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Stress and Weight Gain

This is an excerpt from Fusion Workouts by Helen Vanderburg.

If one of your goals for participating in a fusion workout is weight management, it is important to understand how mental anxiety and physical stress affect weight gain. When the body experiences eustress (positive stress) as in exercise, or distress (negative stress) as in worry, the body releases powerful hormones to combat it. These hormones give you greater energy and strength when you are involved in a physical workout. During the recovery phase of the workout, your body naturally lowers this hormonal level. Without recovery of perceived stress, these hormones remain in the bloodstream and begin to wreak havoc on the body. Two of the negative side effects are an increased release of insulin into the blood stream and increased fat storage (often in the midsection of the body). The body, in its brilliance, will store fat in the place it can most easily access it the next time you need it. This is why you need to spend the time practicing calming exercises in combination with the more physically challenging exercises. Many dietitians and nutritionists promote calming exercises as well as deep breathing for weight management.


Forward Bends

Forward bends are calming in general. The action of the torso moving forward and the closing of the front of the chest decreases the heart rate and slows the breathing rate. Notice this natural response in your body as you move in and out of forward bends.



Seated Forward Bend


Starting Position

Begin in a seated position with the legs together straight out in front of the hips, and place the hands on the floor beside the hips. Sit on the center of the sitting bones and lift up through the spine to the top of the head.

Action

Hinge forward from the hips while maintaining a tall posture, taking the chest forward as the torso extends over the legs. Keep the shoulders relaxed. Lengthen the neck and keep the shoulders slightly back to open the front of the chest. Use the hands to help you to hinge forward by pressing them into the floor beside the hips. When you cannot hinge any farther, allow the spine to flex over the legs and the arms to reach toward the feet (see figure). If you can comfortably reach your feet, place the hands on the outsides of the feet. Relax into this position.

Alignment

Hinge forward from the hip and keep the spine in a long and lengthened position. Avoid excessive rounding of the upper back and lifting of the shoulders.

Breath

Inhale to sit tall. Exhale to move into the forward bend. Breathe naturally to relax. Focus on the exhalation to let go of unwanted tension. Hold for 5 to 10 deep breaths.

Progressions and Modifications

  • Bend the knees slightly to help relax the hamstrings.
  • Sit on a rolled mat or yoga block to elevate the hips and make it easier to bend forward.
  • Place a yoga belt around the feet to help move deeper into the stretch.

Mindfulness

Bring awareness to the anatomical line along the back of the body. Begin on the bottom of the foot, travel up the back of the leg, and move over the hip and up the spine to your head. In a forward bend, you are lengthening this entire back line of the body.


Wide-Legged Forward Bend


Starting Position

Begin in a seated position with your legs straight out and in a V-shape. Your kneecaps point up, the ankles are flexed, and the toes point to the ceiling. Sit on the center of the sitting bones and lift through the spine through the top of the head. Place your hands on the floor in front of the torso.

Action

Hinge forward while maintaining a tall posture, moving the torso forward and then toward the floor between the legs. Keep the shoulders relaxed and down and away from the ears. Maintain an open chest position. Use your hands to support yourself as you move the torso toward the floor. When you cannot hinge any farther, allow the spine to gently flex (see figure). Relax into this position.

Alignment

As you hinge forward, keep the legs in the start position, with the knees pointed up toward the ceiling. Keep the shoulder relaxed down and the upper back long and extended.

Breath

Inhale to sit tall. Exhale to move forward into the bend. Breathe naturally to relax. Focus on the exhalation to let go of unwanted tension. Hold for 5 to 10 deep breaths.

Progressions and Modifications

  • Bend the knees slightly to help relax the hamstrings.
  • Sit on a rolled mat or yoga block to elevate the hips to make it easier to bend forward.
  • Place your hands behind your hips and press them into the floor to assist in hinging forward.

Mindfulness

Focus your attention on the movement of the hips. The legs should stay still as you hinge forward, allowing the hips to rotate over the femur bones. Experience the sensation of lifting the sitting bones to move the torso forward.

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