Living with Harmony ~ A Blog for your Mind & Body

Workout with the Ab Exercise Wheel

Posted in Ab Exercise Wheel/Roller Slide,Core/Fitness,How-To by Harmony on October 29, 2010

Ab Exercise WheelThe Ab Exercise Wheel looks like such a simple device.  Basically it is made of two plastic wheels with a stick through the middle of it.  But this easy little device offers one of the most challenging workouts of any fitness equipment out there. It has been marketed to build your abs, which it does, but it also builds and conditions your shoulders, back, and both your arms and forearms.  One could achieve great upper body muscle tone with the Ab Exercise Wheel.

How to use the Ab Wheel:

With both hands grab the Exercise Wheel by the handles on each side.  Get on your knees and roll the Exercise Wheel forward until you are extended all the way out.  Now roll the Ab Wheel back to the starting position.

Try doing as many as you can in one set every other day. Once you feel you have mastered this Ab Wheel workout you can take it to the next level and move on to the advanced Exercise Wheel workout.

Advanced Ab Exercise Wheel Workout:

With both hands grab the Exercise Wheel by the handles on each side.  While standing bend over and place the Exercise Wheel on the ground.   Now roll the Exercise Wheel forward until your body is extended with your hands out in front of you.  Now roll the Exercise Wheel back to the starting position.  Repeat this process with the Exercise Wheel until you can no longer do any more.

Other Advanced Workouts:

  • When working out your obliques, you would roll straight then slowly turn the wheel to either direction. If your rolling to the left then you’re working your left oblique and vice versa.
  • You can work on an incline.  Rolling up and down an incline bench.
  • For a harder workout, you have the one handed roll. But you will need to split the wheels so it looks like a dumbell.

Tips and tricks:

  • if in the kneeling position and your knees get sore – pad with a towel or cushioned mat
  • if hands get sore – consider wearing gym weight-lifting gloves
  • if just beginning and struggling with abdominal control when extending out in front – consider positioning in front of a wall so you don’t overextend while learning.  Move further and further away from wall as ab strength and control builds til you no longer need the wall as “a brake”.
  • maintain proper form:
    • knees hip distance apart,
    • engage the abs when rolling outwards to maintain a flat back and keep the lower back from arching,
    • tuck your chin in slightly to also help with flattening the back,
    • only roll out as far as your range of motion will allow while maintaining proper form,
    • keep arms and legs straight.
    • When returning to the start position, visualize your body “jackknifing” with the hands and feet at equal distance as you bring the roller back.

Don’t overdo the number of sets or reps when first beginning – you don’t want to be so sore that you can’t repeat the exercise several times a week for consistency.  For example, start with 3 sets of 20 reps.


Pilates : The Essentials

Posted in How-To,Pilates by Harmony on October 28, 2010

What is Pilates? How do I get started with Pilates? How would Pilates benefit me? Is Pilates just another form of Yoga?

If you find yourself asking these questions, this is a great video for you. Learn the history and benefits of Pilates and, even more importantly, how to perform the basic functions properly to help you get started safely and effectively.

As you start your Pilates practice, you’ll need one simple basic prop – the Pilates Mat. A Pilates mat differs from a yoga mat in one simple way. They tend to be a little thicker to provide cushioning for your spine and joints when doing a floor routine.  Generally speaking, you’ll want to look for a mat that is 1/4″ thick (or offers a comparable cushioning factor – some materials have a higher “cushioning factor” than others).

As you find yourself enjoying the benefits of this great fitness practice, you may eventually look for additional props to use during your workouts – such as a Pilates Ball, Toning Balls, a Pilates Ring, elastic Bands, and more.  But many Pilates exercises can be done with just a mat alone.  That’s a great place to get started.
Pilates: The Essentials

Restorative Yoga : Child's Pose

Posted in How-To,Yoga,Yoga Blanket,Yoga Bolster,Yoga Pose by Harmony on October 26, 2010

Turn Child’s Pose (Balasana) into a true restorative pose that you can hold for 10 minutes or so. By adding props – such as yoga blankets and yoga bolsters – to a pose, we can extend our time in these poses to really maximize on the poses ability to release stress and deepen the stretch slowly.

