Living with Harmony ~ A Blog for your Mind & Body


10 Back Exercises Using a Pull Up Bar

Posted in Core/Fitness,Doorway Gym Bar,How-To by Harmony on May 27, 2011

Try these ten different exercises to improve back muscle strength using your Doorway Gym / Chin Up Bar.  These versatile Gym Bars offer versatility to your exercise program.  Do chin ups, pull ups, press ups and sit ups with this bar, working a variety of muscles throughout your body.

10 Pull Up/Chin Up Variations

Posted in Core/Fitness,Doorway Gym Bar,How-To by Harmony on May 6, 2011

Add variety to your workout – try these variations to your chin up or pull up routine. Use a convenient Doorway Gym Bar which easily installs in a doorway frame of your home and still allows the door to close.

10 Ab Exercises with a Chin Up Bar

Posted in Core/Fitness,Doorway Gym Bar,How-To by Harmony on April 1, 2011

Granted, not all of these ab exercises can be done at home with your doorway chin up bar, but it will get the creativity flowing for your home practice!  These exercises are for those who are looking to advance their chin up routine.  Build up your strength with your home doorway chin up bar before taking your workout outside to the park like this gentleman.

Breathing Meditations

Posted in How-To,Meditate,Meditation Bench,Zafus/Zabutons by Harmony on March 28, 2011

To practice meditation you don’t need any props, but if you find yourself meditating frequently you may find that meditation cushions or benches will make you more comfortable.  You could sit cross-legged on a zabuton cushion to cushion your sit bones and ankles, or you might prefer sitting higher on a meditation bench or a zafu so that your knees rest at or below hip level.  Our meditation bench and zafus also make it easier for you to sit erect.  No matter what, though, beginning simple breathing meditations will help bring some peace and calm into our otherwise busy lifestyles.

Breathing Meditations

by HowToMeditate.Org

Generally, the purpose of breathing meditation is to calm the mind and develop inner peace. We can use breathing meditations alone or as a preliminary practice to reduce our distractions before engaging in a Lamrim meditation

A Simple Breathing Meditation

The first stage of meditation is to stop distractions and make our mind clearer and more lucid. This can be accomplished by practising a simple breathing meditation. We choose a quiet place to meditate and sit in a comfortable position. We can sit in the traditional cross-legged posture or in any other position that is comfortable. If we wish, we can sit in a chair. The most important thing is to keep our back straight to prevent our mind from becoming sluggish or sleepy.

We sit with our eyes partially closed and turn our attention to our breathing. We breathe naturally, preferably through the nostrils, without attempting to control our breath, and we try to become aware of the sensation of the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils. This sensation is our object of meditation. We should try to concentrate on it to the exclusion of everything else.

At first, our mind will be very busy, and we might even feel that the meditation is making our mind busier; but in reality we are just becoming more aware of how busy our mind actually is. There will be a great temptation to follow the different thoughts as they arise, but we should resist this and remain focused single-pointedly on the sensation of the breath. If we discover that our mind has wandered and is following our thoughts, we should immediately return it to the breath. We should repeat this as many times as necessary until the mind settles on the breath.

Benefits of Meditation

If we practice patiently in this way, gradually our distracting thoughts will subside and we will experience a sense of inner peace and relaxation. Our mind will feel lucid and spacious and we will feel refreshed. When the sea is rough, sediment is churned up and the water becomes murky, but when the wind dies down the mud gradually settles and the water becomes clear. In a similar way, when the otherwise incessant flow of our distracting thoughts is calmed through concentrating on the breath, our mind becomes unusually lucid and clear. We should stay with this state of mental calm for a while.

Even though breathing meditation is only a preliminary stage of meditation, it can be quite powerful. We can see from this practice that it is possible to experience inner peace and contentment just by controlling the mind, without having to depend at all upon external conditions.

