Exercise Bits & Kitchen Yoga

Exercise Bits and Kitchen Yoga

Little bits of exercise, yoga, and movement are effective at helping to reduce effects of sitting too long.  Short bits of movements that you accumulate throughout your day do make a difference in our health.  And one of the upsides to collecting movement throughout your day is it is easier to maintain some consistency — compliancy  — when time is tight.

This is further research since I first read about “Sitting is the new Smoking” a term that was coined by Dr. James Levine who is a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic where he discovered any extended sitting time —be it in in a car, at a computer, or in front of any screen including TV screens can be harmful.

While, yes—sitting and smoking both have their negative effects on health – it’s hard to compare them — but they are both detrimental.  The difference between sitting and smoking is that society has outcast one of them, and completely accepted the other.

Incorporating short bits of movement breaks throughout your day can help to prevent some of the problems from desk and car/truck jobs and extended sitting such as:

  • Reduced blood flow — blood flow slows down.  This can allow fatty acids to build up in the blood vessels, leading to heart disease.  And remember when I talk of the importance of communication in your body — the better and quicker your body can communicate the healthier you are, sitting slows down that communication.
  • Your body’s ability to process fats is slowed.  When you sit, your body’s production of lipoprotein lipase (an enzyme essential for breaking down and digesting fat) drops by about 90%.  When your body cannot break down fat, it is stored instead.
  • Sitting for extended periods of time, regularly may lead to insulin resistance which leads to “Diabesity” — diabetes and obesity. 
  • A 2018 study found that 82% of people who suffer from blood clots, sat for a significantly greater amount of time than the remaining 18% of people in the study.

More recently studies have emerged on the benefits of accumulating movement — even brief intense intervals of exercise lasting about a minute can make a big impact on your health.  This first study used short but intense movement breaks:

“Doing exercise as brief, intense ‘exercise snacks’ before main meals is a time-efficient and effective approach to improve glycaemic control in individuals with insulin resistance.

What was termed exercise snacking (ES) consisted of 6-8 minutes of  6 × 1 min intense (90% HR max) incline walking intervals 30 min before each meal.

And the second study looked at breaking up sitting with light walking and movement, this study took place over a 4 day period, where diet was controlled as well for all participants.

  • The first group “the sitting group” sat 14h/day and got about 4400 steps 
  • The second group, sitting with movement replaced 1.1 of the hours of sitting with intense moderate to intense cycling and got about 4800 steps per day — the sitting with exercise group.
  • The third group  — the sit less group got about 17,000 steps per day with just about 5 hours of the sitting hours replaced with standing and light walking and moving.

Conclusions/interpretation: Breaking sitting with standing and light-intensity walking or with shorter higher intensity intervals effectively improved 24 h glucose levels and improved insulin sensitivity in individuals with type 2 diabetes to a greater extent than structured exercise. Thus, the results suggest that breaking sitting with standing and light-intensity walking may be an alternative to structured exercise to promote glycaemic control in patients type 2 diabetes.”

Honestly I was surprised to see that just sitting less and moving more improved insulin sensitivity even better than sitting with 1 hour of intense exercise per day.  I think regular exercisers would find that eye opening.  And it seems to me that accumulating your steps and more movement throughout your day could also relieve some of the body aches from long hours in front of a screen.

I feel it best to combine them — sitting less and moving more with some structured exercise/yoga time.

Does this mean short exercise bits can improve overall fitness and well being?  Not sure that has been proven with these studies.  It would seem it could impact weight loss since it impacts blood sugar.  What I do know is breaking up sitting time is much better for our health and well being in general regardless of whether it can promote weight loss or improved cardiovascular function.  And if your exercise bit has some intensity to it there is a chance it could improve your cardiovascular capacity.

Nutritious Movement

Enter bio-mechanist Katy Bowman  She is an interesting person, she has removed all furniture from her house for her and her family and focuses on movement throughout the day.  She talks of the importance of all types of movements of your body and joints.

