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What is your body type? How does this influence your workout style and yoga preferences?

When I was in high school Levi’s jeans were one of the cool looks. Levi’s jeans are built for an ectomorph, someonewith long thin legs and a wider waist. I am a combo of mesomorph and endomorph; I have thighs and a more compact waist area. My thighs serve me well in cycling classes and in stability postures in yoga. However if I tried on a pair of Levi’s that fit my thighs, the waist area was too large.   It was not cool to use a belt if the fabric had to be gathered at the top. I did not fit the Levi’s mold. According to the Sheldon Somatotype model, each of us “inherited a body type based on skeletal frame and body composition”.   The University of Houston’s Teacher’s Corner article goes on to say, “William Sheldon, PhD, MD, introduced the concept of body types, or somatotypes, in the 1940’s. Since then, nutritionists exercise physiologists and even doctors have used it to help design effective, individualized fitness plans”.

The three types are characterized the following ways:

FullSizeRender 4

Mesomorph

Muscular, broad shoulders, defined waist and slim hips.

FullSizeRender 3

Ectomorph

Tall, long thin limbs and little body fat.

Endomorph 3

Endomorph

Are round and solid and often appear overweight.

I like to share this information with my USF students because I think it is important to understand one’s physical body type so that we may work in harmony and appreciation of our gifts and chose appropriate activities to balance our body/mind.

In the Ayurvedic system, there are 3 body types or “Doshas”: Pita, Vata, and Kapha. According to mindbodygreen these body types have the following characteristics.

Pitta: Medium physique, strong, well built; a sharp mind and good concentration powers. Pitta’s tend to be orderly, focused, assertive and self confident.

Vata: Slender, Tall and quick to learn and grasp new knowledge but also quick to forget.

Kapha: Easygoing, relaxed, slow-paced; affectionate and loving. Forgiving, compassionate and non judgmental. Physically strong and with a sturdy, heavier build.

I have correlated these 3 body types with the Somatotypes. I am not the first person to correlate these 3 Ayurvedic doshas with the Sheldon Somatotypes.

We can have an ‘Aha’ moment when we realize our personality characteristics are strongly influenced by our physical body type. A Pitta/Mesomorph, strong and muscular can be assertive and possibly quick to anger.   A Kapha/Endomorph, who has a solid build, has enduring patience and is slow to anger. A Vata/Ectomorph is the forward thinking, creative person who may move quickly from one area of interest to another.

In relationships and in the workplace these doshas and body types have a strong influence. The Vata/Ectomorph gets up early in the morning.   The Kapha/Endomorph gets up late, is slow to get moving and has the endurance to stay up late to finish a project for instance. This body type will stick with a project until it is just right, never straying from the goal. The Vata/Ectomorph works on a project but not non-stop.   The Vata/Ectomorph needs to eat regularly to keep blood sugar levels up. The Kapha/Endomorph can skip meals and then feast in one sitting. The Vata/Ectomorph will come back to the project several times before finishing it. Then may tend to jump to a new idea and has to work on “stick-to-it-ness.”

In fitness that same applies. A Pitta/Mesomorph is an avid exerciser choosing demanding workouts that are challenging and varied. They tend to like a schedule and want to monitor their workout progress with fitness gadgets. The Vata/Ectomorph needs variety in their workout to stay motivated. These are truly the individuals that the experience oriented marketers target. They are on to the latest, hottest workouts on the market. One Vata/Ectomorph type mentioned he like to do activities where he can keep score; he plays handball. The Kapha/Endomorph has to enjoy their workout. They would tend to not be the early morning workout person. They are the trickiest clients to work with because they tend to not be self motivated in this area. They may have to multitask when working out, such as watch the news or a favorite television program. I want them to do endurance workouts. I want them to do things to get themselves moving in the morning – even just jump on a home elliptical to rev up their metabolism while they watch the news.  Or, take their dog for a walk.

What about yoga and pilates? Unknown.jpegThe creator of the Pilates Coach program, Leslee Bender is an Ectomorph. Because of her long limbs, she added a mini ball between her knees to make a Teaser safer for her lower back. She became the fitness guru of using props in Pilates classes.  Joseph Pilates was a Mesomorph.