When the turbulence of distracting thoughts subsides and our mind becomes still, a deep happiness and contentment naturally arises from within. This feeling of contentment and well-being helps us to cope with the busyness and difficulties of daily life. So much of the stress and tension we normally experience comes from our mind, and many of the problems we experience, including ill health, are caused or aggravated by this stress. Just by doing breathing meditation for ten or fifteen minutes each day, we will be able to reduce this stress. We will experience a calm, spacious feeling in the mind, and many of our usual problems will fall away. Difficult situations will become easier to deal with, we will naturally feel warm and well disposed towards other people, and our relationships with others will gradually improve.

Foot Exercises with Massage Balls

Posted in How-To,Massage,Massage Balls by Harmony on March 11, 2011

Treat your feet with these exercises using massage balls.  Reduce aches and pains and improve balance by remembering to exercise and stretch your feet, too.

Tips for Doorway Chin Up Bar

Posted in Core/Fitness,Doorway Gym Bar,How-To by Harmony on March 4, 2011

Having trouble getting started with your chin ups? Check out this short video for two suggestions on how to begin your practice and build up your strength using your at-home doorway chin up bar. The Sunny Health & Fitness doorway bar is called a gym bar because not only can it be installed at the top of your door frame for pull ups and chin ups, but in can also be installed at the bottom of the door frame for sit ups and press ups. Great to add variety to workout and to build all over body strength.

Post-Natal Pilates

Posted in How-To,Mats - Yoga / Pilates / Exercise,Pilates by Harmony on February 10, 2011

Whether it’s post-natal Pilates or yoga, the emphasis is on toning the abdominal muscles and the core, so if you’re looking for core work don’t let the name fool you. All you need to do to perform the following Pilates exercises is a mat.

A Pilates mat tends to offer a little extra cushioning as compared to a yoga mat since many exercises are done on the floor and the extra thickness or padding will help cushion your spine and joints. Check out our Harmony Fusion Mat which is 5/16″ thick, Natural Fitness Powerhouse Mat 3/8″ thick, our Extra Wide/Extra Long Mat at 1/4″ thick, or if you’d like a padded exercise mat take a look at our Tri-Fold Exercise Mat.

Wrist Stretches for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Posted in How-To,Yoga,Yoga Wedge by Harmony on February 8, 2011

This is a continuation of last week’s article on Yoga and Your Wrists.  Here are a couple of the wrist stretches recommended by Marian Garfinkel, who has created a whole series of yoga asanas for Carpal Tunnel.  In addition to stretching, using props – such as a yoga wedge –  to help reduce the angle of extension can help you during your practice.

The Yoga Prescription: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Five minutes a day can help anyone get the benefits of yoga, says Marian Garfinkel, doctor of education, senior Iyengar yoga instructor, and lead author of a promising study on the effectiveness of yoga for carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel sufferers who attended an eight-week, twice-weekly yoga class had less pain, greater flexibility, and a stronger grip than those who wore a wrist splint, the standard treatment for the condition. Whether your hands hurt because of too much time at the computer keyboard, other repetitive stress injuries, or even a chronic illness such as arthritis, “A few simple stretches can really help,” says Dr. Garfinkel. She recommends the following three exercises to help you get started.

Overhead arm extension (urdhva hastasana)
Do this first thing in the morning, or as a break during the day.

Stand straight, with feet parallel and arms at your sides: a posture that promotes blood flow to the hands. Stretch your arms and fingers straight out in front of you, palms facing the floor. Keeping the arms and elbows straight, slowly raise your arms over the head to the 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock positions, inhaling through the nose. Be sure to keep your throat and shoulders relaxed. Lift the sides of the body, keeping the shoulders away from the head. Maintain for 15 to 30 seconds, breathing in and out through the nose. Exhale and lower your arms to your sides. If you feel the blood flowing through your hands, says Dr. Garfinkel, it’s a sign you’ve done the exercise correctly.

Trunk extension (dandasana)
A good exercise for the office or anywhere you’re seated.

Sit on a chair with your trunk upright. Place your hands at your sides and press the palms into the seat, taking care not to tense your shoulders or neck. Press shoulder blades into your back, moving the shoulders back and down. Hold this position for 30 seconds, breathing in and out through the nose. Relax, then repeat. Spreading the chest and shoulders, Dr. Garfinkel explains, also has benefits for the wrists and hands.

