Anti-Stress Exercise Plans

By: Off the Mat Yoga

I often get asked about what I do to work out my physical body and maintain “mental fitness” as well.  Here are some “ideal” routines I try to fit into my days.  Note that this “ideal” routine happens on a very good day, meaning one in which my time constraints are minimal and my motivation is high.  There are plenty of days where I don’t have the time, energy or enthusiasm. On these non-ideal days, I strive to at least get one of the items done.  I almost always fit something in at lunch time, because if I don’t, I’ll end up working through that hour of my day-increasing my stress levels significantly. 

Morning: Sun Salutation (10min), Morning rise meditation (7min)

Afternoon/Lunch time: 4mi Run (30min), light stretching

Evening: Wind-down Yoga (20min)

Before Bed: Yoga Nidra (15-25min)

Alternate schedule:

Morning: 4mi Run (30 min)

Afternoon/Lunch time: Meditation Yoga or Vinyasa Flow (30 min)

Evening: Barre Routine (15min)

Before Bed: Yoga Nidra (15-25min)

A few important notes about exercise (and sleep!): I am a runner and have been for years.  If you are not, feel free to walk wherever it says “run” in the above schedules.  The important thing is to get outside and exercise.  This is so important for mental health and I think we as a society don’t get to do it enough.  We are so used to jumping in our cars to get anywhere that we forget the importance of fresh air and exercise.  I started running years ago with a primary goal of fitness.  I now run for my own mental clarity and as a means to de-stress.  There are so many days where I go out for a run with many difficult situations on my mind and I come back feeling so relieved and less worried about my to-do lists.  It really is true what science says about how exercise leads to the release of endorphins in the body.  These chemicals not only reduce your perception of pain, they also give you a more positive feeling in your body.  Some say they are the natural version of morphine. 

Besides exercise, it’s also really important to get plenty of sleep in your daily routine.  Sleep is just as important for reducing stress and anxiety.  For this reason, I work in a yoga nidra sequence nearly every day.  Sometimes I may even do yoga nidra at lunchtime if I am really racing and can’t seem to slow down.  There are plenty of free yoga nidra online guided meditations out there, including this one I like a lot.  A paid version through Jennifer Reis is also exceptional if you would like to get your meditation onto a device like an ipod.  Yoga nidra is an easy way to get into sleep mode at the end of the day.  I also turn off all devices by a certain time every evening as it’s known that back-lit screens decrease the amount of melatonin in the body.  Melatonin is what we require to maintain our daily sleep cycle.

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