Fusion Workouts: Fitness, Yoga, Pilates, and Barre - Helen Vanderburg (2016)

Part II. Fusion Exercises

Warming up

Standing strength, balance, and flexibility exercises

Floor strength, balance, and flexibility exercises

Calming and restorative exercises

The fusion exercises are grouped in the next chapters for warm-up; standing strength, balance, and flexibility; floor strength, balance, and flexibility; and calming and restorative exercises. The exercises in each chapter will provide you the best possible outcome in your fusion workouts.

Part II contains your fusion exercises. With more than 100 exercises and variations, it is a comprehensive list of exercises to choose from to keep your workouts interesting and challenging. Each exercise has a photo and a detailed description to guide you through the exercise safely and effectively. The photo illustrates the ideal body alignment and exercise execution; however, you will progress at your own rate to master the exercise. Modifications and variations for the exercises provide you with options for intensity and ways to keep the exercise interesting and allow progress. The optimal breathing pattern is suggested for each exercise. Practice the breathing pattern while performing the exercise. Come back to this library frequently to make sure you continue to master the exercises and to add variety to your workouts.

Chapter 4. Warming Up

Warming the body before exercise is important for achieving comfort, mobility, and physiological readiness. By gently easing into exercise, all systems of the body have an opportunity to adapt to the work and provide the energy and neuromuscular responses to prepare the body for exercise. Movement is an internal massage to the body that decreases stiffness, increases blood flow, and warms the muscles and connective tissues so they can function with greater ease.

The warming exercises in this chapter prepare the mind and body for the workout. During the warm-up, focus your mind on your intention and let this focus lead you into the workout. Breathing helps in warming up by increasing oxygen flow throughout the body and to the brain, giving you a feeling of energy and alertness. As you learned in chapter 3, practice the fusion 3D breathing technique as you move through the exercises.

A warm-up also serves as an opportunity to gradually move into the more strenuous exercises found in the actual workout. The warm-up increases mobility, elevates the heart rate, and brings your focus to your workout. Ideally, your warm-up exercises should mimic the workout exercises, but at a lower intensity and slower speed. Depending on the fusion workout duration, type, and intensity you choose, the warm-up will vary to match the exercises performed during the workout.

Generally, the harder the workout, the longer you should take to warm up. In gentler workouts, the warm-up can be shorter because the effort required is less. Take a minimum of 3 minutes and up to 10 minutes to warm up depending on intensity and length of the workout. No matter what type of workout you do, you should always begin with a series of warm-up exercises.

The workouts outlined in chapters 8 to 11 include a selection of warm-up exercises chosen from this chapter to provide a warm-up appropriate for each fusion workout style. Exercises listed in chapter 7: Calming and Restorative Exercises can be used as warming exercises as well. In the fusion workouts you will see exercises listed that may appear in this chapter in your warm up based on the type of workout you will be performing. As you gain experience and confidence with the fusion workouts, you may begin to choose exercises from this chapter to create your own unique warm-up.

The warm-up exercises are grouped into body position to make it easy to move from one exercise to the next.

Kneeling

Warming exercises performed in a kneeling position provide a gentle way to prepare the body for exercise. In this position you are able to create mobility in the spine, shoulders, and hips as well as stimulate the core muscles in preparation for the more challenging exercises later in the workout.

Child’s Pose

Starting Position

Kneel with the tops of the feet on the floor, feet together, and the knees slightly wider than hip-width apart. Place the hands shoulder-width apart under your shoulders, fingers pointed forward.

Action

Move the hips back toward the heels. Reach the arms forward and move the torso toward the floor between the thighs and knees and bring the forehead to the floor (see figure).

Alignment

As you move the hips back toward the heels, keep the spine long. Avoid rounding the upper back and lifting the shoulders toward the ears.

Breath

This position is ideal for focusing on breathing and creating a sense of calmness. During the inhalation, feel the ribs expand, drawing air into the lungs. On the exhalation, allow the ribs to soften and relax, allowing your next inhalation to be deeper. Hold for a minimum of five deep breaths.

Technique Tips

·        Keep the spine long and shoulders soft.