She differentiated between exercise and movement:

“Going for a mile-walk to strengthen your legs, burn some calories, and stretch your muscles is an example of exercise.  Walking a mile to the store because you need to pick up something for dinner is an example of movement. Both may  use the body in the same way, but there is a difference in the bigger picture regarding how we think about and schedule the needs of our body.”

Exercise is movement, but movement is not always exercise.

Movement, in a natural setting in ancient times, was incidental — or necessary to meeting other biological needs.  It was a positive feedback loop between nature and our physiology, what you had to do to sustain yourself required just the right amount of movement for your health.

But now we don’t need to move as much as we used to, to meet our biological needs.

Planning how you want to move your body for exercise; yoga, walk, bike, gym, etc. is what makes exercise exercise. 

Movement on the other hand refers to any motion made with your body — even chewing and breathing — and even flaring your nostrils as you breathe would be movement.  We want to think of moving our body in these ways too — keeps everything lubed so to speak.

Remember over the years when I teach, I used to say use your breath to enhance the stretch, especially in forward bends — stretch your diaphragm not just your hamstrings when you breathe all day long!

This makes movement as a category much broader than exercise; if the goal of exercise is to reap more benefits from moving, the goal of movement would be to reap the non-exercise benefits of movement.

How to translate this?

Fidget!  And when you do sit, don’t sit like a lady — sit like a yogi — with one foot under you, or one leg in half lotus, or swinging your legs, shuffling your feet, how many different movements can you do while seated?

At Work ideas:

Don’t sit too long!  Every 20 minutes stand up and try a variety of stretches or exercises for 30 seconds – 1 minute.  Here are six samples to get your started — these should take you through two hours of work, you can repeat these 6 every two hours … until you get bored of them and make up some of your own to mix in!

And just standing up out of your chair and sitting back down if you are deeply involved in your work will help too.  Just standing up creates a mini G-force on your body that improves circulation.

  • Stand Up – Interlace hands behind your back — INHALE and arch back taking your face to the sky and hold this position for 3 breaths.  Exhale to center and relax arms.  Inhale stretch the right side of your body by leaning left and reaching your right arm overhead and stretching left — keep your face to the sky.  Exhale to Center.  Inhale repeat to the R.  Repeat 3x.
  • Stand UP – Exhale to a mini squat – Inhale stand up and arch back.  10x
  • Stand UP – Hands on hips – Exhale twist to the right (turning head too) — Inhale to center – Exhale twist to the L — Inhale to center. 5-10x
  • Stand UP – Place your right leg on office chair or stool.  Exhale fold over right leg for 5-10 breaths.  Repeat L.
  • Stand UP – roll your shoulders open and work into mini arm circles to the back 5x and shake out for 10 seconds (are you familiar with the “shake out?”  It has qigong background).
  • Stand UP – half sun salute 3x = on the last one hold the forward bend for 5 breaths and increase some blood flow to your brain.
    • Inhale reach over head and arch back
    • Exhale mini forward bend, hands on thighs or calves
    • Inhale head up
    • Exhale mini forward bend
    • Inhale come up arms over head and arch back
    • exhale samastitihi

Other tips:

  • Alternate between a standing desk and your normal seated desk.  Standing desks do not have to be expensive, I found a little bar table (those higher tables that are set back in the bar sections of restaurants) that is the perfect standing height for working on my computer.  They sell all kinds of little bar tables starting around $50.00.  Also workbenches work great for this too.
  • Take the long way to the bathroom, to get tea or coffee, or to go talk with a coworker.  Do a lap around the office or building.  Talk your coworkers into walking meetings, you both will benefit.
  • And if you are working for home as many are during the covid times, then go outside for 1-2 minutes and walk back in to your desk.  Make note on how different you feel.  You could walk outside and do a couple rounds of moving and breathing with Hasta Utthanasana (Pg. 136 in “Asana, Pranayama, Mudra, Bandha” by Swami Satyananda Saraswati)
    • Cross hands in front of body, Inhale and raise arms above your head keepinghas crossed — bend your head back slightly and look at your hands
    • Exhale arms down to shoulder level (palms up), gaze straight ahead.
    • Inhale your arms overhead crossing them again over your head.
    • Exhale lower your arms straight down in front of your body.
  • Pop in your ear buds and play an uplifting motivating song and bop to it as you work at your desk.
  • Feel when you need a movement break!  Learn to tune into body sensations when you are deeply involved in a project.  You will save yourself many aches and pains.
  • Place your water or coffee where you need to stand up to reach it — but make sure that does not thwart you from drinking your water.

