Ramadan is said to begin on July 10 in most countries. With the months of Ramadan getting longer as they are falling more towards the summer, we can expect them to get even harder!
Restraining from food and water in these hot summer months will be very challenging for most of you, and even harder for those who have a regular fitness routine. Working out is about energy expenditure, the goal of working out is to stress the body and tear muscle down to make it stronger.
For those of us who are fasting, the benefits are huge, from a physical and a mental standpoint. Also helping to build energy through simulating your circulatory, digestive, and hormonal and Musculoskeletal systems.
However, fasting has a very stressful affect on the body, your hormones and organs. So there would be nothing worse than adding to that a gym session or activity that requires energy and fuel from your body whilst your fasting.
Work in, not out
So here is my alternative! Rather than working out, you work in. Working-in exercise consists of small movements you can perform without any equipment and that can be done anywhere.
Working-in exercises are the opposite in that they consist of gentle, energy-building exercises. They supply energy to the organ systems as the muscles, while the rhythmic movements also massage the internal organs.
These are wonderful exercises to perform whenever you are feeling stressed, lethargic or want to be active but don't have the energy for a full-on workout.
Our muscles help energize our body by producing electromagnetic energy and by acting as a pump to assist the action of your heart. When you contract your muscles it pushes the blood out of them and into your veins, helping your lungs and heart to recharge by returning the used blood back to them.
When your muscles relax they absorb freshly charged blood from your heart and lungs. That contains electromagnetic energy from the heart, this energy works off the positively charged oxygen in the blood cells, your hormonal energy and chemical energy and also from your digested foods. There are different zones of the body that benefit, with a certain area linked to each organ, gland and hormone. As well as the tissues in your spinal cord, which are linked to each of these particular zones.
Yoga, Tai chi and Qigong movements influence some zone exercises also.
The benefits of ‘zone exercises’
Zone exercise can be done at anytime! Including when you feel tired or sluggish, hence they are perfect for anyone who is fasting during Ramadan. One way to determine how much effort to use with a zone exercise if to perform it straight after iftar (the breaking of the fast). If you’re working too hard then your digestion will feel uncomfortable. If you exercise at a slower rate, then your digestion will improve.
If you’re under stress, can’t sleep well and have low energy levels then zone exercise are a great way to help you unwind and increase vitality. By performing certain movements you will allow more Chi to enter your body.
Chi is intelligent; the amazing this about it is that it knows when to speed up a specific cell in your body and when to slow it down.
Below I have given two of my favorite exercises you can perform without any equipment needed, of course there are many more exercises. You will need the guidance of a Chek Holistic Exercise Coach to find out which are best suited for you, and which part of your organs, glands or muscles need to be addressed. As each exercise will help channel energy to a specific zone of your body.
Zone exercise will help improve those areas where you may suffer from digestive issues, water retention, sleep problems, chronic fatigue, hormonal issues and many more.
If you’re lucky enough to live near a beach as I do, then walking mediation is the perfect zone exercise for you. Water and the Earth are the two key elements to simulate your Parasympathetic Nervous System, which is linked to a Yin Balance that most of us, lack in our lives.
In this day and age we are generally Yan dominant people, which simulates the Sympathetic branch of our nervous system. It is responsible for switching on stress hormones such as adrenaline and therefore is catabolic, meaning it is always breaking down muscle, tissue and glands for energy production.
Our Parasympathetic branch is the calm and relaxing side, it consists of an anabolic process, which helps build and repair muscles tissue and aid digestion. Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating for us to be too Parasympathetic (relaxed) all the time, as this isn’t healthy either. But our bodies need a balance between the two branches and the Yin and Yang; balanced harmony.
A walk along the beach being close to water (Calming /Yin Dominant) will help balance most of us out. Even if you are fasting this could be a perfect thing to do prior to iftar and even after your meal as it helps aid digestion.
Also, it’s a great way to take time out from your busy schedule, getting away from your hectic lifestyle, mobile phones, and busy traffic. As you walk along the beach take time to tune into your breathing. Try a simple breathing pattern such as: Inhale for four steps, and then hold your breath naturally for one of those. Then exhale for the next four steps you take. Counting your steps is a good way of clearing your mind from any other thoughts that may enter it.
A walking mediation can take anywhere between 15-45 minutes depending on your mood. If at any point you feel tired during this then stop! Remember, the objective is to build energy or to relax you and to put you in a better mood. Feeling tired and sluggish is a negative outcome from a walking mediation zone exercise.
An additional exercise
Breathing squats are my second choice of zone exercises.
Stand comfortably with legs wide enough to allow you to squat down so your thighs are parallel or lower. Keep your arms at your side or up in front of you. Inhale through your nose, and then squat down as you exhale. Go as low as possible, pause, and then inhale as you return to a standing position.
Keep these slow, going at a pace that allows you to move without increasing your breath from its natural rhythm.
Try a four second breathing count, exhale for a count of four as you lower down, pause the breath and then inhale for a count of four as you come back to standing. You can do as many of these as you can, even working up to 100 repetitions.
Breathing squats are a great way to help with pumping fluid around the body if you haven’t been moving all day due to fasting. They will also help build some energy and allow you to feel relaxed at the same time. They are also prefect to perform prior to iftar or straight after you break your fast and may feel sluggish due a heavy meal.
So, zone exercises are excellent way to cultivate energy and not expend it during the month of Ramadan. Try the two recommended exercises for yourself and see how much it can benefit you during this holy month of fasting.
Vahdaneh Vahid is a UK-based Personal Trainer who recently moved to Dubai. She has had an interest in fitness from a young age. Her motto is now "Train Don't Drain" and teaches her clients that a balanced understanding of their physical, mental and emotional wellness is key. She can be found on Twitter: @vvfitness