Stay young with stretching |

Stay young with stretching

Maureen Lamerdin, O.M.D.

Like a well-oiled machine, our bodies are capable of putting on thousands of miles when we care for them properly. Like a well-built machine, our body is made up of many individual parts moving together in a highly coordinated fashion.

The human body is comprised of a matrix of tissue all working cooperatively, which allows itself to do the most amazing feats. Part of this matrix includes over 900 ligaments, 4000 tendons, over 640 skeletal muscles and 206 bones. This is a highly complex machine that when we make sure all parts are lubed, nourished and tuned-up properly we have ourselves a great investment.

I have spoken much about the importance of a well-balanced diet, eating live foods as well as assuring your body gets proper sleep and keeping stress in check. Exercise is also a very important factor in assuring that your mind and body run for years to come. Many people complain that they don’t have the time to exercise between working, running kids to and from activities, cooking dinner and trying to get some sleep. A simple solution to this is to stretch. Even stretching 5 minutes a day consistently will ensure that your body does not turn into a tinman, like so many people feel as they age. For those people who already feel like a tinman, it’s not too late. Gentle stretches everyday will allow your body to come to life again. Most of time when people start out with 5 minutes, they somehow find more time, increasing it to 10 or 15 minutes. When we stretch we feel better, our joints become more lubricated and we are more likely to go for a walk, hike, or bike ride. We also become much more in-tune with our bodies, we start to feel where we are tight in certain areas and how we carry our bodies through the day or how we affect our bodies by sitting in various positions.

As with trying anything new, consistency is the key to making it stick. Start slow, perhaps while in your bed in a comfortable position get to know your body more by making gentle movements with your arms and legs. This then can lead to moving your hips from side to side and pulling your knees to your chest. Rotate your feet clockwise and counterclockwise, back and forth.

Stretches should be slow and controlled, advancing to the point where you feel some tension, but never pain. Any time you feel pain slowly back out of the stretch, check your body alignment and then try again. Pain would indicate that you are trying to stretch too far beyond where your muscle is capable of going at the moment, or that your body is out of alignment. Moving too quickly and forcing a stretch can lead to pulling or tearing tissue, which will lead to a setback. After a few weeks of consistent stretching your body will crave this daily routine and you will start to feel less pain and stiffness, more energy, endurance and a better sense of balance. This in turn will affect your mood and make for a happier you.

When you graduate from your bed and are able to stretch while standing or laying on the floor you can advance to moving your body deeper with sun salutations in yoga. There are also many on-going classes that can help support you in not feeling like a tinman, rather creating a stronger more flexible you!