A Pitta/Mesomorph will have strong, well defined muscles. Standing, strength postures come easy to this group. An Ashtanga or Bikram class would be appealing. Touching their toes may not. Because their muscles are short and strong, flexibility is not their strong suite. Bending their knees, widening their stance in a forward bend is helpful. The Vata/Ectomorph has long limbs and muscles, they adapt to flexibility more easily. Standing single leg balances such as standing bow can be challenging. Iyengar or Flow classes may be more appealing to these long limbed individuals. Vinyasa, as long as the sequences do not load the hips repeatedly would be a good choice.

The Endomorph/Kapha is strong and stable in yoga postures. Forward bends may be uncomfortable because of the compression to the abdomen.   Their bodies respond very well to an appropriate yoga program that is paced evenly and presents a well balanced series of postures. Wide base standing postures such as triangle, Warrior 1 and 2 are good for this body type as well as spinal twists.  A flow that is challenging is recommended becausethey need a practice that keeps them engaged.

real-face-2.jpg                                 The Breath Diva says:

“In this moment I can slowly inhale

and fully appreciate my body/mind.”

 

Another cultural holiday is upon us.  I wanted to take an opportunity to consider not just our significant other, if we have one, but all of those we love.  When we think of all of the people in our lives to which we express love how do we do this?  What are the ways that we show our mate, parents, our close friends, siblings, children and grand children our warm regard and appreciation.

Gary Chapman termed the “5 Love Languages” in his 1995 book so named.  They are:

Words of Affirmationflowers

Acts of Service

Receiving Gifts

Quality Time

Physical Touch

Take a look at the list, which do you think you want to receive?   Which do you think are the most often employed in your relationships?  There is a questionnaire on the site, www.5lovelanguages.com.   You will discover your top 3 in the order of importance.

I love to observe people and how they interact with one another outside of a business or work environment.  No matter what age or gender we all have ways of showing each other that we care, that we are important to one another.  Can you imagine an infant not receiving physical touch?  Studies show how detrimental this can be.  In any of our relationships showing positive regard is essential.  How do we?  And more importantly, how does the significant other receive what we interpret as giving love in their language?  ‘Words of Affirmation’ constitute a strong relationship builder when sincere.  To some, this may be a moot point.  If touch is important to one person and not the other chances are that neither will be very satisfied.  A squeeze, showing appreciation could be interpreted as a “bother”.

The adage, “Money isn’t everything” would apply to ‘Acts of Service’ and ‘Quality Time’.  We show our regard by doings things for and with someone.  When you wash the windows, is it a turn on for your mate?  May be.  Our attention is one of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves and to others.  Being present with someone is a wonderful gift.  Before they were married, one of my friends now husband would take her car and have it washed, fill up the tank and return it to her on a weekly basis.  She got that he was doing a wonderful act of service for her.  Yet, it inconvenienced her when he had the car.

I like that the next category ‘Receiving Gifts’.  So many of us love to receive gifts.  I know we also like to know that thought went into the gift, that it is something especially for us.

What do you think are your top three? Which do you think make your loved one’s feel loved, appreciated and secure?  I remember being admonished by someone I was in relationship with when I couldn’t remember his favorite, See’s candy.  Forget buying a box; he wanted his favorite!  When we give what we think will please based on our likes and dislikes, our assumptions, we don’t always hit the mark with the person to whom we want to show appreciation.

I bring this up because we are in the throes of another Valentine’s Day.  I wanted to underline that there are so many ways to show love to those we cherish in our lives.  There is a side to Valentine’s Day which is focused on a significant other, yet love is a bounty that knows no bonds.  Part of being happy, well adjusted is loving and being loved by family and friends.

The question too, aside from taking the test and discussing it with your loved ones, is how do we broach this subject?  There is an underlying assumption in our culture that we should instinctually understand the object of our affection.  In my experience this is sometimes hard work or at the very least, a process.

Here’s hoping you will give this some consideration, some exploration and conversation so that your relationships will be enhanced in the process.  Love and affection do create health enhancing hormones!

Whispers of the Breath Diva:

real face.2

In this moment, I open to giving and receiving Love!

Listening to Matin L. Rossman, MD’s talk, “How Your Brain Can Turn Anxiety into Calmness” on University of California Television (UCTV) and delighting in a scientifically based argument against worrying.

