February 6, 2013
Taking time out of your regular fitness routine to provide yourself with some soothing self-care can help prevent burnout, promote a refreshed approach to work and even heighten your senses in other aspects of life. When we take time out of our busy schedules to focus on the senses we often take for granted, we enable ourselves to reap the benefits of some much needed relaxation and rejuvenation.
All of the following tips derive from the overriding premise that when we temporarily turn off or diminish some senses, the remaining senses become more acute. So give yourself permission to enjoy some much needed “me” time with these tips for heightening your senses.
Enjoying a snack in complete darkness and silence allows one’s taste buds to turn on and bask in a renewed sense of presence. From indulging in a dark-chocolate truffle to eating some fruit in the dark, the uncanny nature of tasting foods as if for the first time allows one to re-examine how quickly we normally eat on the go, often in a rush. If it’s not possible to find a quiet, dark environment to enjoy this exercise, simply try closing your eyes when you chew and swallow for at least one snack per day this month.
Resting the eyes allows the optic nerve to refresh. Sometimes we take for granted the way we “shock” the eyes, whether dramatically shifting from a dimly lit yoga class to bright lighting on the gym floor, or simply shifting our eyes from the tight-focus on our smartphones to something in the distance. Lighting an aromatherapy candle and staring at the lit flame can help relax the eyes. Gaze at the flame for up to 7 seconds without blinking, and then slowly close the eyes closed for the same amount of time before opening and repeating the cycle for about 2 minutes. Setting the timer on your smartphone will enable you to concentrate on the exercise instead of worrying about the remaining time. Keep in mind the scent from an aromatherapy candle will allow you to breathe deeper (read more about this in the “Smell” section below).
Play 3-10 minutes of inspirational music that you do not use as part of your normal workout playlist. If possible, perform this exercise in a dark room while in a comfortable seated position so that you can focus your attention on your breathing. Sometimes new age or ambient music with no beat proves better for such an exercise, allowing you to concentrate on deeper breaths that do not match the speed of the music.
Aromatherapy can assist us in both rejuvenating our parasympathetic nervous system (which operates when we’re stimulated) and relaxing via the sympathetic nervous system (which operates when we’re relaxed). For the former, try inhaling the scent of anything citrus, bergamot or mint. For the latter, try lavender, rosemary or sandalwood. To prepare a mist, use 5 drops of essential oil per ½ cup of water and store in an atomizer. To use, spray 2 pumps on your neck far under eye level, and breathe deeply for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 more times for 2 minutes total. If you have any allergies or are pregnant, consult your medical care practitioner before using aromatherapy.
As fitness enthusiasts, we spend our days working to strengthen our bodies, yet rarely do we allow ourselves the privilege of time and money to invest in regular massages. For a time-efficient and cost-effective way to give back to your body, explore the power of touch and myofascial release. For a little TLC, get a tennis ball and massage the bottoms of your bare feet by rolling each foot over the ball one at a time, pressing down lightly for 1 minute per foot. Focusing this much-needed time on the feet will help them to take better care of you in the long haul.
Remember that employing these tips for self-care is not taking a moment out of your schedule for a hedonistic luxury; it’s a necessity to give your body and senses the love and attention they deserve.
Lawrence Biscontini, M.A., creates award-winning group fitness and personal training programming at an international level for clubs and spas, including Equinox, 24 Hour Fitness, Gold's Gym International, Bally and Golden Door Spas. As Nutritional Counselor, Biscontini has created complete nutritional menus for spas from Manhattan to Mykonos. He regularly contributes to fitness industry publications, such as AFAA's American Fitness Magazine, IDEA Fitness Journal and Spa Asia. His books include, Cream Rises: Excellence in Private & Group Education, and he dedicates a percentage of his website sales to charity, as well as to inspire career wellness development. As a movement specialist, Biscontini trains celebrity clients, including cast members of ABC TV's soap opera "General Hospital," and has made appearances on CNN Headline News and LIVE! With Regis and Kelly.