As babies we effortlessly lie on our backs, grab our feet and suck on our toes and smile. Fast forward a decade or two later and it's a very different story.
what happened? I just have to look at my son and I know exactly what happened. Starting soccer at the age of 4 was the beginning of his transformation from a flexible toddler into a rigid teenager who complains about sore muscles from head to toe. Of course those kids stretch at the end of practice but not nearly enough to maintain souple healthy muscles. My son is not alone.
Many people join yoga with the intention of gaining flexibility, to compensate for a lifestyle that stiffens the body .... but not beyond repair! The belief that you are either flexible or not, is completely untrue but it takes work and patience to increase and maintain flexibility.
The same is true for girls and boys who do not practice any sports. I was a chubby little girl who preferred playing with Barbies than doing any form of physical activity. I remember my mother signing me up at our local ballet and all I could see were skinny girls doing the splits. I felt like an elephant in a porcelain shop and I rapidly returned to my skinny Barbies!
when I started getting into sports, I ran and a lot and did very little stretching afterwards. I wasn't getting any closer to those splits I can tell you.
I began stretching at the age of 40. Fast forward ten years and I am extremely happy with my freedom of movement. Freedom is what I feel as my body rids itself from the stiffness accumulated over the years.
Our society focuses on building muscle and increasing heart rate but having healthy muscles means they are strong AND flexible....elastric not bulky and hard.
As I teach young and older to stretch successfully, I have put a set of guidelines to help.
Not everyone will want to suck their toes again but everyone can touch their toes!
The Art of Stretching:
Did you know...
“Any prolonged negative mental state will inevitably weaken your body. And by the time you see physical symptoms, you’ve probably held that state of being for quite some time.”
In other words...
So your mental health is closely tied to the your physical health. Your mind can zap your energy and do a lot more harm. It is frankly quite distressing to realize the depth of physical and emotional problems triggered by the brain.
And now what?
As part of my advanced yoga teacher studies, I researched the matter. I did not exclude the medical field in my search but I found a general lack of agreement between doctors, readings were confusing and more importantly not a single solution was mentioned...well other than pills!
Yoga, on the other hand, describes really well how energetic blockages present in our body's energy centers manifests into physical and emotional symptoms. Not surprisingly as YOGA is the union of the MIND-BODY. Great, so why cover the matter again?
Keep It Simple! For the novice amongst us, you can get lost in translation (quite literally too with the common use of Sanskrit) and piecing cause, effect and fixes together was harder than it should be for such valuable health information.
So without reinventing the wheel, I put together a quick reference to help you identify which physical and emotional problems are associated and which yoga poses will help eliminate the symptoms.
It's not a quick fix pill with lots of side effects, it's a benefits only list definitely worth the time you will spend! If you are not familiar with yoga poses, I recommend talking with a yoga instructor for proper alignment and demonstration of the poses.
Get your energy back guide!
1st energy center (chakra):
2nd energy center:
3rd energy center:
4th energy center:
5th energy center:
6th energy center:
7th energy center:
So your hips divide and unite the lower and upper part of your body and with such a huge role to play in our mobility, we ought to give them all the TLC in the world.
You bend down because your hips allow it, you lift your legs because your hips permit it...but....
A study performed by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota (the first in the US to perform total hip replacement), tells us that 2.5 Million Americans underwent hip replacement in 2010 alone with women leading this study. And that number is growing....
Not surprisingly, keeping the hip joints 'oiled' is the way to go to prevent getting stiffness associated with osteoarthritis, the leading reason for hip replacement in the first place.
When you walk into a yoga class, and the teacher asks the students what would you like to focus on during the practice? 9/10 times students respond "HIPS" (a close runner up is lower back which I'll cover next). Our growing sedentary lives is causing a problem to our hips.
SO LET'S GET MOVING....I practice yoga every day and the first part of my body that gets my attention are my hips...Anyone of my teachers will tell you "Nathalie is always to be found in FROG pose at the start of class"...Yep. It feels soooooo good....OK give it a few tries at least...
Here are my favorite hips openers from easy to slightly less easy...
Video 1: Frog Pose (left)
Important notes: Using pads for your knees and being on a wooden floor allows your knees to slide sideways as you relax into the pose rather than pulling on the knee cap.
Make sure the knee and foot are at 90 Degree angles, press the upper body back rather than forward...you will feel the difference.
Video 2: Glute Max stretch (Runners stretch) Left video
Keep your back straight and press on blocks (or books) to facilitate the pelvic tilt. Try and get your upper body and close to your foot as possible and your knee pushing forward.
Video 3: hamstring and hip flexor stretch (lower right video)
Use a slippy surface and knee/foot pads (you'll notice I use bra pads!) and start sliding your feet apart. The blocks help me keep my shoulders stacked on top of my shoulders. Keep the movement fluid and stay within the range of motion that feels challenging but good. Step by step...
Feel free to contact me for more, Namaste :)
If you have tight hip flexors, thighs and stomach muscles, it is going to be hard to do any kind of back-bend and as a result you will probably end up painfully scrunching your lower back in attempting to bend backwards. In fact, if your entire front body is tight, your back will suffer.
So why bother do back-bends at all? Having a flexible spine translates to so many health benefits, it's silly to deny ourselves the positive side-effects of a regular stretching practice,
After having spent 20 years working in the corporate sector, spending hours sitting & slouching in front of my computer, I felt stiff, suffered from chronic shoulder and lower back pain and walked like an old woman! I visited my chiropractor on a weekly basis, spent time hanging upside down on an inversion table and went to have regular massages to relieve back tension. The relief was short lived. One day I woke up with a sciatica to add to my suffering. That was the time I decided to take my back into my own hands. Not only has my back pain vanished completely but I increased my energy and have an amazing posture as a consequence.
Here are some of the excerises I do daily:
=-The yoga wheel used here will help you stretch those muscles. By bringing the wheel between your legs and comfortably placing it at the top of buttock on the sacrum then lying down on it for at least 5 long breaths but preferably 10, as you try and relax the front of your body.
Another good hip flexor stretch is by placing your knee as close to the wall as possible and leaning back towards the wall pressing with the opposite foot. Lengthen and flatten your spine by tilting your pelvis down and forward. This will increase the stretch in the hip flexors. If you are comfortable maintaining this pose with your toes flat against the wall, try curling your toes under as I am doing in the video below.