Usually ‘stretched to the max’ brings negative connotations of excessive stress, burdens, responsibilities, obligations and pressure on us. Between dealing with work, family, relationships, finances, etc. we often feel our jaws tightening, our fists clenching and our bodies tensing, as if we’re constantly trying to brace for and buffer what life throws at us.
When our muscles tighten and tense they compress. Over time this gradual muscular compression can impact our skeletal structure, our internal organs and how everything from food and liquids to energy flows through us.
Think for a minute about our pets. Whether a dog, cat, bird or bunny; upon waking what do animals instinctively do? They stretch. Why? To realign their skeletal/muscular structure and their internal organs ever so slightly to where they should be. The process they go through takes less than 10 seconds and releases knots, kinks and twists that may have occurred while sleeping.
As instinctual as it is, we humans generally don’t go through this simple process. We leap out of bed (or roll out), and our feet hit the ground running as we launch ourselves into another hectic day.
When was the last time you just calmly put your arms up over your head and stretched, bent forward and tried to touch your toes, or just laid on your stomach with head propped on hands to watch a tv show – like you did as a child? How long ago was it? Add gravity’s natural pull to this and voila…compression!
How many of you have gone to the doctor for that annual physical, been weighed and measured and thought to yourself, wait, I used to be half an inch taller. Overall structural shrinkage is normal as we age, but compression can cause issues from compressed discs in our spines, and gastrointestinal kinks and twists, right down to that dull stress headache you seem to have by 2:30pm many days at the office.
Imagine being able to hold a ‘mini you’ between your thumb and index finger. Now imagine compressing ‘you’ ever so slightly, like you would delicately squish a gummy bear.
Your skeletal structure would compress, your organs would have to find space somewhere and would shift out of their normal position and the body falls out of alignment.
Imagine trying to push food through that bunched up digestive system. However, if you stretched that ‘mini you’ back out to original shape and size, everything would realign into place again and everything would flow smoothly through your system as it’s meant to.
What if ‘stretched to the max’ became your positive powerful way to help minimize the impact those ‘stretched to the max’ negative stresses have on you; while boosting your health and well- being at the same time?
Could something as simple as consistently keeping your physical bodies stretched and aligned properly be a major contributing factor to overall health?
Just by introducing a simple daily stretching routine into their lives, over the years I’ve had:
• A man with constant indigestion no longer need medication just because stretching for a few minutes daily morning and night was enough to regularly expend that excess gas from his gut.
• A woman with scoliosis had her doctor ask what she was doing since her last visit six weeks earlier because her back was noticeably straighter and her body overall was more aligned. She had begun a daily stretching routine.
• People with chronic insomnia were suddenly sleeping soundly through the night when they took a few minutes to stretch and release pent up tension before tucking in.
• A man in his early 80’s ask me to watch what he could now do for the first time since his teens, as he bent forward and placed his palms flat on the floor in front of him while keeping his legs straight. He commented that his daily golf game had improved significantly as well because of his increased flexibility.
• A woman who had fought depression for years suddenly felt optimistic and excited about each day once she started doing a simple stretching routine first thing in the morning.
• Even a woman with weight issues shed 3 belt sizes of weight in a 3-week time-frame and happily complain to me that she needed to buy new pants because nothing fit properly anymore. All because of regular daily stretching.
The list of health successes I’ve heard from minor to critical goes on and on, those are just a few simple examples.
To maximize the benefits of stretching, breathe as slowly and deeply as possible while you’re stretching. Scientific research has proven that oxygenating our bodies actually contributes to burning fat while stimulating and energizing every cell and tissue in our bodies.
Medically, any exercise including simple stretching, engages the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex areas of your brain, which are the areas connected to pleasure/gratification and thinking/memory. Endorphins, adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine, are also released during exercise, creating an overall sense of emotional contentedness and optimism – a natural high.
The physical benefits of stretching include:
• A more fully oxygenated system
• More deeply relaxed muscles
• More properly aligned skeletal structure
• Internal organs free of ‘bunching up’, kinks, and twists so foods and liquids flow through effectively to nourish our bodies properly
The mental/emotional benefits include:
• Greater, sharper memory and cognitive skills
• Improved mood
• Reduced depression
• Overall sense of optimism and well-being
Here is a 6-step simple stretch to get you started – total stretching time 2 minutes.
• Make sure you only stretch to your point of resistance so you don’t overextend yourself initially
• Hold each position of this stretch for a full 10 seconds
• Breathe (yes, inhale and exhale) as deeply as possible
• Come out of the position as you went into it for maximum stretch
• Repeat once (or more if you’re feeling energetic)
As you’re breathing through each 10-second position, you’ll feel your muscles relaxing. When this occurs, stretch just a wee bit further and continue breathing deeply through the count of 10.
Remember your total stretching time is only 2 minutes. Imagine devoting 2 minutes in the morning and 2 minutes at night to your own health and well-being! You’re absolutely worth that 4 minutes a day are you not?
Lastly, just as dogs and cats stretch, make a point of periodically putting your hands above your head and reaching for the sky throughout the day, from when you first get out of bed to last thing before you retire, when you take that coffee break away from your desk, go to the washroom, wait for dinner to cook, watch TV…you get the picture.
I challenge you to give this one simple stretch and breathe a try morning and night for the next 7 days. This will take only a total of 21 minutes out of your entire week but the overall benefits you receive long-term could be immeasurable.
Find out for yourself, let me know how it goes!
‘Connecting and understanding spirit, both living and passed’