If you’re working in an office all day long, chances are you’re not getting enough exercise, on top of not getting adequate exposure to daylight (see last week’s post for remedies). The same applies to most people who travel a lot for work. Meaning, you’re missing out on the physical, emotional and mental benefits of moving your body and keeping (or making) it - and your mind (!!!) - flexible and fresh. And making a daily habit of it all.
Your body depends on you making it happen, though! And guess what: the more you get your circulation going habitually, the less you will be freezing in the winter time. By the way, we’re talking about three things here: blood circulation, lymph circulation, and energy circulation (in your energy body that surrounds your physical body).
And no, none of this is new. What is new, or rather "unusual" about my posts is that I practice what I preach. This is no theoretical discussion of something some highly decorated professor thinks could "theoretically" help you. These are things that have worked for me in real life, in situations pretty similar to the challenges you face daily as a "high performance athlete" of the mental realm (i.e. as a high level office worker or entrepreneur).
As Ghandi said "an ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching." I'm a practitioner. Always have been. Always will be. To me, theory can only ever serve as a guideline, to establish a helpful framework when I venture into new areas; the real deal happens when you apply it along with your common sense in real life. Whether that's juggling loads of client money in high finance or improving your health or anything else you aspire to (like passing the CFA exam a few years back for me).
Here’s the skinny on 10 quick and effective ways to get your juices moving and increase your level of well-being in the dark season exponentially:
You have a smartphone, don’t you? Maybe you stream Bloomberg Radio on the way to work, maybe you listen to your favorite music, an audiobook or to a guided meditation. Well, it can be used as a portable jukebox, too. So, whether it’s first thing in the morning in the comfort of your own home or hotel room, or during the day at break time: find some feel-good music and start dancing! It’s perfect for boosting your mood, circulation and energy in a matter of 1-5 minutes.
Buy a small foldable rebounder (available at most online shopping sites for under USD 50), and start bouncing on it for 5 minutes in the morning. You don't even need to jump or get into acrobatics on the rebounder - in fact, if you're just starting out, stick to bouncing (meaning your feet maintain contact with the rebounder at all times). You’ll be surprised at how quickly you go from missing the warmth of your bed to being ready for action! Add some feel-good music, and you’ll be starting your day warm and full of joy…
3. Skin Brushing (wet or dry)
Whenever you get in the shower, or after a bath, take the time to scrub down your entire body for 3-5 minutes. Not only does this remove dead skin cells, it also increases circulation and helps your skin eliminate toxins.
4. Hot/Cold Showers or Kneipping
Great ways to boost your circulation. The alternation of hot and cold water in the shower is one of the most time efficient ways to improve my health that I know. If you have access to a Kneipp basin or a natural creek, get in there with your bare feet on a daily basis if you can. This practice is best started in the spring/summer time, though, because then you have the chance to train your body up to withstand the colder temperatures.
NB: If you’re of average health, an omnivore, prone to colds and chills and mostly sedentary, do NOT start Kneipping outside in the cold season. It will lead to a hefty detox reaction of your body in the form of mucus release. Meaning you’ll catch a cold. Because really, that’s what a cold is: a quick way for the body to get rid of toxins via increased mucus production and pushing that mucus out of the body through the respiratory system.
Pretty self-explanatory. Do it whenever you can. Especially when you’re travelling or sitting all day. When I’m on the road, I sometimes run up and down the stairwell in the hotel where I’m staying. People tend to take the elevator, so you’ll hardly ever meet a soul.
This is a great way to rejuvenate yourself and get more energy quickly or relax. Please do NOT try the headstand you see me doing in the photo above without proper instruction, though! This is the most energizing inversion I know. Find a well-trained yoga teacher to show you (if you have a medical condition, be sure to check if it is safe for you to train up to the headstand!)*. **
The shoulderstand (supported or unsupported) is a good inversion to practice regularly, as well, and helps relax (at night) and accept what is.
Or - and this is the simplest thing of all to do: just lie on your bed or the floor, scoot your bottom close to the wall, prop it up on a pillow or two (so that your head will be slightly below your heart level), and swing up your legs. I sometimes read like that at night… It’s relaxing, too.
You could also buy an inversion board. I thought about getting one myself, and never did - simply because I already knew how to do my inversions and didn't want to clutter up my space when I learned about it.
Benefits include: reversed blood flow, meaning, more oxygen in the brain. Increased lymph flow, leading to better immunity. Relaxation of internal organs. Improved balance. The change in perspective, ie turning yourself upside down to the world, also helps with mental flexibility. Not to mention the sense of accomplishment when you have reached the core strength to do an unsupported shoulderstand or headstand (the latter took me 3 months to train up to without ever using a wall for support).
These are yogic breathing exercises. Find a video online to teach you Kapalabhati pranayama or Gorilla pranayama for cleansing your system and increasing your energy. Look for Anuloma Viloma if you want to balance the left and right hemispheres of your brain and calm down at night. (Again, if you have a medical condition like high blood pressure, educate yourself about contraindications first!)
It’s a free foot massage, courtesy of your own weight pushing your soles into the ground, need I say more? - Oh, yes: it’s also a mindfulness practice, and improves your posture. Walking barefoot outside connects you to Earth. I’ve collected a few thoughts about barefoot running, which is the more advanced practice (start with walking, please, and train up!) - listen below.
If your fasciae are glued together, this is a time-efficient, effective and inexpensive remedy. You can get a black roll (in several sizes, with a travel size, too!), as well as a foot roller. Practice for 5 minutes a day, and you should feel a difference after the first week.
10. On The Road?
Make it a point to do stretches and spine rolls (standing up or rolling on the floor) in your hotel room, morning and night. Dance. Take your foam rollers with you. Do your inversions. And no, you don’t need to buy a travel yoga mat - a big hotel towel on the floor usually does the trick, for me at least.
If you're stuck on a train or plane for some hours, you can also use a few minutes to visualize yourself doing proper stretches, inversions or yoga asanas, or even running if you want to get warm. With a bit of practice, you'll feel the same physical benefits from the visualization that the actual physical exercise gives you.
My suggestion: plan your next 3 weeks with activities from above as they appeal to you. I recommend 3 sets of 5-10 minutes each - morning, midday, night. Also keep a diary handy to briefly record how you feel each day and observe the quality of your sleep. After 3 weeks of daily practice, review and notice your progress. And when you need to travel, print out this article to empower yourself to take care of your body beyond the ordinary while you’re away from home.
Enjoy your body! And remember: it's in your power to make this dark season a joyful and productive one for yourself. No more excuses! In my experience, this is the only sustainable path to fewer sick days, more resilience in the face of challenging situations, more fun (and less fight) at work (and at home), and ultimately, better performance and bonus chances, income and career progression - especially if you're in it for the long run.
Don't forget to come back next week for part 3 of this series, when I talk about eating sunlight - the equivalent of introducing more happiness (and health) on a cellular level!
* Inversion contraindications: unregulated high blood pressure, some heart conditions, neck injuries, severe eye problems, epilepsy, among others.
** A good source of instructional yoga videos (asanas and pranayama) as well as further literature is Yoga Vidya. I took more than 300hrs of yoga teacher training with them, and find their instructions very clear and concise, including benefits and contraindications.