The cheapest piece of exercise equipment you probably aren’t using

I keep getting tempted to buy exercise gadgets. For example, we’ve been watching House of Cards, and while I am learning lots about journalism and politics, I am also fascinated by Frank Underwood’s fancy rowing machine, with the water turbine and everything? So cool. Also, fabulously expensive.  And metaphorical…


Other fitness toys I have been tempted by include the feet up trainer, a cushioned shoulder stool which helps practice headstands, which appears to only be available in Europe, and the yoga wheel, which I’m supposed to be able to drape myself over for backbends, and a ballerina stretchy strap, so that I can passively get my straddle wider, , allowing the stretchy strap to slowly abduct my inner thighs, so that I can side kick higher.

However, the cheapest, most accessible piece of exercise equipment I already have is my floor.

When I sit on the floor to binge-watch House of Cards (my daughter points out that it sounds better to say “marathon” a show, rather than binge-watch) I move into and out of many of the same positions I would be doing in an exercise class.

I can squat down low enough to lower myself all the way to the ground, or go into a lunge, then get to my knees. Either of those would be completely acceptable moves in a group exercise setting.  There is also the undignified slide off the couch, which you probably won’t see in a class, but it works to get you to the floor.

Sitting with my legs crossed is known in Sanskrit as sukhasana. That “sukha” root is the same root as sugar- this position is supposed to feel “sweet’. There are a lot of people for whom it isn’t sweet- if you have tight hips, this pose feels terrible. sitting on a pillow, or placing pillows or yoga blocks under your knees to support them, can help until you get stronger. Even if your hips aren’t tight, your circulation can get cut off, and one or both of your legs can fall asleep.

That just is a signal to move- what about legs straight out in front of you- back straight up and down for Staff Pose, or Dandasana. Lots of variations for this, and you can fold one leg in to the opposite thigh for a stretch, then switch, cross one leg over, twist, then switch, as you watch Frank and Clair, and secretly worry that Freddie the Barbecue guy is going to get killed because he knows too much. Wait, what?! Don’t spoil anything, I’m still on season 1! I hope Freddie the barbecue guy comes out ok…

Sitting on your heels, called Vajrasana in Sanskrit, is agony for some. It isn’t quite agony for me, but I do get that signal to change positions that I mentioned before. I can move from sitting just on my heels to spreading out my lower legs and putting my feet on the outside of my hips, with my bum on the floor.  Intellectually, I know that the “full expression” of this pose will help loosen up my tight thighs, knees and groin muscles. I just can’t do it yet. I put a yoga block in between my feet, and rest my bum on that, or I use a cushion.  I read a book once where the author had used a Denver metro phone book as a prop, and each day ripped out a page, until she was flexible enough to get to the floor. That seems like it would take a long time.

So, after binge-watching (oops, I mean marathoning (yeah, that does sound better)) for a while, I have to get up again, for a bathroom run, or to refill my iced tea, or both, and starting from the knees is a good way to get up. Moving into a low lunge, and standing up that way is effective, or coming to tabletop, then curling toes under and standing from there.  Someday I’d like to be able to get up hands-free, and I’ve been working on it a while.  Our head teacher at Taekwondo goes from knees to squat to standing with ease, no grunting, no hands. Life goals. I worked on it in the back yard today…

So, I need to work on that ab strength, obviously, but you didn’t hear me grunting, so that’s good.



Leave a Reply