More tips for self care at work here.

What movements can you add into your day that engage your muscles, challenge your strength, and encourage breathing and moving synchronicity?

With this research it opens the door for us to incorporate little 5-10 minute blocks of yoga throughout our day, for example while you are boiling water or just before cooking — or just before any meal is an ideal time for a bit of yoga or exercise, in the morning before work (bedroom yoga) and/or in the evening when you come home and change clothes.

Don’t have time for a full yoga practice?  Here are a couple 5 or 10 minute ‘kitchen yoga’ and ‘bedroom yoga’ and even ‘living room’ yoga routines. 

These short yoga bits purposefully have some intensity to them.  When time is short you up the intensity, and if you remember in some of the studies proving the worthiness of these short practices did have intervals of intensity.  I mixed some calisthenic type movements in with our yoga to challenge our strength.

I also included a yoga block that focuses on our core strength — the job of your abdominals is not so much to crunch your torso over, meaning crunches are not a very good ab exercise.  Instead we want to focus on stabilization, your abdominals job is to stabilize your torso while your arms and legs move.  In addition, when you think of strengthening your abs you want to work all around your torso — not just the front of your body, also the back and the sides which we will cover.

Kitchen Yoga

Standing 1/2 Sun Salute 3x (like I used to do at the beginning of the beginner yoga classes)

  • Inhale reach up 
  • Exhale forward bend
  • Inhale head up only
  • Exhale head to knees
  • Inhale come up taking arms overhead
  • Exhale samastithi
    or Hasta Uttanasana as explained above

Utkatasana (half squat feet together) 3 breaths

Cross L leg over R with arms out to the side for balance and/or holding on to counter (or garudasana — eagle pose)  Hold 3-5 breaths

Utkatasana 3 breaths

Cross R over L with arms out to side for balance and/or holding onto counter (or eagle pose again)  Hold 3 breaths

Utkatasana with squats – exhale squat down slow, inhale stand up tall 5-10x

Extend L leg behind you with toes touching floor with your arms out to the sides, you can make it warrior III by extending your leg behind you to the same level as your torso nicely engaging the back of your body – 3-5 breaths

Step L leg far behind you into Warrior I – 5 breaths

Open to:  Warrior II 5 breaths

Open to Pliè squat 5x — exhale slowly down taking 2-3 breaths, inhale stand up in one inhale

Step together to samsthitihi and Repeat other side.

Bedroom Yoga

This is a nice after work short yoga hit, I put in some movements that focus on the back of the body which tends to get weak when you have to sit at a desk.

Plank Pose – holding high push up position with shoulder blades apart and chin lifted – 30 seconds

Exhale lower slowly lower from plank pose to chaturanga, drop to your knees, Inhale push up. 
Lift your knees off the floor exhale lower down, drop your knees and inhale push up — repeat 5-8x
On the last one:

Lower slowly to prone on the floor – take 3 breaths to get to floor.

Shalabasana (locust pose) or cobra with “posture wings” – 5-10 breaths
–while in shalabasana lift arms off floor:
EXHALE try to touch elbows together behind your back rotating thumbs upward. INHALE reach arms out.
Put together: its inhale reach arms out, exhale squeeze elbows toward each other behind back while you hold the lift up of your torso and legs.

Rest in alligator pose 2-3 breaths, then inhale roll into upward dog, exhale to down dog and hold down dog for 5 breaths.  Jump through and have a seat in dandasana.

Reach your hands about a foot behind you – with your legs extended straight out and close together:
-inhale lift up your hips as high as you can, turning your face upward
-exhale lower back down to seated
Repeat 5x holding last one up for purvottanasana for 5 breaths.

