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I feel better on days that I exercise—spend an hour in the gym, go for a jog in Riverside Park, indulge in a yoga flow class—than on days that I don’t. This is no surprise. I bet you share in my sentiment. And we all know why we respond well to a little physical labor: when we exercise, our body releases endorphins, our muscles stretch and release tension, our energy level increases. But, I’m convinced that my psyche—not just my body—plays a role in the freshness and fulfillment I feel on days when I take the time out of my day to exercise.

I know that exercise is good for me; I know that I’m supposed to exercise often. Thus, when I go for that late afternoon jog, I reap not only the physical benefits of my workout, but also the mental gratification of knowing I did something good for myself. Unfortunately, the converse is also true. On days when I spend more time exercising the speed and agility of my gchat-ing skills than my sun salutations, I go to bed with stiff limbs and a mild sense of disappointment in myself.

So, whats the solution? I could, of course commit to exercising everyday for at least an hour. But, the truth is, for me (and maybe for some of you), it’s not that easy. As busy Barnard students with avenue-long to-do lists, an hour at the gym is not always the top priority, even when we know how good it makes our minds and bodies feel. So, how is it possible to go to bed with loose limbs and a sense of self-worth when you did not have the time in your hectic day to practice 60 minutes of flow yoga?

An idea struck me as I was impatiently waiting for the elevator in my dorm the other evening. I was thinking about everything I had to before bed and how I just wasn’t going to make it to yoga at 8PM, when inspiration hit. I dropped my purse, bent at the hips, sunk my back towards the ground, and touched my toes. Ahhh. As I stretched, I forgot about my annoyance with the elevator and annoyance with myself for skipping yoga while also loosening my hamstrings and calf muscles. For the rest of the evening, I stretched every time I had to wait for the elevator.

Below, you’ll find Elevator Stretching, and 4 other 5 minute (or less) wellness exercises that you can insert into even the busiest of Barnard days. If you don’t have time for that hour-long jog, see how many of these you can work into your schedule, so that you can end your day with peace of both body and mind.

Elevator Stretching

You probably get the gist already, but this one is for any time you find yourself waiting for the elevator. Pick a standing stretch that you can easily slide into and hold it for the entire time you’re waiting for the lift. My favorite is a toe touch—described above—but you can also stretch your upper body with a shoulder stretch or simple neck circles. You could also go up to the wall beside the elevator, prop a foot up, and stretch your calf. If you live on a high floor in your dorm like I do, by the end of the day, you should have some really loose limbs!

Elevator Strength training

Now that your muscles are stretched, give them a good workout once inside the elevator. Elevators are great places for stationary lunges or wall sits, because they provide a set time interval. So walk in, take your position, feel the burn, walk out, and continue on your day!

*This one is best if you’re alone in the elevator (for both modesty and courtesy’s sake), but if you’ve got no shame and aren’t infringing on anyone’s personal space, strength train away!

Forget the elevator—take the stairs!

As a psych major, I have tons of classes on the third and fourth floors of Milbank. Some days, I’ll commit to taking the stairs to my classes and appointments in Milbank all day long. Try picking one building on campus where you frequent the higher floors, and walk to and fro all day long. (You can save the elevator wellness activities for your dorm). Who knows, you may just go to bed with a pleasantly sore bum!

Be One With Your Breath

Wellness is not just about working your muscles. Sometimes you need to relax them. Try this breathing meditation activity to release anxiety, recommended by Yoga Journal writer Richard Rosen, in his article, “Inhale, Exhale, Relax.” Lie down on the floor with your legs straight out and your arms by your sides, a few inches from your body. Concentrate on your breathing. Inhale and exhale at your normal rate, counting, in your head, the number of seconds in each breath in and out. To reduce stress, Rosen recommends “gradually and deliberately” lengthening each exhale. So, if your normal exhale lasts 5 seconds, lengthen it to 6 for a few breath cycles, then 7, until you find a comfortable length.

5-Minute Dance Party

This one is my favorite. Reward yourself every time you finish a page of a paper, a problem on a problem set, a chapter in your text book with a 5 minute dance party in your room. Put togther or short playlist, or just pick a ballad you can boogie down to. My favorite? “Gin and Juice,” by The Gourds.

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