became the hunter, and tracked down our fear, to turn from prey to predator? What if we let go of the old stories that hold us back and make a very small change? For most of us, small changes are realistic and attainable. The next time I tried a handstand, I tracked down the fear, (Have fun!) and up I popped, exhilarated! All it took was one small change in a very brief amount of time. When it comes to your health, tiny steps can help change a laundry list of habits.

Four Real New Year’s Resolutions

Access  Readiness.

Motivation has to come from within. Ask yourself what is the real objective you are after. Keep asking “why”. Uncovering the real reason of saying “I want to lose weight”, with further prodding, might really be that you want to have more energy and not miss out on hiking in the Pioneers next spring with friends.

Set your intent

Instead of waking up, tossing some coffee down our throats  and  rush  headlong into our day, Forrest suggests that you  set your intent, and not  make it overwhelming. Make one change that appeals most to you. If you are tired of a stiff neck from sitting at your computer, you might add 10   big shoulder rolls in each direction every hour you spend at your desk that day. Schedule a long overdue massage. If it’s out of control eating that bothers you, promise yourself to sit at the table every time you eat.

Small Enough Steps

Everyone knows it’s a good idea to park your car further away from where you need to be. Not only are the extra steps good for you, but it is also a time when you can take notice of the day. For those few moments, appreciate the environment you live in, the sun, or even the lack of traffic that day, and be grateful for that. Instead of feeling guilty about not getting on the treadmill for an hour, try just 10 minutes. You’ll be energized by the effort, and may even stay on it longer that you’d thought you would.

Nip an Unhealthy Habit in the Bud

As you strive to make health-enhancing resolutions materialize, Edward Philips, editor of the Harvard Health School Report, recommends taking a good look at any unhealthy habits that you can’t seem to shake. A daily diet of cookies for lunch could wreck havoc on your energy later in the day. Likewise, excessive amounts of time surfing online, for example, can leave you less opportunity to engage in healthier pursuits, such as deepening social ties, or a walk.

Your day to day choices, no matter if it’s practicing handstands or healthier eating, all count to help  bring vitality and well-being in the New Year. Happy holidays!

Connie Aronson ACSM Fitness Specialist located at the YMCA in Ketchum, Idaho.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be present, be happy

A good life: Love & happiness The story goes: a man is driving on a highway listening to the radio, when suddenly there is an announcement:” On the 401, a man is driving in the wrong direction. Use extreme caution.” He looks around and says: “Only ONE person is driving in the wrong direction? There are hundreds of them going in the wrong direction!” Isn’t it so easy to point a finger, get angry, or blame the other guy? Nawang Gehlek Rimpoche, the grand nephew of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, in his book, Good Life Good Death, sites the dichotomy: we are all basically beautiful human beings, but our particular behavior and attitudes can get in the way of our happiness.

Buddhists believe that you become enlightened when you haven’t a negative thought. Scientists now know beyond a doubt that potent physiological states, like anger, envy or blame, affect our health as much as could high triglyceride. Good health is more than the physical habits of our daily lives. How we experience our lives matters. Factors such as isolation, depression, anger, jealousy and hostility not only rob our true nature of happiness, but can contribute to heart disease. Thoughts can become biology. In her book The Heart Speaks, Dr. Mimi Guarneri tells how suppresses emotions, or ones we are unconscious of, or just simmer on the back burner indefinitely, eventually manifest as physical symptoms. She illustrates how emotionally stressful events, particularly anger, precede and may even trigger the onset of a heart attack.

The heart has an electromagnetic current 60 times higher in amplitude than the field of the brain. It also emits an energy field five thousand times stronger than the brain’s. What, Guarneri asks, if it’s not the brain telling the heart what to feel, but the heart informing the rest of the body? What if, she asks, changing the mind actually involves changing the heart? How can we stop pointing to the other guy, and be here in the present, to allow more happiness in our lives?