One teacher told me early on, “Worrying is a useless activity; don’t let your mind go there, you will be wasting precious energy.”  In theory I agree, and I do find myself worrying.  In his superb lecture, Dr. Rossman asks us to make a list and divide our worries into 3 categories:  ‘Things I can change’, ‘Things I am not sure I can change’, ‘Things I can not change’.  Do this now.  For instance, I can change my lifestyle choices;  I can change my attitude.  I may be able to change…  I cannot change the past.

Rossman makes the point that by “turning worry around into a positive visualization” we can reduce our own stress.  He suggests, we ask ourself the question, “If it were up to me…”  Create an imagine of the outcome you desire.  Reinforce this image whenever you begin to worry.  Turn the negative outcome, that which you feel you have little or no control over, around.  Rossman suggests saying to yourself, “This is where I am going to put my energy.”  The redirection of our thoughts takes practice.  Try this and notice how you feel.  BirdsofPardise

He uses an example of an expert skier at the top of a run.  This skier assesses the run, noticing the obstacles on the run.  If the skier where to keep looking at the obstacle, the large rock on the side, he would surely ski into the obstacle.  If rather he puts his attention on where he wants to go, he will successfully ski the line of the run.  Focusing our attention on the positive outcome, is his suggestion.

This does take practice; it takes imagination.  Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.  For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”  He also said, “Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.”

When I was taking riding lessons and learning how to jump, I was told, “Always look beyond the jumping bar to where you want the horse to go.  If you  look at the bar, the horse will interpret this as you wanting him to stop at the jump.”  I found that fascinating and wonderful at the same time.  Move beyond fear and worry.  Put your eyes on your target.

PauseAnother expert,  David Steindl-Rast, in his TED talk entitled, “Want to be happy? Be grateful”, suggests we “STOP”-“LOOK”  and “LISTEN” to cultivate an appreciation of our life, to cultivate gratitude.  His premise is that gratitude makes us happy.  When we stop, look and listen, we tune-in to the moment: the birds flying by, the waxing moon in the sky, notice…so many details of our lives.  We know that good hormones circulate in our system in response to feelings of gratitude.  Youth enhancing hormones circulate.  I would shift this command to “PAUSE”, “LOOK and LISTEN”.  As the Breath Diva says,  “In this moment I can fully inhale, fully receive life force, vitality and pure energy!”

He goes on to say, “Opportunity is the gift within every gift.  Every moment is a gift!  This is the key to happiness.   We hold the key to our happiness in our own hand.”  Fear and gratitude cannot exist in the same place in our mind.  By pausing, looking and listening we have an opportunity to be present.    As the Breath Diva says, “In this moment I can fully exhale, fully release tension, fatigue and fear.”  His invitation is to be in the present moment through our senses, instead of being ‘in our heads”.  Using our senses to listen, to see, to taste, to cherish the present moment.

Serendipitously, Sunday after working on this blog, I walked by the placard pictured on the left.  If you read it you will notice how perfectly it fits here.

real face.2Whispers of the Breath Diva:

In this moment I can be fully Present.

I was cooking at a friend’s house a few Sunday Dinners ago and she commented that, “I have cook books, but I end up picking recipes from magazines or on the net because cook books can be so intimidating.  A magazine recipe seems more approachable”.  Her part in our dinner was an Ahi delight.

What you see pictured on the left is the bedding for the Ahi.  Sweet basil, cherry tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, olives, need I say more?  Flavor, flavor, flavor. Yes there were several steps involved.  Roast the bell peppers (no green please); wash the tomatoes, rinse the sweet basil….The Ahi is not seared so expect it to be steamed.  Although I suppose you could sear it and place it in the oven for just a few minutes when the vegetables and herbs are almost finished roasting to capture the flavors of the  bed of savories.  Roast vegetables for about 25 minutes.  Sprinkle  with 1/4 cup of white wine and place the salmon slices skin up on top of the vegetables.  Bake about 8-20  minutes depending on how you like your salmon cooked.

I contributed a red cabbage salad with bacon and goat cheese from Cook’s magazine, several years ago.

1/2 head red cabbage,

4-6 slices of bacon,

5 1/2 ounces of goat cheese

Wash and core and finely shred the cabbage.  Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.  Saute the bacon until crisp and browned.  Drain on paper towels.  Save a tablespoon of the bacon fat, for flavor, transfer to a small bowl.  For dressing peel and mince the garlic cloves.  In a medium bowl whisk the minced garlic into the reserved bacon fat with the 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 1/4 cup of red-wine vinegar.