When setting up the props, evaluate your personal comfort level. If you’re feeling too much tension in an area, add another blanket, pillow, block, or whatever you are using. As you relax deeper and deeper into the pose, you can always remove some of those props as your muscles and joints give in to this lovely gentle stretch.
Balasana Child Pose in Stress Relief Yoga — powered by

Mantra for Attracting Abundance

Posted in How-To,Meditate,Meditation by Harmony on October 25, 2010

The following video teaches us the benefit of repeating the Lakshmiyei Mantra Meditation.  Mindy Arbuckle, from Green Mountain Yoga Studio in Arvada, CO, recommends dedicating 40-days to repeating this mantra for results.

“Om Kleem Shreem Maha Lakshiyei Swaha”

Exercises on a Half Foam Roller

Posted in Core/Fitness,Foam Roller,How-To by Harmony on October 22, 2010

Half round foam rollers are a great way for beginners to begin incorporating balance and stability exercises into their workouts.  Depending on the exercise itself, you could either place the flat side or the rounded side to the floor.  The flat side to the floor is the most stable position.

Here are just three exercises you could do with a Half Round Foam Roller.  When performing exercises with a roller under your spine or stomach lengthwise, a 36″ half round foam roller would be best.  In others, when you are placing a roller under your hands or feet, you could use one or two 12″ half round foam rollers.

Exercise #1

Lie on your back on the foam roller so that the foam roller is under your spine with both your sacrum and head resting on the roller.  Knees bent.  Slowly lift one knee, hold, and return the sole of the foot to the floor and raise the opposite knee.  The closer your feet are to the midline of your body, the more challenging the balance exercise.  Start with arms extended in a T-position with fingertips on the floor for balance, and advance to putting hands on your hips and using your core to keep from rolling side to side.

Exercise #2

Lie flat on your back and rest your feet on the foam roller, legs bent at the knees. Keep the hands at your sides. Now slowly lift your back and hips off the floor forming a bridge. Stay in this arched position for a few seconds and relax. Perform 5-8 reps.

Exercise #3

This is a leg extension exercise using a foam roller. Just lie on your stomach. Place the foam roller under your stomach. Start by lifting your legs upward, extending them straight, toes pointed. You can perform this exercise by extending one leg at a time and then alternating. Perform 10 repetitions with each leg.

Pilates : The Swan with Foam Roller

Posted in Foam Roller,How-To,Pilates by Harmony on October 21, 2010

Here’s how you can do the Pilates move called the “Swan” while using a foam roller.

There are several kinds of Foam Rollers that you can find in our store – 18″ vs 36″, and textured or non-textured. Currently we only sell high density foam rollers because they are more durable and hold their shape longer.  You can find our selection of Foam Rollers on our Fitness Page.  These items are very versatile and can be incorporated into a variety of both Pilates and general fitness exercises.

Advancing Your Backbends with a Yoga Strap

Posted in How-To,Yoga,Yoga Pose,Yoga Strap by Harmony on October 19, 2010

This video is showing some intermediate/advanced backbend poses and how to use a Yoga Strap to get deeper into these backbends. Most people tend to think props are only necessary as a beginner or to help overcome inflexibility. This video takes us to the next level and shows us how to advance deeper into some more challenging poses.

Yoga Straps come in several different lengths, from 6′ to 10′ long. Consider your arm length, leg length, the poses you’ll be using a strap for, and if you are going to be using a strap doubled over in a long loop for your poses. Your answers will help you in your purchasing decision.

Balance & Stability Exercise – Plank Variation

Posted in Balance Board/Wobble Board,Balance Discs,Core/Fitness,How-To by Harmony on October 19, 2010

Balancing on a Balance Board or Balance Discs in this plank variation exercise will add an additional challenge to your workout.