·        Breathing is relaxed.

Progressions and Modifications

·        The kneeling position may cause discomfort or pain in the knees; minimize this by keeping the hips higher and moving the arms farther forward.

·        The arms reaching forward may cause discomfort in the neck and shoulders; your option is to bring the arms beside the legs with the palms facing up.

·        The forehead may not reach the floor comfortably; use a yoga block or rolled towel under the head for support.

Mindfulness

Bring your awareness to your breathing and the sensation of each breath as it moves through your body. With each exhalation, allow yourself to relax more deeply into child’s pose.

Cat and Cow Stretch

Starting Position

Kneel with the hands directly under the shoulders, the knees under the hips, and the spine in a neutral position. The arms are in a vertical line under the shoulders and the thighs in a straight line from the hips to knees (see figure a).

Action

Contract the muscles of the pelvic floor and lower abdominal area to rotate the pelvis under. Gradually work up the spine to the head until the spine creates a soft C-curve into cat stretch (see figure b). Reverse the action by slowly lifting the sits bones upward, rotating the pelvis, creating a slight curve in the low back and extending through the spine to the head as you go into cow stretch (see figure c). Fluidly move between the two stretches.

Alignment

Keep the arms straight throughout the exercise, allowing the movement to be experienced through the spine.

Breath

Exhale to curve the spine and gently bring the navel toward the spine. Inhale to lengthen and extend the spine. Keep the breath slow and controlled. Perform three to five repetitions of each movement.

Technique Tips

·        Move through a pain-free range of motion.

·        Take long, full breaths so that the movement flows with your breath.

Progressions and Modifications

·        To decrease discomfort in the wrists, spread the fingers wide and gently press the mound of each finger (located where the finger attaches to the palm of the hand) down as you lift the palms.

·        To decrease wrist discomfort, place the forearms on the floor.

·        Place a folded towel or rolled mat under the knees for comfort.

Mindfulness

Observe how breath and movement are linked in this exercise.

Spinal Rotation With Thread the Needle

Starting Position

Kneel with the hands under the shoulders, the knees slightly wider than the hips, and the spine in a neutral position. The arms are in a vertical line under the shoulders, and the thighs are in a straight line with the knees slightly wider than the hips.

Action

Bring one hand in line with the center of the chest and reach the opposite arm up toward the ceiling as you rotate the spine and open the chest toward the side while looking up toward your hand (see figure a). Then bring the same arm down with the palm of the hand turned up, take the arm across the mat behind the supporting arm and toward the opposite side. Bring the outside edge of the shoulder to the floor, supporting your upper-body weight across the shoulder, and gently place the side of the head on the floor (see figure b). Repeat the exercise, flowing between each movement or choose to hold each of the movements before moving to the other side.

Alignment

Keep the hips lifted and the thighs in a vertical line to allow the rotation to move through the ribs, spine, and shoulder.

Breath

Exhale to rotate and open the chest to the side. Inhale and hold. Exhale to bring the arm through to thread the needle. Inhale and hold. An option is to hold the movement for a few breaths instead of flowing with the breath. Repeat for three to five repetitions.

Technique Tips

·        Keep the thighs in a vertical position and the hips lifted as you thread the needle.

·        Move from the hips to allow a fuller rotation in both directions.

Progressions and Modifications

·        To decrease discomfort in the wrists, spread the fingers wide and gently press the mound of each finger (located where the finger attaches to the palm of the hand) down as you lift the palms up.

·        If there is pain in the knees, add cushioning by doubling the mat or placing a folded towel under the knees.

Mindfulness

Become aware of how the movement of the hips allows for freer movement in the spine and shoulders.

Low Lunge to Kneeling Hamstring Stretch

Starting Position

From quadruped position (see figure a), step one foot forward to a bent-knee lunge with the back shin and top of the foot on the floor. Keep the forward lower leg in a vertical line with the knee directly over the heel. Place the hands on the floor on either side of the front foot (see figure b).