Radiate love and appreciation

Anger-provoking situations play havoc on heart rate responses and blood pressure, as we all know. Levels of a protein, IL-6, a maker of inflammation that may cause arterial thickening, and the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine also kick in to push cholesterol and blood sugar levels higher. The heart and nervous system rhythm’s become chaotic, adversely affecting the whole body. Positive feelings, such as love and appreciation produce heart-rhythm coherence, and increased harmony and health, Guarneri writes. Since the heart is the most powerful oscillator in the body, it has the capacity to synchronize other organs in unison. Heart-rate patterns shift to orderly ones when a person enters a loving, appreciative state, she writes. Forgiveness, optimism and gratitude, topics she says would have been dismissed as irrelevant in medical school, are as much a part of heart disease equation as blood levels. A shift in our thinking, filled with gratitude, can help us connect to something larger than our individual experiences, whether to others, nature or a higher power. May this New Year be filled with happiness and big love.

Copyright Š 2011 Express Publishing Inc.

All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited.

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week’s issue.

Connie Aronson is an ACSM Health & Fitness Specialist and an IDEA Elite Certified personal trainer. She is located at the YMCA  in Ketchum, Idaho.

Restorative Napping

Restorative Yoga- we could all use a little nap

We could all use a little nap. It seems that many of us just keep going until too much stress upsets our normal balance.

According to the American Psychological Association, a third of us are living with extreme stress that can lead to high blood pressure, insomnia, anxiety, heart disease and a host of other health problems. We worry, plan, over-schedule and maybe not pay enough attention to what’s going on inside ourselves. Maybe we are simply exhausted. Restorative yoga is a way to help you relax deeply for a few minutes a day. And no, it’s not an infomercial.

Here is where modern science and the ancient practice of yoga merge. B.K.S. Iyengar, author of the classic book “Light on Yoga,” first introduced props and blankets to his students who had difficulty holding specific yoga poses. He then discovered that he could help them recover from their illnesses and injuries with supported gentle yoga poses that not only stretched the spine in healthy ways but also enabled students to rest deeply in the poses.

Iyengar taught that to relax is to cut tension, and as you practice restorative poses you feel harmonious and balanced. This works by returning the nervous system to its natural state, a state in which the body has the ability to heal itself. The goal when doing the poses is to be aware and passive, not falling asleep. (The sleep state is different from the state of deep relaxation).

The Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center studied restorative yoga and looked at its positive impact on emotional wellness in ovarian cancer patients. Imaging studies show significant increases in left-sided brain activity when one relaxes or meditates, which is associated with healing positive emotional states.

In her book “Relax and Renew,” renowned yoga teacher Judith Lasater suggested thinking of restorative poses as taking a short holiday right in your home that it adds to one’s energy rather than subtracting from it. It’s particularly helpful when you feel tired or weak, during big life-changing events, or recovering from an illness.
Race To The Top

“Twenty minutes of restorative yoga is the equivalent to a one-hour nap,” Lasater wrote.

And that’s just the energy benefits. The healing benefits abound.

Here are two simple poses to try: one at home, and the other at the office. The first one is Legs–Up-the-Wall–Pose. It refreshes your legs, especially swollen jet-lagged legs, enhances the health of your circulatory system by the mild inversion and gently calms the nervous system. (Don’t do this pose if you’re pregnant or if you have sciatica.) From a seated position on the floor, swing your legs up onto a wall, so that your tailbone and butt are not lifting off the floor. Your back should be completely supported by floor. If your chin is lifted towards the ceiling put a small pillow under your head to support your neck. Your chin should be slightly lower than your forehead, not strained. Keep your legs straight and relaxed with your arms comfortably out to the sides, palms turned up. Relax and take several long, slow breaths. Feel like your back is completely supported by the floor and your chest is open and free. Stay here for five to 10 minutes, and take your time when you come out of the pose.

The second nap is Desk Forward Bend, nice for a break at the office, at your desk. Lasater likens it to school days when she would simply lean forward and rest her head on her desk. Place your chair near your desk so you can lean forward, feet flat on the floor, and then lean forward and place your folded arms on the desk. Let the desk support your arms, head and worries, and relax completely for three to five minutes. When you’re ready to come up, inhale, and use your arms to sit up. Sit for one more long breath before carrying on with your day, refreshed.

Connie Aronson is an American College of Sports Medicine-certified, ACE Gold Level status-certified, and an IDEA Elite Level-certified personal trainer. She works at High Altitude Fitness and the YMCA in Ketchum.

Originally published in the Idaho Mountain Express – Friday, February 15, 2008