Bring cabbage and bacon to room temperature.  Warm the dressing in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Crumble the bacon over the cabbage, add the warm dressing and toss well. Transfer to individual plates (makes 6 servings) and crumble the goat cheese evenly over each plate.  Serve immediately.

The process of cooking or even preparing raw food can be a therapeutic process for me.  I will spend a whole afternoon making a meat sauce, preparing a soup to fill my freezer for homemade options on evenings I want a meal with little preparation time.  What are your favorites?

Tahini Wrap, my latest favorite  lunch or light dinner recipe:

1 warmed spelt tortilla

1 tablespoon of tahini

1/3 thinly sliced avocado

1/3 thinly sliced red or yellow bell pepper

1/8 of a cup of green onions

1/4 thinly sliced cucumber

and a handful of baby arugula

Layer in the order above; roll like a burrito to make a delicious wrap.

I have music playing on my jam box while I cook or I listen to a talk show such as Fresh Air on NPR or something from SoundsTrue radio.  I don’t rush, I enjoy the beauty of the vegetables I am slicing or the smell of the blood oranges which I am juicing.  Which brings me to my final recipe.  This one from the internet, a Cooking Light January 2011.  Quinoa rules!

1/4 cup finely chopped green onionsBloodOrg

2 tablespoons blood orange juice

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons finely chopped cilantro

1/4 teaspoon salt, ground coriander,

ground cumin and paprika

3 tablespoons  extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup of uncooked quinoa

Quinoa1 3/4 cups water

2 teaspoons grated blood orange rind

1 teaspoon lemon rind (Meyer best)

1/2 teaspoon salt, divided

1 /cup blood orange sections, chopped

1 cup diced peeled avocado

6 whole kumquats, seeded and sliced

* recipe calls for 2 medium beets, not included here.

“Combine first 10 ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk.  Gradually add oil, stirring constantly.  Combine 1 3/4 cups water, quinoa, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat; fluff with a fork. Combine quinoa, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, blood orange sections, avocado, and kumquats in a large bowl, tossing gently to combine. Add dressing; toss gently to coat salad. Spoon 1 cup salad onto each of 4 plates.”

Whispers of the Breath Diva:

real face.2In this moment I can enjoy my life!

I can nourish myself!

I can appreciate my senses!

I was at the hair salon the other day and the young attendants were raving about their lunch; a kale salad.  I was at dinner with a cousin I rarely see, she was talking about a kale salad she had recently.  My sister called to say she had a great “kale salad” recipe.  Ate at Frances restaurant in San Francisco recently; waited a month for a 5:30 PM Thursday evening reservation.  What was on the menu…”Lacinato Kale Salad – Pecorino, Grilled Satsuma Mandarin, Fennel, Medjool Date.”  So lovely!  Just enough sweet, salty and acidic to make a very interesting, satisfying combination.

The WebMed article, “The Super-Veggies:  Cruciferous Vegetables” puts the number one reason for calling these “Super-Veggies” as lowering cancer risk.  There are several of these vegetables from the cabbage family.  The article goes on to explain that “they all contain phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals, and fiber that are important to your health (although some have more than others.)   Some have shown the ability to stop the growth of cancer cells for tumors in the breast, uterine lining (endometrium), lung, colon, liver, and cervix, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. And studies that track the diets of people over time have found that diets high in cruciferous vegetables are linked to lower rates of prostate cancer.”

I love this next study cited in the article.  “In a study funded by the National Cancer Institute, 20 participants were encouraged to eat 1 to 2 cups of cruciferous vegetables a day. After three weeks, the amount of oxidative stress in their body was measured. Then, after a three-week wash-out period, the study participants were told to take a multivitamin with fiber. Again, the oxidative stress was measured three weeks later.

Cruciferous vegAnd the results? Oxidative stress in the subjects’ bodies dropped 22% during the period when they were eating lots of cruciferous vegetables. But the change during the multivitamin segment was negligible (0.2%), says lead researcher Jay H. Fowke, PhD, an assistant professor and cancer epidemiologist for the Department of Medicine at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn.”