Exhale lower and lie down your back, hugging your knees to your chest 3-5 breaths

Place your feet flat on the floor, knees over your ankles.
-inhale lift your hips up to bridge pose
-exhale lower down
Repeat 5x holding last one up for bridge pose.

Exhale lower down, hug your knees to your chest and rock and roll up to a seated or standing position.  You could end here and go on with your day or evening, or close out with the 3 finishing lotus postures if you need the breath work and meditation.

Kitchen Yoga #2

Standing 1/2 Sun Salute 3x (like I used to do at the beginning of the beginner yoga classes)

  • Inhale reach up 
  • Exhale forward bend
  • Inhale head up only
  • Exhale head to knees
  • Inhale come up taking arms overhead
  • Exhale samastithi

Inhale step or jump open to:
Trikonasana – triangle pose, R & L – 5 Breaths each side, step or jump together.

Inhale step or jump open to:
Parsvakonasana (extended side angle -comes after triangle in ashtanga) with backward bind 5 breaths R and 5 breaths L.

  • Place arm on inner thigh of bent knee, reach around behind you and bind your hands around your leg and behind your back. 

Prasarita Padatonnasana A B C & D, the wide stance forward bends of ashtanga yoga– or pick your favs, in A position first add a side to side lunge moving and breathing 5-8x then move into and hold A position for 5 breaths.

Squatting Ardha Baddha Padmatonnasana – Standing half bound lotus without the bind – (have something close to hold onto if necessary):  Place your R leg in half lotus:

  • Exhale squat and inhale stand up tall — do 5-10 one-legged squats while you keep your 1/2 lotus.  Repeat other side

End with a full sun salute — Stop in chaturanga – try do do a few pushups on your knees, then finish your sun salute with upward dog, hold down dog for 5 breaths, etc.).

If you have time, finish with your three finishing lotus flowers.

Shake off and go on with your day 🙂

Living Room Yoga with a core emphasis
This is a spin off from my old Total Torso Training workshop I taught in the 90s during my personal training days.

Seated Sun Salutes 5x – Seated in Dandasana; sitting straight with your legs extend:

  • Inhale reach arms overhead and look up to your thumbs
  • Exhale pick up your legs and hug them into your chest
  • Inhale to Navasana (boat pose)
  • Exhale to supine, flat on your back lying down in supta samastithihi
  • Inhale place feet flat on floor and lift up to bridge pose
  • Exhale feet to the sky and arms out the sides bent (arms on the floor), stay here for 5 breaths (this is your downward dog done flat on your back)
  • Inhale use your abs and come up to boat pose / navasana
  • Exhale hug legs into your ches
  • Inhale reach arms overhead as you extend your legs out
  • Exhale to Dandasana

On your next exhale slowly lower down engaging your abdominals to control your descent to lying supine (flat on your back):

Reverse curl – 8x – lying supine with legs in the air above your hips and arms lying on the floor somewhat overhead or out to the sides:

  • Exhale press your lower back into the floor and curl your hips up off the floor
  • Inhale slowly lower hips down and rock the pelvis letting your lower back just slightly arch.  

Bicycle style Abdominal stabilization 4-6x slowly – With legs extended above hips and lower back pressed to the floor:

  • Exhale and extend your R leg out (keep your left knee over your hip — if you pull your left knee in toward your chest as you extend your right leg out it makes the pose too easy)
  • Inhale slowly bring your right knee over your hip as you extend your left leg out
  • after 4-6 reps – Add a lift and twist with your torso, hands on top of your head elbows forward taking your right elbow toward your left knee and repeat other side for another 4-6 reps

Canoe Pose – Hold both legs out just inches off the floor while pressing your lower back to the floor, curl your torso off the floor keeping your arms extended along your sides.  Hold for 5-10 deep breaths.  Slowly lower down to supine.

Bridge pose – hold up 5 breaths, then

  • Inhale extend R leg up in the air while holding bridge pose – 3-5 breaths, then exhale leg down.
  • Inhale extend Left leg up 3-5 breaths, exhale leg down

Hold 2-legged bridge pose another 5 breaths.

