As we get a little bit older, we start to lose our flexibility (especially if we are not as mobile as we used to be.) Remember the days when you were playing softball and soccer or you would take that occasional jog or bike ride with your best friends? Well, now you seem to be sitting behind a desk most of the day or behind a steering wheeling driving the kids to and from school. Unfortunately, we have gotten a little more sedentary over the years. It's about time for a good stretch!
As you've heard, going to a yoga class will help you regain your flexibility. The certified instructor guides the class through various yoga poses that not only help with a more bendy body, but you'll gain strength, endurance, stamina, and the list goes on. This all sounds very appealing, but let's go back to stretching for a moment. No one wants to be shuffling along in those prime years as the sand continues to fall through the proverbial hourglass. In order to slow down some of those natural aging processes, some specific stretches can help rewind the hands on the clock.
At home, you may want to try simple seated forward fold stretches to help lengthen out your hamstrings and low back. These stretches can also be done standing; gently fold forward toward your toes. (Can't touch your toes? That's ok...as long as feel a stretch in your legs then you're on the right track. Hips can also get really tight, especially when there's a lot of sitting; they need to be stretched regularly to maintain functional mobility throughout the entire body. The hips and pelvis hold our torso and legs in place, and it's these parts of the body that we move the most. Sitting tall on the floor, with knees bent and the bottoms of your feet touching, creates a wonderful and effective release in the hips that will keep you high-stepping when you hit the pavement. You'll find that with a freedom in your hips, you're able to take longs strides as you walk or run. In addition to that, your upper body will remain strong and upright and with great ability to twist and bend. Both of these simple stretches don't take very long either. In a matter of minutes (3-5 perhaps) you can have a full stretching regime that will only produce long lasting effects. Start with these exercises two or three times a week. (We know you're busy out there, so you'll want to ease into this new routine gradually so you are guaranteed to have a success and be motivated to continue.)
Sometimes, though, stretching on your own can be limiting; your body can only go so far when you sit in a forward fold, for example. An assisted stretch can be highly helpful as you move toward your intended goals of greater flexibility. While seated in that same seated forward fold, have your yoga instructor, or even a friend, gently press you down. The added pressure and weight will help you move deeper into the posture. The key is to go very slowly and to take deep breaths. If you move too quickly into these postures (whether assisted or by yourself) you may end up stressing or harming the body. These practices take time, patience, and consistency. It's important to take your time so that your body responds to these new movements in a positive way.
Try some of the easy stretches this week. Better yet, grab a friend and stretch together; help each other out with some assisted stretching, too. And don't forget that yoga class!