Action

Move the hips back as you straighten the front leg and hinge the body forward, keeping the hips lifted and spine extended so that you avoid excessively rounding the back (see figure c). Allow the hips to move forward and down to deepen the sensation of the stretch. The hips stay lifted, and the supporting lower leg stays vertical.

Alignment

Move forward only as far as you can while keeping the front knee over the heel. On the hamstring stretch, keep the hips lifted off the back heel.

Breath

Exhale to move into the lunge. Breathe naturally as you hold the lunge. Exhale to move into the hamstring stretch. Breathe naturally as you hold. Repeat for three to five repetitions on each side.

Technique Tips

·        Move from the hips between the two stretches rather than moving from the back.

·        Keep the spine lengthened.

Progressions and Modifications

·        In the lunge, bring the hands to the front thigh or reach overhead to increase the stretch.

In the hamstring stretch, keep the front knee bent if there is excessive tension in the back of the leg.

·        Place a folded towel or rolled mat under the knees for comfort.

Mindfulness

Bring your attention to the relationship between the muscles of the legs and the hips. Observe where you feel restriction in the movement. Use the exhalation to let go of tension.

Planking

The plank body position is a foundation for many of the fusion workout exercises. Practicing good alignment and breathing in a plank during the warm-up will prepare the body for the exercises in this body position in the workout.

Plank Position

Starting Position

Kneel with the hands under the shoulders, stabilize the shoulders and contract the core muscles to extend one leg back, curling the toes under to balance on the ball of the foot with the heel aligned directly over top. Step the other leg back, keeping the core strong and the torso in a neutral alignment. The spine is in a neutral alignment with a slight lumbar curve and the hips in line with the spine. The head aligns with the spine. The arms are vertical under the shoulders, and the shoulder blades are drawn back and in with the chest open. Spread the hands into the floor, pointing the middle finger directly forward and the thumb reaching toward the center.

Action

Press into the hands to draw energy up the arms to the shoulder girdle. Widen the chest and bring the shoulder blades toward the midline of the back. Keep the upper body working and gently pull the deep abdominal muscles up toward the spine. Firm the muscles of the legs and lift the pelvic floor and lower abdominal muscles upward to engage the deep core muscles (see figure).

Alignment

The spine maintains a neutral alignment. The head is aligned with the spine, creating a straight line through the body.

Breath

To activate the muscles of the core, use the 3D breathing technique. Exhale to lift the abdominal muscles in and upward while creating internal tension within the abdominals. Inhale to stay strong in the exercise. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds.

Technique Tips

·        Slightly tuck the chin to draw the head back in line with the spine.

·        Keep the arms in a vertical line and avoid rounding the upper back.

·        Maintain the alignment of the spine, hips, and head.

·        Avoid lifting the hips or dropping the hips, creating an excessive curve in the low back.

·        Spread the fingers wide to disperse the weight through the hand.

·        Engage the muscles of the upper back and core to decrease the pressure on the wrists.

·        Keep the muscles of the legs firm to support the weight of the pelvis.

·        Lift the abdominal muscle toward the spine without changing the position of the spine.

Progressions and Modifications

·        To decrease the intensity, bend the knees to bring them to the floor.

·        To decrease wrist discomfort, place the forearms on the floor.

Mindfulness

Practice your fusion 3D breath technique to give you strength in this exercise.

Downward-Facing Dog

Starting Position

Assume a plank position, as described previously, with the hands under the shoulders, the legs straight, and the feet hip-width apart (see figure a). The body forms a straight line.

Action

From plank, move into a position that looks like an inverted V by lifting your hips toward the ceiling while moving the chest toward the legs (see figure b). At the top of the V, the arms are straight and the shoulder blades are drawn back and in to open the chest, and the heels are lowered toward the floor as far as they will go. The eyes look toward your thighs so that your head and neck stay in neutral alignment. Continue to press the thighbones back and lift the tailbone up, keeping the spine long as you open your chest.

Alignment

Avoid rounding the upper back and shifting the body weight onto the wrists. Keep the body weight moving into the legs.

Breath

Inhale to lift the hips into the pike position. Exhale to lower the heels toward the floor. Breathe naturally as you hold the position. Hold for three to five deep breaths.