Our Balance Discs are 13″ in diameter. Some exercises may require two discs under your hands, elbows, knees or feet.  We also offer two different brands of Balance Discs:  JFit’s Balance Disc which is textured on both sides and Natural Fitness’s Balance Disc which is eco-friendly and offers one smooth side.

Walking Meditation : Instruction

Posted in How-To,Meditate,Meditation by Harmony on October 18, 2010

Walking Meditation

On-line Instruction with Charles MacInerney

hatha yoga in Austin Texas

walking meditationWalking Meditation is a wonderful initiation for beginners into the art of Meditation. It is easy to practice, and enhances both physical, mental and spiritual well-being. It is especially effective for those who find it difficult to sit still for long periods of time. Some people enjoy practicing in a beautiful outdoor setting, like a park. Others prefer to practice indoors, due to poor weather, or desire for privacy.

Walking Meditation should generally be practiced for between 15 minutes to 1 hour. A 20 minute walking meditation can also be used as a break between two 20 minute sitting meditations, allowing 1 hour of meditation without placing undue demands on the practitioner.

You can practice indoors by walking around the perimeter of your largest room. If you practice outdoors choose a scenic and quiet setting. Walk without a destination. Wander aimlessly without arriving, being somewhere rather than going somewhere.

Start out walking a little faster than normal, and gradually slow down to a normal walking speed, and then continue to slow down until you start to feel artificial or off balance. Speed up just enough to feel comfortable, physically and psychologically. At first you may need to walk fairly fast to feel smooth in your gait, but with practice, as your balance improves, you should be able to walk more slowly.

Be mindful of your breathing, without trying to control it. Allow the breath to become diaphragmatic if possible, but always make sure your breathing feels natural, not artificial. Allow the breath to become circular, and fluid.

Walk with ‘soft vision’ allowing the eyes to relax and focus upon nothing, while aware of everything. Smile softly with your eyes (see Mirror Exercise in Vision Chapter for details). Gradually allow the smile to spread from your eyes to your face and throughout your body. This is called an “organic smile” or a “thalamus smile”. Imagine every cell of your body smiling softly. Let all worry and sadness fall away from you as you walk.

Walk in silence, both internal and external.

Be mindful of your walking, make each step a gesture, so that you move in a state of grace, and each footprint is an impression of the peace and love you feel for the universe. Walk with slow, small, deliberate, balanced, graceful foot steps.

After a while, when both the breath and the walking have slipped into a regular pattern of their own accord, become aware of the number of footsteps per breath. Make no effort to change the breath, rather lengthen or shorten the rhythm of your step just enough so that you have 2, 3 or 4 steps per inhalation and 2, 3 or 4 steps per exhalation. Once you have discovered your natural rhythm, lock into it, so that the rhythm of the walking sets the rhythm for the breath like a metronome.

After several weeks of regular practice you may experiment with the ratios adding a foot step to your exhalation and later to your inhalation as well. Whatever ratio of steps-to-breath that you settle on, it should feel comfortable, and you should be able to maintain it for the duration of the meditation comfortably. After several months you may find your lung capacity improving. If you are comfortable, lengthen your breath an extra step but avoid trying to slow the breath too much or you will do more harm than good.

Notice the beauty of your surroundings, both externally and internally. Smile with every cell in your body.

For more information about Walking Meditation read “Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life” By Thich Nhat Hanh Foreword by H.H. the Dalai Lama, published by Bantam Books. This wonderful book is available on-line at the Plum Village Sanga Home page.

Balance & Stability Exercise – Squats

Posted in Balance Board/Wobble Board,Balance Discs,Core/Fitness,How-To by Harmony on October 15, 2010

Performing squats on a Balance Disc or Balance Board adds an extra challenge. To complete this exercise using a 13″ Balance Disc, you’ll need two – one under each foot. If using the Round Balance Board (which is a 16″ diameter), your feet will be closer together than as shown in this video. You may wish to compensate by moving slower with more awareness and also positioning yourself near a wall for periodic support.

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