Get this, folks, Inside of your bod there are 230 joints and roughly 701 muscles. That’s 931 opportunities for movement! Think about your day. You get out of bed, ( I hope you stretch!) walk, stand, get dressed, brush your teeth, maybe drive your car walk a bit more and then go sit at a desk. Ok, so you’ve used joints and muscles in your legs, hips, feet, hands, back, mmm maybe a little bit, and then you are stationary for hours. Is this what you were built for? Actually that’s a hard “No.” Your body gets achy from too much sedentary time. It might gain weight or get dysfunctional even. Maybe you got a standing desk? Good move! Since “they” -meaning the medical community- now call sitting the “new smoking” -meaning it’s just as detrimental to your health- this should tell us that we need to keep moving these miraculous machines. My father has seen too many of his relatives move into assisted living facilities where suddenly their world becomes too small and much too sedentary. Previously active and vigorous people end up in wheelchairs. They decline cognitively and experience markedly rapid physical decline. This has saddened him and has inspired him, at the age of 87, to continue working out at his gym three times week. “Use it or lose it” is his life-enhancing motto and we should all take a page from his book of wisdom. You don’t have to be able to put your feet behind your head, be skinny or even do headstands to stay fit. Just walk, twist, lift some little weights, swim, bike, do sit-ups during TV commercials – whatever feels best to you. Challenge your body as much as your doctor says it’s ok to challenge. Give it a bit more today than it took yesterday. Just move. Every blessed day. Your body will thank you for it and probably last a bit longer and that’s really good news for everybody who likes having you on planet.
This evening Kathy was up for a challenge to test her strength and stamina and also to explore plank deeply to find her best plank. Here is what she found:
“When I pressed back into my heels and down on my fingers it eased some of the strain in my arms. It also helped if I kept my elbows from locking. Pressing back in the heels made it easier to keep my core muscles engaged.”
TIPS: Hips staying in line helps keep the core muscles firing too. Soften the elbows if your elbow joints feel strain and press into the fingers and thumbs.
As winter starts to wrap itself around us I thought we might appreciate a look back/forward. Here are some images of light and heat and the Mother Ocean. What better way to practice than warmed by the sun’s heat and the sand?
Try this plank with knee drop to tone and strengthen your core. From all fours, move into a plank with hands splayed and fingers pressing into the mat. Press back through your heels to distribute weight more evenly between arms and legs. Without dropping your hips, lower your knees to the floor and then straighten your knees again. Exhaling as you lower the knees and inhale as you straighten. Repeat this until you feel the deep work happening in your core.
This pose is the counter-pose for, setu bandhasana, the bridge pose. In Bridge we squeeze the throat in a deep forward bend, massaging the thyroid and lengthening the neck muscles. In Fish the throat and thyroid are opened along with the chest in a nice back-bending pose.
To achieve this pose: Lie on your back with legs together and enough muscle activity to keep the knees pointing up. Place your hands, palms down, under your body with wrists together and elbows straight. On an inhalation, press your elbows down into the mat and lift your body off the floor. You can bring your head back and rest on the crown or the back- whichever is best for your neck. Hold for 5-8 breaths or half the time you held the bridge. Rest in savasana (relaxation on your back) pose before moving on.
It may take a few tries to get off the ground but the benefits of this pose are well worth the effort. Enjoy!
Bridge pose is therapeutic in several areas of the body. It is a supported back-bending pose, an extreme forward fold to lengthen the neck and massage the thyroid as well as a shoulder opener. It especially tones the back body and thighs.
Lying on your back bring your feet in close to your body. Tighten your abdominal muscles to draw the tailbone off the floor. Press your heels down into the floor and slowly peel your spine up off the floor. You’ll feel the gluteal muscles and hamstrings engaging as you lift and hold. Stay 5-8 breaths and slowly lower down letting each back bone touch the mat as you uncurl. Repeat and rest in flat on your back in savasana or other relaxation pose.
Sage’s Twist is a lovely way to unwind the spine, wring out tension, breathe in length and correct imbalances in the back. Sit on your knees, padding under you ankles if needed for comfort. Slide over to one side. Inhale to lengthen the spine, exhale and use the core and abdominal muscles to move you into the twist. Then support with one hand on your knee and the other arm like a second spine behind you. Inhale to settle into the pose and exhale the head and eyes around to continue the twist if comfortable. To deepen the twist in a healthy back try pressing the front knee away from your body as you exhale.
From all fours exhale firmly, lifting the belly up towards your spine. Draw one knee in toward your chest and then, with the lower leg relaxed, extend your leg behind you. Hold the leg out or keep moving it in and out with your breath. You should feel muscle activity in your gluteal and upper thigh. To challenge your balance, add the opposite arm, lifting it as your leg extends. This can help balance and strengthen the muscles in your back. Try 8 repetitions on each side and then rest in child’s pose.
This feel-good pose is wonderful for relaxation, lower back release, digestive massage and surrender. Widen legs apart if it feels tight. Inhale kneeling to lengthen your spine and fold forward. Rest on your forehead or hairline if your nose smashes. Breathe deeply and soften as you exhale. Focus on the movement of your breath as it gently presses your belly into your thighs. Allow yourself time to become restful.
If the variation above is uncomfortable try stacking blankets or a firm pillow. Open the knees a bit and place the bolster or blankets between your knees. Inhale kneeling to lengthen your spine and fold forward. Soften as you exhale and enjoy your rest.
Yoga for better health, better birthing and better life!