Technique Tips

·        To decrease the amount of weight on the wrists, lift the hips and move the legs back.

·        Keep the legs active at all times by contracting the muscles to give you the sensation of the muscles wrapping around the bones.

·        It is more important to keep the arms fully extended and the chest open than it is to have the heels touch the floor.

Progressions and Modifications

·        To decrease discomfort in the wrist, spread the fingers wide and gently press the mound of each finger (where the finger attaches to the palm) down as you lift the palm up.

·        To decrease wrist discomfort, place the forearms on the floor. Bend the knees if the backs of the legs are tight.

Mindfulness

This exercise requires both strength and flexibility. Notice the sensation of stretching and strengthening in this exercise.

Standing

The standing exercises during the warming phase of the fusion workouts provide you an opportunity to become grounded, becoming aware of the positioning of the feet and activation of the leg muscles. The standing position in the warm-up is the foundation for all standing exercises in the fusion workouts.

Standing Forward Bend

Starting Position

Support your upper-body weight with your hands on the floor or on your thighs, depending on your hamstring flexibility. Place the feet approximately shoulder-width apart (see figure a) and the feet in a parallel position with the toes pointing forward.

Action

Gently straighten the legs, lifting the hips upward and moving the crown of the head toward the floor with the chin gently tucked. Press equally into all four corners of the feet to lift the hips upward and move the torso downward (see figure b).

Alignment

Keeping the legs active, lift the chest to lengthen the spine to create more length in the stretch.

Breath

Inhale to lift the hips upward. Exhale to fold the upper body toward the legs. Breathe naturally as you hold. Inhale to lift the chest and lengthen the spine from the hips. Exhale once again to bend into the stretch. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds.

Technique Tips

·        Keep the upper body supported with the hands on the floor or the thighs.

·        Think of lifting the tailbone toward the ceiling.

Progressions and Modifications

·        Bend the knees if the backs of the legs are tight.

·        If bending forward makes you dizzy, place the hands on the back of a chair to keep the head above the heart.

Mindfulness

Avoid holding your breath. Focus on a long exhalation to assist you into this stretch.

Mountain Pose With Arms Reaching

Starting Position

Start in a tall standing position, with feet together or slightly apart and arms by your side. The shoulders relax down and away from the ears and slightly back to open the front of the chest. The head should rest directly over the spine, with the tip of the nose pointed forward and the gaze straight ahead. The chin is tucked slightly.

Action

Raise the arms out to the side and then overhead (see figure). Lower them back to the sides.

Alignment

Keep the shoulders relaxed away from the ears as you bring the arms overhead.

Breath

Inhale to lift the arms overhead. Exhale to lower the arms. Repeat three to five times.

Technique Tips

·        Keep the shoulders relaxed and down as the arms lift overhead.

·        The spine and pelvis are in a neutral alignment.

Progressions and Modifications

·        Bend the elbows and keep the arms slightly in front of the head if the shoulders are tight.

·        Hold the arms down by your side or in a prayer position in front of the chest.

Mindfulness

Mountain pose is the foundation for all standing exercises. Focus on the feet and press them into the floor to create a sensation of lifting through the spine. Focus your attention on creating a tall posture and lengthening from the feet to the top of the head.

Mountain Pose With Side Bend

Starting Position

Start in a tall standing position. Feet are together or slightly apart and arms by your side. The shoulders are relaxed and down and away from the ears and slightly back to open the front of the chest. The head should rest directly over the spine, with the tip of the nose pointed forward, the gaze straight ahead, and the chin slightly tucked.

Action

Move the arms out to the side, bringing them overhead with the palms of the hands turned into the center, and bend to one side (see figure). Come back to the center and bend to the opposite side.

Alignment

Keep the shoulders relaxed and away from the ears as you bring the arms overhead.

Breath

Inhale to lift the arms overhead. Exhale to bend to the side and inhale to come back to the center. Exhale to go to the other side. Repeat three to five times on each side.

Technique Tips

·        Keep the shoulders relaxed and down as the arms lift overhead.