How can we enjoy at least a cup of these healthy vegetables a day?

Here are a few recipes for a kale salad for you.

Dinosaur Kale Salad:  Kale.2

1 bunch Dinosaur Kale washed, spines removed
1 teaspoon sea salt
I avocado
1/2 fresh lemon
1 small tomato
1/2 red bell pepper
I leek or green onions
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds lightly roasted
1/2 teaspoon of cumin
Place the kale cut paper thin in a bowel.
Dry well and sprinkle with sea salt.
Mix with fingers until the kale is wilted.
Add the Avocado and ‘mush’ with your fingers.
Squeeze fresh lemon juice over mixture
Add the remaining ingredients and serve.
Be creative and add other vegetables such as cucumber,
grated carrots whatever you like!
Note:  It may not be the most beautiful looking salad;
judge it by it’s taste.
My sister’s recipe, simple and delicious:
Place on bunch of washed kale, any type, with spines removed in a salad spinner.
Chop the kale into bite size pieces.
Place in a bowl with cherry tomatoes and pistachio nuts or pine nuts.
Dress with 1/4 cup of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of balsamic or rice wine vinegars.
Salt and Pepper to taste
My cousin’s recipe from the restaurant, Plant Cafe` in San Francisco:
Wash and chop Dinosaur kale and arugula
Bring a cup of water to a boil add 1/2 cup of red quinoa
When you see the white of the quinoa appear it is cooked, about 20 minutes.
Cool and add to Dino kale and arugula along with
chopped avocado,
carrot shreds,
cherry tomatoes,
almonds.
Dress with 1/4 cup lemon juice,
cumin,
1/4 olive oil
Salt to taste and serve!
real face.2
Whispers of the Breath Diva:
In this moment I can nourish myself with beautiful, healthy vegetables.
tomatoes

A few years ago the Tufts University newsletter (Volume 10G) included an article on the benefits of the Mediterranean diet:  “Eat Like a Mediterranean to Protect Your Aging Brain”.  I recently took an Italian cooking class at Cavallo Cooking School at Cavallo Point resort in Sausalito, California.  I have always respected that Italian cooking is based on local markets and seasonal produce.  At this class we made a raw zucchini salad, recipe below.  The Tuft’s article cited that, “Two newly published studies…confirmed a 2006 finding that the so-called “Mediterranean diet” may protect against mental decline with aging.  David S. Knopman, MD, of the Mayo Clinic said the results ‘provide moderately compelling evidence that adherence to the Mediterranean-type diet were at 40% lower risk of Alzheimer’s over 5.4 years than those with lowest adherence.'”

Diet Mediterranean Style was defined in the article as:

“More:  fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereals, fish and monounsaturated fats (such as olive oil)

Less:  red meat, dairy products and saturated fats…compared to the typical American diet, along with moderate alcohol consumption, especially of red wine with meals.”

Insalata di Zucchini romane crude by Viola Buitoni:
1/4 cup almonds
1 lemon
1 handful of basil
6 small light green or yellow zucchini
1 fresh onion
salt and pepper to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil

Blanch, peel and toast the almonds.  Let them cool and chop them.  Squeeze the juice out of the lemon.  Pick and wash the basil leaves, dry them carefully and stack them.  Roll them longitudinally and cut them into thin ribbons.

Using a mandolin, a shaver or a very sharp knife, slice the zucchini and onions paper-thin into a bowl.  Sprinkle with salt and douse with lemon juice.  Toss well, cover and set aside.

Let stand for at least 15 minutes.  When ready to serve, add the almond and basil and toss well.  Dress with olive oil and pepper and toss again.  Taste and adjust salt if necessary.  * Please note,  the mandolin we used was small, the size of a cheese grater.  I hope you have or can find one.  The width of the zucchini slices really make this salad!  Do also note that the mandolin does not distinguish zucchini from fingers; do use the hand guard.

The second study followed 1,410 older adults over five years.  “Catherine Feart, PhD, of the Universite Victor SegalenBordeaux 2 compared adherence to the “Mediterranean diet” with cognitive performance on four standard neuropsychological tests.  Researchers found that a higher “Mediterranean diet” score was associated with fewer errors on the Mini-Mental State Examination and with better Free and Cued Selective Reminding Test performances, but only among subjects who remained free from dementia over five years.”

