Mindful Workouts

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Exercise from the inside out with these popular mind/ body workout programs. BY MARYANN HAMMERS

Years of sitting behind a desk, frequent travels, and long hours at the computer had taken their toll on Abbas Milani. The director of Iranian Studies at Stanford University suffered from chronic backaches, and nothing he tried — from cortisone to chiropractic — offered relief. When the pain became so severe that the 57-year-old had to frequently lie down to get through the day, he heeded a friend’s recommendation to contact Stanford health educator and Pilates and yoga trainer Shirley Archer.

With its focus on deep breathing and controlled movements, Pilates is generally not the province of hard -driven, high-powered, time-pressed types. But those are exactly the people who can most benefit. “Someone who is bombarded daily newts to create time and space for inner quiet,” says Archer. But Milani was interested in results, not zen like blather. So Archer explained how [‘Hates also strengthens back muscles and boosts flexibility. He gave it a go, and a year later his pain has all but disappeared. But to his amazement,the greatest change is his overall disposition.Gone is the lethargy. My mend has improved. I have a feeling of vitality he marvels.

Milani is among millions of converts turning to mind/body exercises to become physically energized. spiritually balanced, and mentally focused. Pilates participation ls estimated at 10.5 million in the United States — a 500 percent increase over the past tons years, with the number linen Moms sing 20 percent in IC e past year More 150016 million people In the United Stains practice yogi and tai el, shows similar gains.

These exercises teach principles such as Yield and bestrong take the higher path.”Change can be smooth if you are grounded and Flexible:Move from your core.’

Says one expert, “These exercises teach principles such as ‘Yield and he strong.”Take the higher path.’ Change can be smooth if you are grounded and flexible.”Move from your core.”Transitions are a helpful part of our journey.”

‘Transitions are a helpful part of our loam.— says Carolyn Comae, who leads. tia chi workshops at Red Mountain Spa in SL George, Utah. “I taught  fitness classes for 17 years   and have never  felt those empowering life lessons from traditional exercises.”

Here’s an introduction to the most popular  mind/ body programs:

PILATES

WHAT: Pilates uses systematic, precise, contolled movement, to target the body’s core— abs, back, and hips. “I call Pilates ‘the thinking. persons workout,'” says Lisa Johnson, owner of Studio Elle near Boston  “You concentrate so hard on breathing. choreography, and form that you have to shut down that to-do list in Your brain.
WHY It whittles your middle and flattens your stomach better than crunches, and improves posture, flexibility  agility while also building ,strength.

WHO Less spiritual and meditative than other mind/body exercises, Pilates appeals to Type-A perfectionists and pragmatsis

Johnson says.I rarely say to my client .’Find your Zen But I frequently say, ‘Find your abs!”

HOT SPOTS:  Core Conditioning in los Angeles is a celeb hangout (818-907-00008: Body Endeavors is one  of  Chicago’s original studios (312-702-0028) .the spa at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn offers a “Pilates for Golfers” Class, (877-289-7354).

YOGA

 WHAT: Incorporating stretches, postures, meditaion. and breathing, yoga styles range from sivanada a  gentle practice using classic poses, to  (power yoga,). serious workout with constant movement.

 WHY: it Improves flexibility, strength, and balance: promotes relaxation, reduces stress: awl helps control weight. “Yoga drops you into the Zen zone.” says Jonathan Fields. who left a law career to find Sonic Yoga in New York City. Rather than  leaving you drained, it leaves you brimming”

WHO Anyone. interested in overall wellness. “One of the myths is that you need to be flexible, athletic, or out there” Fields says,”but anyone can practice yoga.’

HOT SPOTS: Boundless yoga in Washington. D.C, caters to politicos (202-234-9642), Sting stretches with instructors from Manhattan, divamukti Yoga Center( 212-353-0214) Sonic Yoga in NYC’s Hell, Kitchen Is a favorite of  theater set (212-397-6344), Yobe Studios at the Chesterfield Hotel In Miami, South Beach offers nontraditional classes from Kosher yoga to hip-hop (305-531-6266).

TAI CHI

WHAT: An ancient Chinese martial art that includes graceful, flowing self.defense movements, it’s also known as “moving meditation” because participants are completely focused, yet relaxed. “Tai chi is physical in a non•treadmill way.” says Scott Cole, creator of the Discover Toi Chi DVD series. “Moving slowly and deliberately engages all muscles and gives rise to stability and balance.

WHY: It improves concentration, boosts circulation, limbers you up, reduces stress, and lowers blood pressure. Cole says doing tai chi can also enhance ,• ,our sex life.

WHO: Recovering Type As. “Business execs ran learn as much from tai chi principles as they can from the moves themselves,” Cole says. “For example, a stiff, rigid tree breaks under pressure, while a strong, resilient one survives by going with the flow.”

HOT SPOTS: William CC Chen’s martial arts studio in New York (St 2-675-2816): Terence Pang-Yen Dunn, who trained the L.A. Lakers, teaches in Santa Monica (310-8282018).

FUSION

WHAT: Drawing from principles of each, combos blend strength training or cardio with mind/body exercises — for example, kickboxing with tai chi.

WHY: By incorporating focused breathing, body awareness, and proper posture, your workout becomes more holistic, effective, efficient, and interesting — without taking more time. “But you must work from a

WHO: Someone who wants to try something new or get multiple results from a single session.

HOT SPOTS: KungTh, a martial arts/yoga combo at Allure Pilates Spa in Beverly Hills (310-777.0201); spinning/ power yoga is a hit at ELT. in Bethesda (301-656-0885); Studio Elle, popular with Boston’s elite. offers QuadSpin Pilates, an intense calorierburning cardio WOrkOnt 1817- 975.010

FEEL THE OM

Meditation may not get your heart pumping or your body sweat-ing, and it doesn’t burn many calories. But it belongs in your exercise arsenal.

“Meditation trains your mind just as Pilates or yoga trains the body,” says Shirley Archer, author of Pitotes Fusion: Weh-Being for Body, Mind, and Spirit. “It cultivates inner peace and serenity and improves our ability to approach life from a place of balance and calm.

“A slew of studies have documented mediation’s physiological benefits, including lower blood pressure, slower breath and heart rate, reduced stress, pain relief, and better immune function. Archer offers these tips for getting started:

Solid mind/body foundation. Otherwise, its just another aerobics class,” says Jennifer Gianni, who developed “Pilates Triple Threat,” a blend of yoga, dance, and weight training, at Embodyment Studio in Venice, California (310-581.3822).

1. Set aside a few minutes – the same time every day – for your “mental training session.”

2. Choose a quiet, interruption-free place.

3. Sit with good posture, hands on your thighs or clasped in your lap. Close your eyes and breathe naturally.

4. Begin with breathing exercises: Focus on your breath. Be aware of inhaling and exhaling and the pause between breaths. Feel the texture of the breath traveling through your body, in the nostrils, and into the lungs.

5. You can also meditate by staring at a candle. Focus on the flame, watching it move, grow, and flicker. Observe the colors. Notice the subtleties of the changing flame. 6. Stop when your mind wanders. Gradually build up to longer periods of time. – M.H.