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How to stretch properly

Yoga stretch

Imagine waking up and feeling like you did 20 years ago. No aches and pains, no stiff joints. Just fluid movement in every part of your body. Well, would you believe me if I told you, that it’s not an impossible dream? And no, it’s not your age that’s standing in your way. In fact that only plays a small part in the process of losing mobility. So what is it then? Why do we grow old inside our bones, joints and muscles?

Largely it has to do with our lifestyle. If you’re spending 8 hours a day in a chair, the body begins to adapt for chair living. Collagen is laid down only where it is needed, but in a chair the body mainly needs collagen in the hip flexors, making the fronts of the hips tight and the butt muscles very weak. This is often the cause of lower back problems and knee issues. When on
digital devices, the head doesn’t stack over the shoulders and the chin protrudes, causing pain in the upper back and neck. And the shoulders roll forward and internally rotate, rarely moving into external rotation, creating imbalances that are incredibly uncomfortable.

As a yoga teacher it’s my job to help people stay mobile and agile and for the above NOT to happen to your body!

But I’m a yoga teacher with a twist because I am also a trained physiotherapist!

Therefore, everything I share I first look for evidence that can back up my claims. So I did my regular geek fest strategy, reading paper upon paper. However, I was shocked into silence (a rare event for me), when I started to understand how passive stretching has no scientific basis, and is entirely ineffective. You can imagine my shock; my livelihood is based on being a
yoga teacher that puts people in poses that are primarily, passive stretches. So what else does the research say about staying mobile and limber into ripe old age? Is there any hope?

The good news is that there is a lot you can do to stay mobile. Here are my favourite tips to make stretching more effective than ever!

  1. There is only one thing that the research is unanimous about, and that is to have healthy joints they need to MOVE! That’s right, every single joint in your whole body has to move as big as possible as many times as possible. I don’t have time to walk around doing giant shoulder circles, so I tend to wake up and as soon as my feet hit the floor I start to move all my joints, from my head to my feet, one by one.
  2. Tissue quality is a major factor in sustaining a healthy body, and it’s simpler than you realise. Sleep and diet play a huge role in keeping your tissue soft and mobile. But another way to introduce more hydration into your tissues is to massage the. Don’t worry, you don’t have to spend all your savings on a therapist. Buy a foam roller and while watching Breaking Bad, roll around your living room floor.
  3. Myofacial pathways are a fancy way of saying your body has bits connected that all relate to each other. If passive stretching is your jam, try and stretch the pathways and not just individual muscles on their own. Three good ones to start with are the back body (called the superficial back chain), the front body (superficial front line) and the side body (lateral line). It’s worth jumping on google and looking these up as there are loads of cool stretches you can do that target the chains and make the body move with more fluidity. But if ever you’re stuck do these three:
    • a. Foreward fold
    • b. Backbend
    • c. Side Stretch

Age is NOT the enemy, it’s a lack of movement in a variety of directions. The people who don’t move, age faster! Keep moving in loads of directions and with strength. Take up dynamic yoga, rock climbing, dancing or anything that makes you move out of a chair position and into your fullest potential.

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