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Toning the backs of the thighs

 

It is tough to work the hamstrings—the muscles at the backs of your thighs—at home without machines because they are strong and you need a reasonable amount of resistance to increase their strength. However, you can start with squats, then add resistance by holding dumbbells in your hands. Of course, once you have the dumbbells, you can do all sorts of other exercises as well. 

Think about the gym for a moment. Start with the leg curl machine, which isolates the hamstrings. You begin by lying on your stomach or sitting up, depending on the style of the machine, with your legs extended. Whichever position you're in, you pull your heels towards your bottom to contract your hamstrings, and then slowly return to the starting position. It's similar to the way you curl a dumbbell with your arms to train your biceps.

To simulate this exercise at home, you'll need ankle weights or some other form of resistance such as exercise tubing or bands. Start out on your hands and knees, wearing the ankle weights. Extend one leg behind you, so that your knee is straight and slightly higher than your hip. Curl your heel in toward your bum as far as you can, then slowly lower your leg back to the extended position. Don't let your knee drop below the level of your hip. Do a set of 15-25 repetitions and 1-3 sets, then change legs. As you get stronger, use heavier ankle weights, but don't increase the repetitions.

To do the same exercise with elastic tubing or bands, make a loop large enough to fit around both feet. Lie flat on an exercise mat. Curl one leg towards you while the other leg remains on the floor as an anchor for the band or tube. You'll need to make some adjustments until the band is long enough to let you curl your leg past 90 degrees while still giving you enough tension. Let us know how you get on.

 

Time Out, Yoga Style

 

Find a few moments to relax your body and rejuvenate your spirit with these supersimple postures from America's pre-eminent teacher of restorative yoga. Try the Yoga burn program for great results. Here is a quote from Time to chill article.

More is a four-letter word. Every day is filled with lists of more things to do: more projects to complete, more meals to cook, more schedules to coordinate, more events to plan and attend. No wonder we all run around feeling crunched for time, exhausted, and resentful.

When your mind is constantly telling you to hurry up, the accompanying tension in the body contributes to your agitation. So telling yourself "I don't have enough time!" produces physical responses that zap your energy and trigger the stress response, which can wreak havoc with your digestive, cardiovascular, and immune systems--to say nothing of your mental health.

But guess what? You literally have all the time there is--there's nowhere else to get more. The key to understanding that--and believing it's so--is to pay attention to the little choices you make every day that rob you of time, and to make a space for rest and relaxation.

 

Take a load off


Health-care professionals regularly tell their time-pressed, stressed clients to relax. That's good advice, but they seldom tell you how to do it. Luckily, restorative yoga offers simple, serene solutions to help you reduce the effects of daily stress. It involves, in short, taking a break and lying down, but it also provides you with something you might find you need: a solid technique for stopping and catching your breath. Benefits include less fatigue, relief of simple lower-back pain, and reduced blood pressure.

While some forms of modern yoga seem more like a workout than a respite, restorative yoga practice is focused entirely on the art of resting. Its simple postures are designed to promote deep relaxation. You don't have to concern yourself with moving in and out of poses, stretching, or challenging yourself, but rather with supporting yourself more fully. The props in restorative yoga cushion your relationship to the floor and to gravity, helping you surrender completely to the moment and allowing your body to soften and to open up.

 

Inhale, exhale, repeat


One of the most powerful tools you can use to ease body and mind is your breath. Who hasn't been told in the midst of a frenzy to take a deep breath? When you connect deep breathing with the supported postures of restorative yoga, your parasympathetic nervous system calms down and overrides the fight-or-flight response. To help your mind slow to a more natural pace, begin each practice with long, unhurried, even breathing. Most people find that after five to 10 breaths they've already begun to relax and "drop down" into a quieter space.

Restorative yoga is most effective if you have 10 or 20 minutes to practice, but even five minutes can quiet the mind, which in turn opens up the possibility of a cooler, calmer approach to life. When you come out of a pose, you can feel that your biochemistry is different--which changes your perception and unlocks the potential for you to live differently.

Restorative yoga can be practiced at any time of the day, virtually anywhere, and by anyone. All you need is a quiet space, a little time to disconnect from the world, and a few yoga props (buy them at fitness stores or from Web sites like huggermugger.com) or items you already have around the house, such as couch cushions, blankets, and face cloths. Using a timer will allow you to relax deeply and focus on your self and your breath rather than worrying about how many minutes have gone by.

Taking a few moments to restore your body and rejuvenate your spirit is time well spent. My hope is that you'll make the time to do a little "nothing" each day. Rest is critical to your sense of health, and can become a gift you give not only to yourself but also to others in your life.

 

How to take a deep breath

 

Whether you're sitting up or lying down, make sure your spine is in a long, supple line.
Swallow, and release the tension in your throat and belly.
Close your eyes and begin to draw a breath evenly through your nostrils. Focus completely on your inhalation, and make it long and slow.
As your breath fills your lungs, let your chest lift and your rib cage expand; feel your shoulders widen. Don't strain.
At the end of the inhalation, reverse the process as you exhale evenly. 
Observe any changes in your body after this one long breath is complete. When you are ready, try again. Practice until you can do 5 to 10 long breaths with focused concentration.

 

Take a seat


When you're uptight and pressed for time, these two simple postures can offer you instant repose--even at your desk.

 

Chair Relaxation 


Sit upright in any comfortable chair, knees bent, feet on the floor and hands in your lap (you can lean your head against the chair back if it's high enough). Close your eyes and begin to pay attention to your breath. Take at least 5 long inhalations and exhalations, letting go of the tension in your jaw, shoulders, and belly. Bring your attention inward and allow all the noises you hear around you to wash by without reacting to them. Stay in the pose for at least 5 minutes. You can practice this exercise anywhere: in taxis, on airplanes, at your kitchen table, or in front of your computer. Try it whenever you feel exhausted--it will help.

 

Chair and table pose 


Sitting in a chair with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, lean forward with your trunk and rest your head and arms on a desk or table. Tuck your arms under your head for support and then turn your head one way, closing your eyes. Making sure you're comfortable, begin to breathe for at least 5 slow inhalations and exhalations. Then turn your head the other way and do the same. Stay for 2 to 5 minutes before using your hands to help you slowly sit up.

 

 

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