This is an excerpt from Fusion Workouts by Helen Vanderburg.
What you say to yourself matters. More and more research supports the complex relationship between the mind and body and how thoughts can change how the body functions. When the mind is stressed, the body responds by changing every physiological system to deal with the perceived stress. The obvious signals can be observed, such as an increase in heart rate and breathing frequency. However, much less obvious symptoms are changes in blood pressure, activation of the nervous system, and the release of stress hormones to combat stress. The same is true when you approach a task with self-doubt: the mind will set up the body to take on the task with apprehension and doubt. When the mind is set in a place of optimism and strength, the body and physiological systems prepare you for this outcome.
Past experiences affect how you approach a task because neural pathways in the brain have been established to respond in the learned pattern. Changing these pathways and learned patterns requires conscious effort. It is only by continuous commitment and practice that you can rewire the brain and nervous system to move you in your desired direction. Awareness of thoughts is referred to as consciousness. To develop consciousness, you must first learn to quiet the mind and body, enabling you to listen to the internal chatter of thoughts that continually flood your mind. Becoming aware of the conversations and practicing methods to redirect your thoughts will affect how you approach your workouts and your results.
By learning how to set your intentions and practicing easy yet highly effective breathing exercises, progressive relaxation, and simple meditation, you can train the mind and achieve your best outcomes. These exercises help to relax the mind and body, allowing you to replace unwanted thought patterns with new empowered thinking.
Bringing Positive Thoughts to Your Fusion Workouts
Introduce positive thoughts to your practice. Powerful words or phrases will focus your thoughts in the direction you want to go. Like a mantra, repeating these words is an instrument to influence the mind. You can create your own phrases or use some of these suggestions:
- I am strong.
- This is my beginning.
- I trust myself.
- I can do this.
- I am capable.
- I am limitless.
- If I change my thoughts, I change my outcome.
Employing Mindful Practices
In the fusion workouts, practice mindfulness to enhance your experience, satisfaction, and results. Rather than merely putting the time into your workout, practice being aware of how you feel in the exercises, the way you are performing the movement, and whether your thoughts are giving you strength and encouragement.
Three easy techniques to learn and practice to employ mindfulness are breathing exercises, progressive relaxation, and meditation. These techniques can be practiced independently from the fusion workouts or in conjunction with the exercises.
At the foundation of all mindful practices is awareness of your breath. How you breathe affects every aspect of your being. Breath is life; without it you cannot survive. Yet people take it for granted and are often unaware of how breathing affects how the body functions.
When you inhale, you bring oxygenated air into the body, supplying oxygen to the brain, organs, and muscles. The exhalation expels used air, waste, and byproducts, thereby replenishing the body through a continuous flow of breath.
The lungs are located in the thorax and are protected by the ribs. The two lobes of the lungs are like sacks, the right side being slightly larger than the left. The diaphragm is a sheath of muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen (refer back to figure 2.4 on page \bb\ for an illustration showing the lungs and diaphragm). When you breathe in, the lungs fill and the dome of the diaphragm contracts and flattens as you expand the lungs into the side, back, and front of the rib cage. On the exhalation, the diaphragm relaxes, returning to its dome shape as the abdominal muscles contract inward and the lungs deflate. This action of the lungs, diaphragm, and abdominal muscles is vital for effective function of the core and all movement from the core.
In all practices, whether it be fitness, yoga, Pilates, or dance, breath is at the foundation and links to all movement. Breathing techniques can be used to do the following:
- Increase focus and awareness internally
- Create a sense or feeling related to the movement
- Increase oxygen exchange to meet the demand of the activity
- Create strength and stability in the core
- Increase the sense of calmness and lightness
- Relax the mind and body
A variety of breathing techniques are used in fitness, yoga, Pilates, and dance, each with a specific purpose. In fitness exercises, you are taught to exhale on the exertion and inhale on the recovery. Pilates uses a strong exhalation to assist in activating the core muscles. In yoga, the breath is linked to the natural movement of the body, the inhalation opening the body and lifting the spine and the exhalation closing the body and flexing the spine. In dance, breathing is used to find the center of the body, with the inhalation creating a strong posture and the exhalation releasing unwanted tension. At the foundation of all of these techniques is an awareness of how breath affects movement, stability, strength, and purpose.
In the fusion workouts, you will practice a specific breathing technique that draws from breath work in fitness, yoga, Pilates, and dance. The breathing method used in fusion workouts is the 3D breathing technique, which combines breathing technique from each discipline and is easily learned.
Full inhalations and exhalations revitalize both the mind and the body. When performing fusion exercises, use the 3D breathing technique to enhance the benefits of the exercises. In general, a strong exhalation will give you greater strength, and a long, slow exhalation will assist in relaxation or deepen a stretch. The inhalation fills the anterior, lateral, and posterior lungs, and the exhalation engages the core and diaphragm. This technique achieves the full potential of a breath by using more of the lungs to achieve better air exchange and activating the deep core muscles for enhanced performance and appearance.
Becoming Aware of the Breath
Begin by becoming aware of your normal breath and how you breathe. Spending a few moments observing your normal breathing pattern and how breathing more deeply effects how you feel will assist in learning to focus and relax. Taking the time to sit quietly and observe your breath will help you to become present in your own body and turn your attention inward. Come back to this breath awareness exercise any time throughout your day when you are feeling stressed and at the beginning or end of your fusion workout to help you to center yourself.
- In a comfortable seated position, breathe in and out through the nose and detect where you sense the movement of breath in your body.
- Notice the depth of your breath.
- Observe the length of the inhalation and exhalation.
- Take a deep inhalation and a long, slow exhalation. By changing the rhythm and depth of your breath, see how it changes the way you feel.
- Continue breathing deeply for 2 to 3 minutes.
Learn more about Fusion Workouts.