Concentrate and Connect

by Lawrence Biscontini, MA on Feb 02, 2009


Use this mind-body cool-down in your class.

You don’t have to teach a full mind-body class to pass along the benefits of mind-body moves to your participants. The cool-down portion of class—in which you bring down heart rates and core body temperatures—is a perfect time to introduce elements of tai chi and yoga. Participants sometimes have a difficult time making the transition from the work phase of class to this final section, and it can be a challenge to help them rein in their thoughts and concentrate. This cool-down moves from active recovery to flexibility exercises, ending on a positive wellness note that participants will appreciate.

Note: This is just one small portion of a full class and is meant for educational reference. Keep in mind that, during a cool-down, your goal is to decrease heart rates gradually to 120 beats per minute or below before moving on to flexibility and relaxation elements.

Sinking the Chi (4x)

Focus on breath awareness to bring down heart rate.

Stand in horse stance (feet shoulder width apart and parallel, knees slightly bent), palms facing body. Raise arms to sides and overhead. Fingers almost touch at top of movement, and palms pronate to cover body with chi; gaze remains forward. Next, lower arms in front of body, palms down, passing face, neck, chest and navel. As arms lower, flex knees more, until you feel as though you’re riding a horse. Extend knees (but maintain slight flexion) as you raise arms again and repeat the process.

Supporting Heaven (4x)

Coordinate movement with breath; stretch latissimus dorsi and biceps.

In horse stance, supinate palms in front of dan tien (front and center part of transversus abdominis) and raise them to heart. Pronate and turn palms forward and up, raising them overhead; gaze moves upward with hands. Then sweep arms out and down to sides, guiding chi toward body.

Low Warrior

Stretch and open hip flexors.

Lunge forward, stepping right foot between hands, knee directly over ankle. Gently lower left knee and foot down to floor. Inhale and lift arms overhead. Repeat on other side.

Seated Palm

Focus on posture and breath.

Sit in cross-legged position, aligning ears between shoulders. Balance on sit bones, palms up. Inhale, lengthen spine and retract scapulae.

Lifted Chest/Proud Palm

Open chest and focus on extension.

From “seated palm” position, place hands slightly behind hips, palms down. Bend spine backward and lift chest, minimizing bend in elbows.

Leaning Palm

Lengthen obliques and stretch quadratus lumborum.

From “seated palm” position, slide right hand along floor to right while simultaneously reaching left arm up and overhead. Allow spine to bend to right, facilitated by movement of arms. Repeat on other side.

Downward-Facing Dog

Open hamstrings and enhance lower-body mobility.

From all fours, spread hands and turn toes under. Exhaling, lift knees away from floor. Move sit bones toward ceiling, push thighs back and stretch heels toward floor. Release tension in neck and jaw; keep shoulder blades back and down. Align head between biceps.

Pigeon Pose

Stretch hip flexors and gluteals.

From all fours, slide right knee forward to back of right wrist. Angle right shin under torso and bring right foot to front of left knee. Slowly slide left leg back, straighten left knee and let front of left thigh descend to floor. Position right heel just in front of left hip. Repeat on other side.

Final Relaxation

Sit back in “proud palm” position and practice a “full body scan,” a Feldenkrais exercise. Cue participants to concentrate and connect with their feelings and breath for 60 seconds, comparing these sensations to those experienced before the workout. Ask participants to notice what is tight and what has opened. Congratulate everyone for taking another step to wellness.

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About the Author

Lawrence Biscontini, MA

Lawrence Biscontini, MA IDEA Author/Presenter

Lawrence Biscontini, MA, has established fitness history by winning multiple Instructor of the Year Awards from various organizations as well as the prestigeous Inner IDEA Award (2011): SCW (several) ECA, IDEA (2004), Can Fit Pro (several), and ACE (2002). Lawrence works as Mindful Movement Specialist, Author, and Mentor. Lawrence consults for several fitness companies and is the creator of Yo-Chi, star of the television program PurposeFit, and his most recent books include Stories of Color, Running the Show Customer Service for Fitness, and Cream Rises. Lawrence enjoys inspiring the world to fitness as an author, presenter, and international ambassador for IDEA.