The Best Years in Life
Articles by natural health author Sarka-Jonae Miller
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The Best Stretches You Aren't Doing
by Sárka-Jonae Miller
(The Best Years in Life) Stretching is boring. You don't need to do it. If you did, everyone would, right? This way of thinking is prevalent in society. While people lose range of motion and the ability to stand up straight, you have to wonder if stretching is really just for teens and athletes. Hint, it's not.
But the average person doesn't need the flexibility of a contortionist, not unless you play to audition for a brothel scene in Game of Thrones. The average person does need to stretch certain areas of the body that often get tight in modern living. Tight muscles leads to changes in their length-tension relationship. To simply, your muscles at rest remain in a shortened position, thereby pulling their opposite muscles into a weak and lengthen position. Next thing you know, you're walking with a stoop and you cannot touch your toes.
Hip Flexor Stretch
Most people spend large amounts of their day seated, often at a desk or in a vehicle. This puts your hips in a forward flexed position and causes your hip flexors to get tight. You can fix this with a slightly awkward stretch.
Kneel with your right knee up like you're going to propose. Start with your right knee aligned over your foot. While keeping your back straight and your tailbone tucked, shift your weight forward. This brings your torso forward and stretches your left hip flexors. You should feel the stretch in the front of your left thigh. Hold the position for 30 seconds and then switch legs to repeat on the right side.
A common problem many people have and of which they're not aware is a tendency to bring the shoulders forward to reach items like keyboards instead of positioning their bodies so they can keep their shoulders retracted. This frequent slumping of the shoulders leads to tight pectoral muscles. Find a doorway to address this issue.
Stand in a doorway and hold up your left arm with your elbow bent at a 90-degree angle. Place your palm and forearm against the door frame or turn around if your left arm is on the side of the doorway with hinges. Step your right foot forward and your left back into a staggered stance for good balance. Shift your weight forward onto your right foot until you begin to feel a stretch near your left shoulder. Then, twist your torso to the right slowly until you feel you've reached your stretch limit. Hold that position for 30 seconds. Turn around and repeat with your right arm.
Another common area for tension is the trapezius. Trust me, I used to be a massage therapist and some people had iron cables where their traps used to be. This tension often leads to neck pain and sometimes headaches. Release the tension by lifting your shoulders as high as you can toward your ears. Really feel them stretching up as high as they can do. Hold for about 5 seconds and release. Let your shoulder drop back down. They'll often feel lower than they usually do if not the first time you do a shoulder shrug then the next. Repeat the shrugs a few times. Do this a couple of times throughout the day.
Maintain flexibility in your hamstrings so that you'll never need to ask your kid to tie your shoes for you. One of the simplest ways to stretch your hamstrings is to sit on the floor and extend your legs in front of you. With your legs straight, first pull your toes toward yourself. If your hamstrings are really tight, this might already feel like a stretch.
Next, reach for your toes and bend forward slowly. Watch for rounding of the back to try and get your fingers closer to your toes. This isn't gym class. It isn't about how far you can touch; it's about how much you can stretch your hamstrings, so keep your spine straight and think of folding forward instead.
Hold a comfortable but challenging position for 30 seconds before slowly sitting back up tall.
These stretches are meant to address common areas of tightness and posture issues. They might not work to eliminate all your areas of muscle tension. But, doing these stretches daily could make a significant difference in how well you can move around as well as sit and stand up straight. They might also help prevent problems that could lead to joint pain, decreased mobility, muscle weakness, and poor body alignment. Consider asking your doctor for more stretches or alternatives that could better suit your needs.
About the Author
Sárka-Jonae Miller is a health and fitness expert. She began working in the fitness industry in 2000 while pursuing a BS in journalism at Syracuse University. She became certified as a personal fitness trainer and group exercise instructor in 2003. She has also received training in massage therapy. Sárka also writes fiction. She is the author of the chick lit novel, Between Boyfriends. Get more health and wellness tips on Sárka's Natural Healing Tips blog or join her on Facebook and Twitter.