In our interview with ‘Halo’ star Pablo Schreiber this week, we discuss the importance of balancing physical and mental exercise for the best all-round results. Pablo states that, in an ideal world, he combines working out to build muscle along with separate meditation sessions to then release that tension and relax. So this got us thinking about exercises that tackle both the body and mind together for those who have limited time to commit to their self-care routine. Here are five suggestions, and why they work.
Rooted in Indian philosophy, there’s much more to yoga than downward dog. Yoga can incorporate meditation, breathwork, and other contemplative practices, alongside the physical poses that most people associate with the activity, to harmonize the body and mind. These days, many experts consider yoga a valuable part of functional training, which focuses on strength and co-ordination to allow individuals to maximize their ability to carry out every day tasks. It has been proven to beat stress and anxiety while also strengthening our core, sculpting muscle, burning calories, and increasing our range of motion. The hundreds of styles are practiced by more than 37 million people in the US alone, improving our flexibility of mind and body at the same time, and enhancing our ability to interpret and respond to nerve signals sent back and forth between the muscles and brain.
Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese discipline originally developed as a martial art in the 13th century, that is now used to promote better physical and mental health. The slow, flowing routines focus the mind while gently challenging the body, improving posture, balance, and mobility. And the physical movement is combined with controlled breathwork that helps with managing stress. The low impact nature of the exercise makes it suitable for almost anyone, and it needs no special clothing or equipment. It’s sometimes referred to as meditation in motion.
Simply walking in nature is a mind-body exercise in itself, with the physical exercise coupled with the mental benefits of grounding ourselves outdoors. But often we find that as our legs are moving on auto-pilot our mind is wandering elsewhere, perhaps thinking about the past, or worrying about the future. Instead, we can try to become more aware of our posture and how our body feels with each step, keeping a soft but focused mind. While the object of focus of meditation is often our breath, during a walking meditation replace that with the rhythm of our steps. Then we can and reach a meditative state where we can fully engage with the environment and the present moment.
What better place to exercise the mind and body than floating on the sea or ocean? Paddle boarding is a low-impact activity that gets us into shape without putting too much stress on our body. It’s a great full body workout, and is particularly good at targeting the abdominal core. Meanwhile, the fact we’re away from it all on the water makes it easier to take in the sights, smells and sounds, which can help to stay in the moment and let go of our stress.
It’s not often thought of as exercise, but gardening can be as strenuous as we choose. Even gentle gardening like tending to a vegetable patch can help with mobility and flexibility, while more vigorous activities like digging or chopping wood will burn more calories and build muscle. And just like plants, our body is capable of photosynthesis, using the sunlight to make vitamin D, essential for hundreds of bodily functions including strengthening bones and the immune system. And our efforts can be rewarded with healthy, sustainable fruit and vegetables to eat, making it the ultimate exercise in holistic self-care.