At this class we also made Pesto; talk about olive oil!  Three things were unique:  one we used a mortar and pestle to pound the ingredients, secondly we followed the same *instructions with the basil from the recipe above, and thirdly, no pine nuts.  *Pick and wash the basil leaves, dry them carefully and stack them.  Roll them longitudinally and cut them into thin ribbons.  The rolled pesto can be cut with scissors or with a knife.

1 clove of garlic

1/4  freshly squeezed lemon

4 0zs of finely grated Reggiano Parmigiano or other high quality Parmesan cheese

1 bunch of fresh basil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil to taste

Pound the garlic into a paste and place in a bowl.  Add the lemon juice.  Pound the basil until leaves are not discernible and place in bowl.  Because of variation in the amount of basil in a ‘bunch’ be aware of the how much you are adding.  Begin with 1/2 of the bunch and begin adding the cheese.   Stir in with wooden spoon and then add as much virgin olive oil as necessary.  Having some french bread close by to taste the pesto as you mix is highly recommended.

I used Orecchiette pasta for this meal because they are small and will provide a lot of surfaces for the pesto to coat.  Pesto can also be used as a dip.Sweet basil and zucchini are so plentiful this time of year.  Buy bunches at your local farmer’s market and make pesto and freeze it for future enjoyment.

The Tuffs University newsletter also went on to say, “The…analysis also looked at physical activity, finding that participants with the highest level of activity were at 33% lower risk of Alzheimer’s than the least-active subjects.  The most-active group average 1.3 hours of vigorous exercise, 2.4 hours of moderate activity or 4 hours of light activity per week.  Most important, said Dr. Scarmeas, was that the association of physical activity with Alzheimer’s disease risk was independent to that of the diet.

So move, move move.  Still using my Fitbit daily,  averaging about 100,000 steps a week.  One of my clients was very astute.  He started wearing the Fitbit without changing any of his activity patterns to establish as baseline.  Then he began walking to work two days a week.  He would climb stairs up and take the elevator down at work.  His baseline was about 2000 a week and he is now averaging about  20,000!  I said it in any earlier blog, “What we can quantify, we can calibrate!”

“Through conscious breathing, drink in Life Force.  Each increment of breath, each measure, is a space that opens.  It fulfills and cleanses.  Open to the resting phase of life to rebuild, to renew, to rejuvenate!  Just like in life, small steps equal large movement.  Step by step, breath by breath.”

I was with a group of women recently and the word, “core” came up.  I was surprised to hear the conversation centering around crunches and abdominal exercises.  Our core muscles stabilize our trunk in almost any movement.  Actually we never ‘crunch’ in daily activities.  That said, let’s look at ways we can use and strengthen our “core”.  I like teaching standing core exercises as well as lying scoops!

Joseph Pilates described the abdominal muscles as the, “Power House”.  The  three main muscles he referred to are: the Transverse Abdominus, Rectus Abdominus and the Obliques.

If you put your hand over your navel area and cough lightly, you will feel the Transverse Abdominus.  ‘Transverse’ means ‘traveling across” or in this case around.  This muscle, one of the few horizontal muscles in our body, protects our internal organs and our spinal column.  It is the deepest of the abdominal muscles wrapping from front to back and attaching at the ribs and pelvis.  Anytime we move it activates.

The image of someone doing a  “crunch” exercises illustrates the action of the Rectus Abdominus – flexion.  When you bring your head to your thighs or your thighs toward your face you are doing flexion.  I tell my USF students to imagine a  good-looking Roman solider with a “six-pack” marching, i.e. knees to chest, named  “Rectus Abdominus” in order to remember this muscle’s name.

The Obliques, internal and external, work in conjunction for all twisting and rotating of our spinal column.  Spinal twists of any sort use the oblique muscles.  I highly recommend spinal twists which improve digestion, assist in lower back issues and help our system detoxify.  Sitting with legs straight out cross your right leg over your left.  Pull the toes of you left foot toward your face.  Cross your left arm lightly over your right thigh.  Use your right arm as a kick stand, place it as close to middle of your back with palm down on the floor.  This partial spinal twist is easy to do.  Remember to lift your chest and tuck your chin as you twist.  While seated at your desk you can also do a seated spinal twist:  right hand on the chair arm or right side of your seat, left hand on your right thigh, twist.  Twisting should never be painful; inhale to prepare and exhale as you twist.

