It seems that flexibility has ended up being the perfect Key for this month. More than perhaps ever before we are being asked to exist flexibly. To be flexible with ourselves and our responses and reactions to the times. To be flexible with others as they, too, navigate territory that feels uncharted.
In a yoga practice, much of what we do on a mat in class or at home is meant to influence our interactions with what happens off that mat outside of our practice.
Yes, sometimes you see yogis doing neat, bendy things with their bodies. That piece is the tip of the iceberg. Manipulating and moving the body can have far reaching effects, well beyond whether or not you can touch your toes (You can, just bend your knees. See? Flexible.) The truth of the matter is that all the postures and movement are preparation for sitting in meditation. Let’s simplify that; all the practices help us be present with witnessing what is. That’s it. When we have moments of being present with what is, our systems remember. Whether in discomfort of a pose held for longer than we’d like, or a meditation that makes our mind go into monkey chatter, these are the edges where we purposefully practice experiencing presence. We enhance our flexibility by being able to choose our response.
The trick comes along when we realize it’s like fitness and other life-enhancing endeavors. Gaining flexibility (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and socially) requires commitment, curiosity and a comprehensive approach. The good news is that it needn’t be arduous. As you may have heard us suggest in others of the Five Keys, it’s often a good idea to start with one or two things to try, and stay with it for a couple weeks before assessing what’s next.
Here is a suggestion (no contraindications): This will take 5 minutes.
Turn on some music you like, doesn’t matter what. You just have to like it.
Sit comfortably in neutral posture. Inhale tip the pelvis forward, exhale tip it back. Do this for 1 minute.
Sit for 3 minutes and breathe into the belly, ribs and chest. Keep it mellow, belly relaxed, no need to strain on inhale or exhale.
Notice how you feel, use your senses. The answer doesn’t matter. The point is that you sit and feel.
Then do it everyday for 2 weeks. Let me know what questions you have!
Flexibility and Massage
What happens when we don't exercise, we don't move around very much in our daily lives, we get stuck at a desk for multiple hours a day for work, we drive long distances, or we simply just don't move very much at all? Have you ever gotten up from sitting for a bit, and felt stiff, or like you just need to walk around for a minute so everything starts 'moving right'? I certainly have!!
When we move around regularly, exercise and stretch, we can do a few things for our bodies:
- One, we create blood flow to our muscles-always a good thing as they need blood flow to work for us!
- Two, we give our body a stimulus of 'work' so it has to do what we are telling it to do.
- Three, especially when we stretch, we are affecting our flexibility.
Essentially, the more regularly we move and stretch, the better our flexibility can be. Now, when you add in massage therapy, you get another layer of help with flexibility. Massage is the manipulation of the soft tissues of the body. How does this help flexibility? Glad you asked! When we get a massage, we are affecting the muscles and how they work. When we apply massage, it helps us bring new blood flow into the muscles and flush out old waste that may have settled there. As I mentioned before, when we bring in blood flow, it helps us move better. With massage, we can help the muscles work better by bringing in the new blood flow and essentially, helping the muscles get longer. When the muscles are longer and able to work better, our flexibility can be better. I typically have tight quad muscles, and so when I get massages, though it can be a little painful, I like to have my quads worked on, so that my knees don't feel as tight and so that my hips can be a little more loose as well. My calves are also usually tight, so that is another area that I like to have worked on, and I feel like my feet move better, and my ankles are more mobile when I get my calves worked on during a massage. For me, I feel like my flexibility all over my body can be affected by massage, in a good way. Do you ever roll your head and neck around in circles and shake it side to side if it is feeling tight? This is a small example of self massage, and it can help! Do you notice that your neck feels better after you do this? It's likely that you have just increased your flexibility. Easy, right?!
While we aren't able to get massages right now, there are plenty of self massage things you can do at home to help with your flexibility during this time. This link will give you some great ideas and if a foam roller isn't available to you, use the tennis ball in that space.
11 Seriously Wonderful Self-Massage Tips That Will Make You Feel Amazing
Groove with Mr. Smoov
We are going to call this character Mr. Smoov. Oh, he’s high-tech alright. Mr. Smoov is not based on an actual person, he’s a lovely perfectly-aligned walking gait...simulation. It allows us to see the integration of the skeletal system as it moves under your muscle and skin, and I hope it helps to visualize some key things that you want to consider with all that walking you are able to do. Head to heel, here’s a short checklist of checkins to help you walk strong, agile and smoov for THE AGES!
● Mr. Smoov is looking out to the horizon
● Mr. Smoov keeps his spine tall
● Mr. Smoov allows both his arms to swing freely at his sides
● Mr. Smoov’s pelvis is gently rotating back and forth
● Mr. Smoov uses a nice, full, heel-to-toe stride
When your bones and your muscles and your joints are hosting good biomechanics on your walk, then this whole body exercise should not fatigue your neck or back, wear into your hips/knees/feet, or drain your muscles of energy(or tighten them down, a lot).
Mr. Smoov is looking out to the horizon
Looking out to the horizon is one of the fastest ways I can think of to gently lengthen your
gait(which is often needed to smoov the gait) and gift you better balance. Stand tall, and keep your ears over your shoulders, looking about 20 feet in front of you.
Mr. Smoov keeps his spine tall
Elongate your spine and pull your waist in to support the lift of that tall posture. No one said anything about slouching...because that would never be necessary, nope.
Mr. Smoov allows both his arms to swing freely at his sides
Shoulders and arms play a key role in good smooth walking. You want your shoulders to be
loose and relaxed to assist with a clean swing of the arm, and to keep tension patterns around the neck and upper back out of your groove. A simple hard shrug of the shoulders, combined with a full inhale, and then a big forceful drop of the shoulders can be a nice reset for the sneaky shrug. Dropping down, notice as the arms swing freely at your sides- not cross body, and notice if you swing one arm at a much greater range than the other. The arms swinging side to side, help to keep us balanced and keep force generated from the twist of walking, from jamming into our spine.
Mr. Smoov’s pelvis is gently rotating back and forth
MIDSECTIONS! That gentle rotation gets more intense with a faster gait. Here again, pull the midsections in snug (40% of your power?? perhaps), to support(relieve) the low back and
maintain robust stability.
Mr. Smoov uses a nice, full, heel-to-toe stride
Smoov strikes the ground with his heel, and rolls through his foot to finish his step pushing out of the toe (USA 10, China 10, Russia 10, Korea 10, Jamaica 10--I believe that’s a sweep Mr. Smoov 10). Taking full steps and not short-stride-posting, or shuffles ensure that each stride keeps the joints lubricated, the fascia hydrated and the muscles working.
Look up, don’t slouch and stride. Walking circulates the blood, fills the lungs, clears the mind juices, the fascia and the joints, resets, revives!!! Walking is an essential human movement, so let’s make it hum, generate robust flow, and make it groove!
Be well, stay smoov~
Please feel free to email me your gait questions or any concerns you may have about your
walking gait, at firstname.lastname@example.org.