by Madeleine Brown
Who needs weights, yoga mats or a personal trainer when you’ve got textbooks, towels and a mirror? Okay, maybe they’re not exact equivalents, but they’re respectable substitutes. A little exercise even in your dorm room can make starting an assignment less daunting or settle your nerves before a test or exam. I’ve provided basic prompts for four exercises, images of which are all easily found online. That said if it hurts—not in the good way—reassess and ensure they’re right for your body and you’re following the proper form. You can check your alignment in the mirror, via a timed photograph or from an outside eye. In the latter case, put your roommate to use or get them exercising with you.
Child’s pose flow
Here’s where your towel can double as a yoga mat. Start slow and ease your body into movement flowing from child’s pose with your arms outstretched in front of you to hands and knees and finally back into downward dog. From downward dog you can repeat the sequence as many times as necessary until you feel settled and warm. Take your time and incorporate your breath, inhaling into table, exhaling into downward dog and so on. You may choose to return to this sequence after the three following exercises to cool down and chill out.
It’s likely the most hated of all exercises, but here’s why I at least put up with it: 1) it engages your whole body as well as your core and 2) unlike crunches you’re less likely to tense your neck and shoulders. These perks are key to a successful plank. Watch out for the following: your heels are over your ankles, your thighs are lifted towards the ceiling, your hips are strong, but your bum is in line with the rest of your body, your shoulders are over your wrists, your upper back is puffed up towards the ceiling and your head is in line with your spine. Start with your knees on the ground—without letting your upper body and core droop—for thirty seconds. Once you build strength increase your hold time by fifteen seconds and eventually lift your legs.
There’s no point strengthening your core and not your lower back. You’re asking for injury. Thankfully, superman’s—the exercise, not the superhero—to the rescue. Lie face down on the floor with your arms outstretched in front of you. Draw your shoulder blades together and engage your lower back. Then lift your upper body and arms off the floor, hold, lower and repeat. One to two sets of eight repetitions are usually a safe place to start, but feel it out according to how your body reacts. Your toes should be pressed into the ground enough to lift your knees off the floor and engage your legs.
Squats exercise your hamstring, quad, bum and hips in one move without any clunky equipment. Pretend to sit back into an invisible chair, keeping your knees over your ankles. Are your toes still visible over your knees? Then your alignment is likely bang-on. Once you’ve “sat,” hold and then return to standing. Repeat for a series of repetitions or until your legs are fatigued, but not walloped. You can extend your arms out in front of you at shoulder height or hold textbooks of similar weights in each hand for an extra challenge.