Chair twists (bharadvajasana)

A more advanced position, also effective for back and neck pain.

Sit sideways in a chair, with the right hip and thigh towards the chair’s back. Keep the knees and feet together, with the heels aligned under the knees. Stretch your trunk upward and pull the shoulders back. With knees together and feet on the floor, turn your trunk towards the right and place both hands on the back of the chair. Pull with the left hand, bringing the left side of the body toward the back of the chair; at the same time, push with the palm of the right hand, moving the right side away from the chair back. Turn the body, then the head, and look over your right shoulder. Hold for 15 seconds. Relax. Repeat on the left side.

For additional information: Journal of the American Medical Association, 11/11/98. Dr. Marian Garfinkel teaches the Iyengar method of hatha yoga, which stresses precision and alignment; E-mail mariang102@aol.com. Contact the B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga Association (1-800-889-YOGA; http://www.comnet.org/iynaus) for a list of certified yoga instructors.

For more on vitamins, herbs, and other therapies for painful wrists, see our library entry on Carpal tunnel syndrome.

Date Posted: 01/22/2001

Tight IT Bands

Posted in Core/Fitness,Foam Roller,How-To,Yoga Strap by Harmony on February 4, 2011

Tight IT Bands are a frequent concern of runners.  Try this stretch using a rope or Yoga Strap or your could relieve the tightness by using a Foam Roller as well.

Relieve Your Tight Iliotibial Band

Add this active-isolated stretch to lengthen the ITB without causing harm.

By Jim and Phil Wharton  / Image by Asaf HanukaPublished 03/08/2007 (from Runners World)

Along with calloused feet and a tolerance for Gu, runners tend to develop tight iliotibial bands (ITB). The ITB is a sheath of connective tissue that runs from the gluteus to the outside of the shin just below the knee. It helps extend the knee and stabilize the leg during running. Overuse and inflexibility can shorten the ITB, causing hip and knee pain. Many runners attempt to counteract this with the ITB stretch shown here. But because it stresses the leg and back muscles, this stretch has the opposite effect. The ITB and surrounding muscles tighten against this pressure, irritating these areas. Our “active-isolated” method (below) allows you to lengthen the ITB without causing additional harm.

Don’t Do This

Leaning forward (for a greater stretch) stresses the lower back and groin muscles.

The forced muscle contraction stresses the hip and knee joints, which impedes circulation.

The angle of the knee puts pressure on the patellar tendon of the kneecap and the quadriceps.

Do This

Lie down with both legs out straight.

Put one foot in the loop of a rope, positioning the rope between your heel and the ball of your foot. Wrap the rope around the outside of the ankle so that its ends are on the inside.

Contract your adductors (inner thigh), and sweep the leg across your body, passing just above the other leg. Keep your knee locked.

Once you feel tension on the leg, gently pull on the rope to extend the range of the stretch just a little more.

Hold for one or two seconds, then release. Repeat 10 times on each leg.

Adductor (inner thigh) muscles are activated, which relaxes the opposing muscle group.

Abductor (outer thigh) muscles ease into the stretch instead of being forced and held in a static position.

Back and neck are supported and relaxed.

Prenatal Pilates

Posted in How-To,Mini Exercise Ball,Pilates by Harmony on February 3, 2011

In this video you will learn several easy-to-follow exercises that are beneficial for pregnancy, but aren’t just for pregnant women. Good cueing to engage the pelvic floor and core. In these simple pilates exercises all you will need will be a pilates mat and a small inflatable exercise ball.

We offer several sizes of these small exercise balls – a 7″ Exercise Ball and a 9″ Exercise Ball. When using them to provide resistance in your exercises, they will generally be slightly under-inflated. When using between the legs, you’ll still want your knees about hip-distance apart and if between the arms, arms should be shoulder-width apart depending on the specific exercise. Hopefully that will give you a rule of thumb to determine which size is best for you. We also offer a 6″ ball that is used for body rolling (a wonderful massage technique), that could also be used in many exercises as well.

Next Page »