In my Pilates classes I describe 3 markers when describing a curl or scoop action:

If we curl or scoop back the first marker is about an 1-1.5″ up your tail bone.  In the picture you can see the scoop in action.   Transverse Abdominus and Rectus Abdominus are in action with this simple curl back exercise.  If these students were to stay in this position and twist right and left, they would be adding the action of their Oblique muscles.  Going back even farther to the top of the pelvis, the back of the waist, is the second marker.  I usually have my students use a mini ball or block between their knees to facilitate this action.  Try it.  Knees together curl back 1-1.5″ hold; curl farther back to top of pelvis and hold. Holding these positions can be challenging.  The third marker is when we are lying down and we curl up to the bottom of our shoulder blades.  This is a partial curl up which is a part of many Pilates mat class formats.

Anytime we do standing muscular endurance exercises, especially when we shift planes of movement, we are using our abdominal muscles.  Here are some examples employing hand-held weights 3/5/8 lbs.:

Overhead press with lunge, 4 counts

Stand with your right leg behind you in a lunge position with your arms at shoulder height, elbows bent.  As you lower your body, bending the front and back knees, press your hands/weights together overhead.  4 counts down, 4 counts up; repeat 8 times.  Repeat with left leg behind you.

Overhead press with lunge, 2 counts

Now place the right leg behind you in the starting lunge position.   This time lower your body 2 counts down, 2 counts up.  Repeat 8 times and repeat on the other side.

Arms at shoulder height, press arms down as you lunge, knee up

Start with your right leg behind you, arms at shoulder height in front of you.  As you lunge down press your arms down by your side.  As you lunge up bring your arms to starting position while you lift you right knee up, balancing.  Step the right leg back and repeat 8 times total.  Switch sides and repeat 8 times.

Arms at sides with palms up,  press arms up as you lunge, knee up.

Start with your right leg behind you, arms by your sides, palms up, this time.  As you lunge down press your arms up to shoulder height.  As you lunge up bring your arms to starting position while you lift you right knee up, balancing.  Switch sides and repeat 8 times.

Rotator cuff with plie` series

Stand in a wide base plie`position.  Knees are turned out comfortably over your toes.  Elbows are close by your sides, lower arms are at an angle.  As you plie` down, your lower arms swing open, then up following their angle.  As you rise up to starting position, rotate your arms back to starting position.  Action is:  plie` down, arms out, arms up & down, plie` up and bring the arms in.

Bicep curl with twist and lunge

Stand with feet parallel hip width distance; arms are parallel with elbows bent at shoulder height.  Lunge right leg back and bicep curl the arms in towards your trunk.  Hold lunge as you twist both arms to the right and back to center.  Come out of the lunge as you do a reverse bicep curl.  Lift the back leg up as you perform the reverse bicep curl.  Repeat 8 times on the right and 8 times on the left.

Triceps series

With one weight jump back into a wide base plie`.  Arms are overhead elbows close together one weight in your hands.  As you plie` down, overhead press the single weight.  Extend and lower with each plie` movement up and down.  One the 8th repetition, stay down, and lift your heels off the ground.  Balance in plie` with heels lifted as you pump your triceps overhead press for 8 more repetitions.

‘Pretty Pose’, executed  here using elastic tubing, is a partial curl back employing all three muscles of the Power House.

One of the easiest and most effective abdominal exercises is the plank.  This can be executed on your knees and forearms or in the traditional straight-arm, straight leg variety.  You are working against the force of gravity to strengthen your abdominal muscles.  I recommend doing planks in your hotel room if your workout time is limited on a business trip.  Plank in all directions.  Start with a bent knee/forearm plank for 8 seconds.  Extend you legs and hold this low plank for 8 seconds.  Bend you knees and repeat low position for 8 seconds.  Straighten legs again and hold for 8 seconds.  Next turn on one side with either both legs straight or bottom leg bent.  On forearm or with a straight-arm lift into side plank.  Hold of 8 seconds and repeat 4 times.  Turn over to other side and perform 4 repetitions.  This will do the trick; activate your powerhouse!

Whispers of the Breath Diva:  In this moment I can breathe from my core.  I can take care of my body!