Slowly lower down to supine and roll over to prone (on your abdomen) — or do a vinyasa and come to prone after downward dog.

Plank Pose / Side Arm Balance – Place your forearms on the floor with elbows under your shoulders, and wrists inline with elbows and shoulders:

  • Inhale lift up to Plank pose on Forearms keeping chin lifted looking straight ahead – hold 5-8 breaths.  Exhale – Roll to Right side
  • Side arm Balance on R forearm keeping hips lifted and left arm extended above shoulder looking to left thumb – 5-8 breaths
  • Exhale back to Plank Pose on Forearms – 5-8 breaths
  • Exhale to Left side – Side Arm Balance on L forearm 5-8 breaths
  • Exhale to Plank pose on forearms – 5 breaths

Lower down and rest in alligator pose or child’s pose.

Inhale to upward dog, exhale to downward dog.  Finish with lotus flowers or go on with your evening.

Warrior Yoga Break

Sun Salute A & B – 3x — On last Sun Salute B we are going to hold the warrior pose on each side and play with them.

From Warrior (Virabhadrasana) A with R foot forward:

  • Hold Virahbhadrasna A – 4 breaths
  • Inhale, open to Virabhadrasana B – 4 breaths
  • Exhale, reach down left leg (back leg) with left hand, turn your R palm upward bringing your arm closer to your face and lengthen the right side of your body as you reach your left hand lower and lower on your left leg – 4 breaths
  • Inhale come up and lift left leg off floor, exhale to Ardha Chandrasana or half moon pose touching right fingertips to the floor in front of the right toes, left leg parallel to floor – 4 breaths
  • Inhale open to Warrior III with arms out to the sides – 4 breaths
  • Inhale back to Warrior I, exhale to chaturanga, inhale upward dog, exhale down dog, step L foot forward and repeat other side.
  • End by finishing off your sun salute holding down dog for 5 deep breaths and go on with your day 🙂

Other options:

  • 3 Sun Salutes plus standing poses holding each one only 1-2 breaths.
  • Sun salutes and closing lotus flowers hold up Uth Pluthi longer than when you do full practice.
  • Is there a particular pose your body is craving?  Try 5 sun salutes of your choice, then do the pose(s) your body is craving, and close out — if you don’t have any food in your system you can add inversions or just headstand and then close out with your three finishing lotus flowers.

Also I’ve mentioned Eddie Stern recently, he is in the process of releasing an app January 1, 2021 called Yoga365 based on the emerging science of micro-practices.  The app will have 1-2 minute videos 6 days/week, 4 days are 1-2 minutes of yoga poses, one day a breathing practice, one day a meditation practice — and on day 7 all 6 practices for the week are strung together to create a 6-8 minute practice.

Other tips to collect movement throughout your day:

  • Have stairs in your home?  Sometimes run up them, sometimes take two steps at a time, sometimes hang your heels off a step and do a few calf raises on your way up.  Always holding on to the railing!
  • Stand up to put on your shoes and socks.
  • Have to go out to your shed or compost?  Run through your backyard — I’ve even cartwheeled through my yard (when I’m not carrying a compost pail).
  • Squat all the way down to pick up things from the floor instead of bending over.  Full body squats are very good for you if they are safe for your knees.
  • Stretch and hang from a tree limb or door frame over overhead.

You can even collect meditation and breathing time throughout your day — during your work day is an excellent time to slip in 1-3 minute meditations hear and there.  Here are a few ideas for short during work meditations and breathing exercises, and here is a link to the meditation section in learn and thrive with more ideas.

  • Resonance or coherence breathing for 1-3 minutes — I like to count out 18 slow breaths instead of timing it.
  • One Minute Bhastrika – Take 5 deep breaths, Bhastrika for 30 blasts, take 5 deep breaths.
  • One Minute Nadi Shodhana – 4 rounds (no breath holding) with your breath at a rate of about a 4 second inhale and exhale:
    Inhale Left, Exhale Right, Inhale Right, Exhale Left.  Repeat for a total of 4 rounds.

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