Friday, October 31, 2008

Stand or Sit?

A lot of folks ask me if its better to stand or sit when stretching. Well, it depends. Lets look at stretching the hamstrings and low back. If you sit, your upper body can be more relaxed, but at the same time, if you are really tight, you won't stretch much. In the lower photo with my back straight, you will probably improve your stretch more if you stay seated on the ground. If your back is curved, as in the upper photo, you may help the stretch more if you stand with your feet together, and let your body hang. Using your body weight to help you stretch is fine provided you don't have any back pain. Why? If you have back pain, it may help to hang over your legs, but when you contract your back muscles to stand up, you may further injure yourself.

So, assess whether you are stretching to alleviate tight muscles or back pain. If tight muscles, really, either way is fine, standing might help you more. If you have back pain, sit and stretch only. The increased feeling of stretch you get will not outweigh any exacerbation of your pain.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

But I Don't Want To!!!

Many times, when we stretch, our body is resistant. The muscles that have tightened from daily repetition of activities does not want to cooperate. If it did willingly, we would all be circus performers, Olympic gymnasts or yoga instructors. So often the body says "But I don't want to!" in regards to stretching.

That's ok. As my Teacher once (maybe twice!) told me, if there is something you don't want to do, that is reason enough to do it. Obviously, in the case of a tight muscle, its tight for a reason, and if it does not hurt already, it is going to. So, taking the "bull by the horns" and insisting on stretching when your body says "no way", you go a long way to undoing what life has a tendency to do to human bodies.

Now insisting on stretching does not mean vigorously forcing a muscle to do what it can't. It means going about your stretching program anyway, with great attention to detail (see and seeing your results in time. You will be glad you did.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fitness that counts

One of the ideas my Teacher passed onto me was the idea that fitness cannot be onesided. To really be healthy, and live a life as painfree as possible, there needs to be a balance between aerobic fitness, flexibility, and strength. Many people focus on one, perhaps two, of those components. To really experience health, try adding some "missing" training to your routine!

Aerobic conditioning keeps your heart and circulatory system in top notch condition. It promotes sweating to rid the body of toxins, and elevates levels of endorphins to help you feel good.

Flexibility training helps to elongate your muscles, prevent injuries by allowing greater ranges of motion, strengthens tendon attachments in eccentric contractions, and relaxes the mind/body connection.

Strength training maintains or builds the contractile power of your muscles, keeps muscles balanced in power from left to right and front to back, which plays a large role in injury prevention. Strength training with weights done properly attracts calcium to bones, and is essential to prevent osteoporosis in women.

Also, if you ever get injured (like when I broke my arm), you can at least do one or two of the components (ie, stretch and lift, aerobic conditioning and stretch) while you are recovering. Such a program will speed your recovery as well, bring fresh blood to tissues that need to heal.

Back to bloggin'

Greetings. I know its been months since I last posted a blog, however, it has been a longer road to recovery than I planned. Two weeks ago, my mom with alzheimers, passed away. I have been caring for her as well, so time was at a premium for me.

My plan is to outline my recovery, and detail what stretches helped for what issues. Maybe some ideas can help others.