·        When bending to the side, keep the upper body straight and keep the movement lateral. Don’t bend forward or round the back.

Progressions and Modifications

·        Bend the elbows and keep the arms slightly in front of the head if the shoulders are tight.

·        Bring the hands together overhead for a greater stretch.

Mindfulness

Focus on the feet pressing equally into the floor as you bend to the side to create a lengthening of the side of the body.

Sun Salutation

The fusion sun salutation is based on the traditional yoga sun salutation, with additional movements and modifications to allow you to choose the version that’s best for you. The sun salutation links movements and breath together in a flow to create heat in the body. Each fusion sun salutation flow is progressively more challenging. Follow the guidelines for the number of repetitions of the fusion sun salutations to complete in the workouts described in Part III, Fusion Workout System.

Fusion Sun Salutation Flow 1

Mountain pose.

Mountain pose.

Inhale, arms overhead.

Inhale, arms overhead.

Exhale, hinge forward from the hips, bringing the hands to thighs. Inhale, extend the spine in a supported forward bend.

Exhale, hinge forward from the hips, bringing the hands to thighs. Inhale, extend the spine in a supported forward bend.

Exhale, fold into the legs.

Exhale, fold into the legs.

Inhale, stand up reaching the arms overhead.

Inhale, stand up reaching the arms overhead.

Exhale, lower the arms to the side.

Exhale, lower the arms to the side.

Fusion Sun Salutation Flow 2

Mountain pose.

Mountain pose.

Inhale, arms overhead.

Inhale, arms overhead.

Exhale, hinge forward from the hips into a forward bend with the hands coming to the shins, feet or floor.

Exhale, hinge forward from the hips into a forward bend with the hands coming to the shins, feet or floor.

Inhale, lengthen the spine from the hips to head.

Inhale, lengthen the spine from the hips to head.

Exhale, bend the knees and bring the hands to the floor and walk feet back to a plank position. Inhale and hold.

Exhale, bend the knees and bring the hands to the floor and walk feet back to a plank position. Inhale and hold.

Exhale, lift the hips to downward-facing dog (or child’s pose for modification). Hold for five deep breaths.

Exhale, lift the hips to downward-facing dog (or child’s pose for modification). Hold for five deep breaths.

Inhale, walk the feet to the hands. Exhale, fold forward, bringing the chest into the legs.

Inhale, walk the feet to the hands. Exhale, fold forward, bringing the chest into the legs.

Inhale, stand up while reaching the arms overhead.

Inhale, stand up while reaching the arms overhead.

Exhale, lower the arms to the side.

Exhale, lower the arms to the side.

Fusion Sun Salutation Flow 3

Mountain pose.

Mountain pose.

Inhale, reach the arms overhead.

Inhale, reach the arms overhead.

Exhale, hinge from the hips to a forward bend with the hands coming to the shins, feet on floor. Inhale, lengthen the spine.

Exhale, hinge from the hips to a forward bend with the hands coming to the shins, feet on floor. Inhale, lengthen the spine.

Exhale, bend the knees and bring the hands to the floor. Step one foot back and lower into a low lunge. Inhale, hold.

Exhale, bend the knees and bring the hands to the floor. Step one foot back and lower into a low lunge. Inhale, hold.

Exhale, step back to a plank. Inhale, hold.

Exhale, step back to a plank. Inhale, hold.

Inhale, step the other foot forward to a low lunge and hold.

Inhale, step the other foot forward to a low lunge and hold.

Exhale, step back to a plank. Inhale, hold.

Exhale, step back to a plank. Inhale, hold.

Exhale, lift the hips up to downward-facing dog (or child’s pose for modification). Take five deep breaths.

Exhale, lift the hips up to downward-facing dog (or child’s pose for modification). Take five deep breaths.

Inhale, walk or jump your feet to your hands. Exhale, fold into the legs.

Inhale, walk or jump your feet to your hands. Exhale, fold into the legs.

Inhale, stand up, bringing the arms overhead.

Inhale, stand up, bringing the arms overhead.

Exhale, lower the arms to the side.

Exhale, lower the arms to the side.