by Kim MacKenzie President, The Body Archer®
Getting older can be rough. Getting older with chronic pain is a lot rougher. But, the worst feeling is being mentally young when your stiff body feels fifty years older. So, how can we keep our bodies feeling (and looking) young, even as we age?
As you age, your muscles become shorter and tighter, making your body more prone to joint, tendon, and muscle injuries. Even if you’re not a fitness fanatic, stretching should still be a part of your life. Joints need to stay lubricated and motion is lotion for the joints. If we are not actively stretching our bodies, our joints can become inflamed, painfully stiff, and deformed. Our bodies then suffer from the effects of bad posture and we sometimes even cause arthritis to form or to grow worse.
When we don’t stretch, our muscles become tight. They lose their elasticity and, consequently, we tend to use them less. This then causes even more tightness and weakness in the muscles, which leads to even more disuse. It’s a vicious cycle that will cause a lot more stiffness and pain as we age.
The moral of the story… Stretch. Stretch to save your body from breaking as you age!
Stretching not only prevents muscle and joint injury as you get older, it can also help you relieve stress and muscle tension. In our fast-paced world, keeping stress at a minimum is key to preventing our bodies from aging prematurely. When we’re under stress, our hearts beat faster, our muscles tighten, our breath shortens, and our senses become sharper… but only for a brief period of time. The long term effects of stress can wreak havoc on our bodies, causing symptoms ranging from memory loss and irritability to chronic aches and pains, frequent colds, eczema, constipation or diaharrea, and heart disease.
Taking a break to stretch can help us prevent breaking ourselves with stress.
When we slow down to stretch, we give our bodies a chance for that very important, basic function… breathing. Deep breathing oxygenates our muscles, calms our nerves, and helps our bodies relax. This increases blood flow to our muscles, allowing them to recover, whether it’s from a tough workout or a tough day at the office.
Slow down. Stretch. Take five to ten minutes (at least) every day to focus on your breathing and on your body. Inhale through your nose to filter out all the dust and impurities from the air. Also, inhaling through your nose helps regulate the air temperature and humidity for your lungs. Feel your breath flow into your diaphram and your abdomen as you stretch deeply. Then, exhale through your mouth. Your exhaling should be slower than your inhaling because longer exhaling will allow your body to relax more fully into the stretches.
Be sure to stretch your whole body. Here are three amazing full body stretches that will keep both your mind and your body feeling young and spry.
Full Back Body Arch Stretch
Intention: Full Body Stretch, Spine Stretch, Spine Flexibility, Relaxation
Primary Muscular Focus: Spine Flexibility, Core, Chest, and Psoas Muscles
- Sit on one of the rocking edges of The Body Archer, about 4-5 inches away from the rocking edge, with your feet firmly planted on the floor and your knees bent.
- Inhale, tuck your pelvis and slowly roll your back onto The Body Archer, making sure that your spine is comfortably conforming to the curve of The Body Archer, keeping your knees bent.
- Press your feet into the floor, rocking The Body Archer backward to deepen the stretch.
- Let your arms dangle behind your head.
- Hold the stretch and breathe for a minimum of 10 long breaths. The more you relax, the better the stretch!
Low Back Arch Stretch with Neck Stretch
Intention: Spine Stretch, Lower Back Stretch, Neck Stretch, Relaxation
Primary Muscular Focus: Spinal Extensors, Cervical Vertebrae, Latissimus Dorsi, Spine Flexibility
WARNING: Those with herniated & bulging discs should avoid this stretching exercise.
- Place your stomach on the center of The Body Archer allowing your body to relax over the arch.
- Move your upper body toward the rocking edge of The Body Archer tucking your chin under the lip of that edge, allowing your legs to dangle, and keeping your toes untucked.
- Hold, and breathe for at least 8-10 long, deep breaths, relaxing into the deep lower back stretch.
- Then, untuck your chin and slowly slide your stomach down the curve of The Body Archer, until your knees touch the floor. Carefully roll your spine upright.
NOTE: To prevent a rush of blood to the head or dizziness, do not sit up or slide off too quickly.
Full Side Body Arch Stretch
Intention: Full Body Stretch, Hip Stretch, Relaxation Exercise
Primary Muscular Focus: External Obliques, Internal Obliques, Core, Intercostals, Shoulder Stabilizers, Spinal Extensors, Psoas, Multifidus Muscles
- Lying on The Body Archer sideways, with your hip directly in the center of the arch, place your hand on floor to stabilize, with your legs stacked and your body straight.
- Press your bottom leg into the floor and reach your top arm overhead while reaching the top leg long to stretch your entire side body. Your bottom arm can relax and dangle, if comfortable.
- Then, place your top leg behind your bottom leg on the floor, keeping your top leg straight and your foot planted, allowing your back to slightly arch backwards in the side stretch, stretching the front of your hips, and your hip flexors.
- Hold for at least 10 long breaths.
- Slowly place your hands on the top of The Body Archer, in front of the body, and press up to seated position, or slide off The Body Archer toward your feet.