Relaxing Workouts for Your Body and Mind

by Chelsea Hoopaugh

We cannot deny truth: exercise is good for your physical and mental well being. But what if we're tired, or stressed, or both, and we know we should exercise but all we want to do is relax. Well you're in luck. We've got the scoop on the 3 best workouts for relaxation. Whether you're a fitness novice, or a dedicated pro, these routines are guaranteed to get the endorphins pumping and ease your mind and soul.

Workout #1 and the most popular: Yoga. Specifically, the Vinyasa flow.

The Benefits: strengthening, lengthening, and calming
Equipment: yoga mat
Mindfulness Tip: stay focused on your breathing, go with the flow, treat your body with kindness
The Moves: Opening Lunge Flow- stand tall, feet together, arms by your side (mountain pose); inhale your arms overhead and exhale as you sit the hips back as if you're sitting in a chair (chair pose); hold for 3 breaths, then exhale as you fold forward, hands by your feet, head hanging heavy (standing forward fold), stay for 3 breaths while you shake your head from side-to-side; plant your hands firmly into the mat, inhale and step feet back into a plank; exhale as you lift your hips and try to press your heels into the mat (downward dog), stay here for 3 breaths; on an exhale you step right foot into a low lunge; inhale as you rise up, arms up overhead; exhale as you step back into plank; inhale as you return back to standing mountain pose; repeat sequence on the left.

    Workout #2 and the most meditative: Tai Chi. Specifically, Yang style

    The Benefits: often referred to as "meditation in motion," the low-impact movements increase strength, flexibility, and even strengthen immunity
    Equipment: none
    Mindfulness Tip: these moves are slow and deliberate and are inspired by and named after the majesty and grace of animals moving in nature.
    The Moves: There are 37 movement patterns, or postures, but we'll focus on a warm-up sequence of 3-- start with your feet directly under your hips, shoulders rolled down and back, chest lifted, weight in the heels; Parting the Horse's Mane- slowly turn your body to the right as you step your right foot away and sweep your right arm around (leading with the back of your hand); push and pull the air with your arm, as you gently rock your body weight from leg-to-leg 3 times; White Crane- step your right foot back and lift the left foot off the ground 1 inch and slightly in front of you; right arm reaches up overhead as you push the left hand down your side (open palm, facing down); alternate sides, shifting weight smoothly; Grasp the Bird's Tail- step back onto the right foot, bending at the knee to straighten your left leg out completely and slightly in front of you (toes lifted); simultaneously bend your right arm and pull it slightly behind you as you push the air away (palm open facing outward); alternate sides, shifting weight smoothly

      Workout #3 and the most fun: Dance. Specifically, Zumba

      The Benefits: overall toning, boosts heart health, improves coordination
      Equipment: a high energy playlist, small weights (optional)
      Mindfulness Tip: dancing is supposed to be fun; do it like no one's watching
      The Move: The Biceps Bounce: stand with your feet wider than hip width; move from side-to-side as you alternate tapping one foot on the floor; Now add the arms: with or without weights, curl your arms to your chest to perform a bicep curl; once you've mastered that, add alternating butt kicks
      The Slide: with your feet wider than hip width, quickly step from side-to-side, gently bending your knees to guide the movement; now add arms by raising them to shoulder level and lower as you continue to step laterally
      Dropping Bounce: bend your knees and lower into a squat position. Be sure your knees don't track over the toes; remain in the squat and pulse; return to standing, and repeat

      All of these moves can be done at home, can be done in 20 minutes or less, require little or no equipment, and are guaranteed to help you find your happy place. Om!