These cold, dark winter days of glorious introspection offer the ideal opportunity to learn how to start training our bodies and minds to tackle a more fit and healthy lifestyle. So, whether you are looking to manage your own stress levels, improve your digestion, stay injury free, or just learn how to breathe properly, here are my five top tips to help get you motivated and moving.
1. Learn To Train Your Mind: You can designate just two minutes in the first week, graduate to three, then five etc. Find a comfortable place to sit, in a chair or on the floor; allow your natural breath to settle. Bring your attention to the navel. Observe the gentle expansion of the breath on the inhalation, observe the contraction of the breath back towards the spine on the exhalation. Continue to observe the breath without forcing it at all. When the mind wanders, as it inevitably will, bring it back to the breath. Meditation occurs when the space in between your thoughts increases.
2. Enjoy Intelligent Movement: In addition to regular cardio vascular training a few times a week (whether it be running, cycling or swimming) and lifting weights (but not too heavy), I recommend practicing an intelligent form of movement such as yoga or pilates, three times a week at least. Both yoga and pilates are transformational, focused methods of movement that facilitate positive change in the body and mind.
3. Stay Injury Free: Preparation and warming the body up properly is key to staying fit and motivated in 2015. After all, nothing is more de-motivating than picking up an injury that could have been avoided, had correct precautions been taken. Before running I spend 15 minutes warming up and use an array of yoga extensions and flexions, in conjunction with Ujjayi Pranayama to focus on warming parts of my body that are particularly tight on cold mornings.
4. Practice The Art Of Savouring: We eat while we are watching television, while we are working and sitting in front of the computer screen, while we are on the move. It’s a sad state of affairs; we have become mindless eaters. In 2015, resolve to practice the art of savouring. Just try it once. The next time you have your lunch, stop and give some space to the activity. Pay close attention - the closer the attention, the more you’ll get out of your savouring. Savouring food is just the start: you can savour anything, and you should. It’s wonderful, and it changes everything
5. Breathe For Effect: Correct breathing enhances the body’s vitality and promotes blood circulation, while regular deep breathing slows the action of the heart, reduces blood pressure, alleviates the symptoms of stress and anxiety, and helps to relieve digestive problems. I practice Kapalabhati every morning for 10 minutes which helps to oxygenate the body and mind. Kapalabhati is practiced through short forceful exhalations at the diaphragm. Some of my private clients, particularly those who suffer with stress, find ujjayi anuloma pranayama to be very beneficial. This technique, which focuses on extending the exhalation helps to stimulate the R&R response. One of my clients - who trains for the Iron Man competition -uses a light ujjayi breath in the heat of competition as it helps to train the mind and stay relaxed.