Health

Stretch

– an excerpt from my book: “You’re Fat, She’s Not

#1 STRETCH

Start your day out with a stretch, any stretch, a simple stretch, but something that you can commit to first thing in the morning. Here are my personal favorites.

MORNING TOE WIGGLE

The most simple and yet effective stretch you can do is the “Morning Toe Wiggle”. You have just woken up and you are aware of your mind, eyes and perhaps head. But way down there, under the covers, at the far end of the bed is your connection to everything else in between. And it is there, at the far end, that the secret lies. Wiggling your toes in the morning massages and enlivens every organ in your body through what the Chinese know as acupressure. If you have ever been in for acupuncture, you may have seen that chart on the wall where your entire body is encompassed within the confines of the soles of your feet. The Acupuncturists push and poke these points on our feet to relieve pains and enhance health. This point enlivens the liver. That point enlivens the heart, and so on. Well, we can do some of the pushing and poking ourselves, every morning, by just wiggling our toes.

Wiggling the toes pushes from the inside out, energizing all the important points that correspond with all the organs and functioning of the body, and it is fun. Look down the length of your covers as you do it and watch your toes make waves as you stimulate your liver, digestion, heart, lungs and the entire rest of this amazingly intricate machine called your body.

#2 STRETCH

How do you accomplish doing the “Morning Toe Wiggle” when you are the type of person who falls out of bed while trying to smash the alarm clock off? You probably don’t, but maybe this next stretch recommendation is the one for you.

CHILD’S POSE

Yoga enthusiasts are familiar with this pose and it is a good one. I particularly like this one first thing in the morning, and whether you start your day in bed or on the floor doesn’t matter. What does matter is all the blood that you are going to send to your organs and brain first thing in the morning with this pose. Begin on your hands and knees and then without moving your hands, drop back into a downward crouch position, keeping your head down so that your forehead is touching the bed or floor. Hold this position for a minute.

Yoga enthusiasts are familiar with this pose and it is a good one. I particularly like this one first thing in the morning, and whether you start your day in bed or on the floor doesn’t matter. What does matter is all the blood that you are going to send to your organs and brain first thing in the morning with this pose. Begin on your hands and knees and then without moving your hands, drop back into a downward crouch position, keeping your head down so that your forehead is touching the bed or floor. Hold this position for a minute.

Whether you do this once, or thrice, the benefits are apparent and fast. I like to crouch down, hold, come up on my hands and knees and then go back down three times. Your body acts like a pump to redirect your rather sleepy blood flow, and when the blood hits your head and rests there for a minute, you immediately feel more awake. In the process, your blood is also nourishing all your internal organs and you are getting a nice stretch in your shoulders. This feels really good. If you need more motivation, do this stretch with your partner. Child’s Pose and doggy style sex can work together to enhance both your health and your relationship. What more motivation do you need?

#3 STRETCH

My final stretch recommendation is for the real enthusiasts. It is my favorite because I am otherwise constantly battling back pain issues.

SUN SALUTATIONS (surya namaskara)

This may also be familiar to you yoga practitioners out there. The Sanskrit name for this stretch routine is Surya Namaskar which means, Sun Salutation. Have you ever had someone say Namaskar to you? That was a salutation, and if you do this stretch, you will be saluting the sun. Try to perform this stretch facing towards the sun in the morning. That would be towards the East for most of you. The sun hitting your face and entering your eyes in the morning has a list of purported benefits as well. To perform this stretch, you actually have to get up out of bed and assume the standing position in a place where you have enough room to bend and elongate on the ground.

Here are the instructions and an illustration that shows you how to perform this wonderful series of stretches:

Step 1. Stand straight with your palms together in prayer position facing the sun or at least East. Make a wish or intention for the day. Exhale.
Step 2. Inhaling, raise your arms over your head, arching your back slightly.
Step 3. Exhaling, bend forward and touch your hands to the floor. Compensate as much as needed in the beginning by bending your knees, eventually your legs will remain straight.
Step 4. As you Inhale, step your right leg back. Lift your chest and raise your right hamstring up towards the sky while keeping your right leg as straight as possible.
Step 5. Exhaling, step the left leg in line with the right leg and create an“A” shape with your body. Keep your legs and back as straight as possible.
Step 6. Holding your breath, lower your knees, your chest and then your forehead. Step 7. Inhaling, drop to the tops of your feet and curl your upper body up towards the sky as you straighten your arms. Your back should be arching.
Step 8. As you exhale, get back on your toes, press down into your heels, and lift your hips creating an “A” shape as in step 5.
Step 9. As you inhale, bring your right leg forward in line with your hands and lift your chest and hamstring upwards.
Step 10. Exhaling, bring the left leg in line with the right leg, bend forwards, keeping your legs straight, stretching your head towards your knees.(repeating step 3)
Step 11. Inhaling, raise your arms straight over your head and arch your back slightly. (repeating step 2)
Step 12. Finish this first round with an exhale, as you come back to the standing prayer position in step one.

As you do Surya Namaskar more and more, you will find little ways to enhance your practice. I do three rounds every time, which means I do a right leg led series, then a left leg led series and that is one round. I do this three times, which makes a total of six up and downs, if you want to count that way. It is also a fun challenge to remember which leg you moved last time. You will see what I mean.

As you progress, you can stretch a little further, hold a little longer, tweak this or that pose. You can also focus on the breath and make the whole series breath driven, so that the breath starts the movement and not the other way around. But that is an option. If you consider yourself fortunate to even see the sun in the morning let alone salute it, than start slowly and progress from there. I will be happy to see you out there facing the sun with folded palms, but you have to progress from there. There is no limit to the number of rounds you can do. I recommend at least two. The second round is always much deeper than the stiff first one.

ASANAS

There are a lot of different stretches and yoga poses out there. I am recommending some of my favorites that positively affect your whole body. If you are doing and prefer other styles, great. As part of the Transcendental Meditation community we did a series of simple stretches every morning that we called asanas. Asana is defined as a body position or yoga posture. You can find a simple, easy to perform asana routine in Deepak Chopra’s book Perfect Health, a recommended read. But start now. No waiting until you find the right one. Practice until you find the right one.

As you progress, you can stretch a little further, hold a little longer, tweak this or that pose. You can also focus on the breath and make the whole series breath driven, so that the breath starts the movement and not the other way around. But that is an option. If you consider yourself fortunate to even see the sun in the morning let alone salute it, than start slowly and progress from there. I will be happy to see you out there facing the sun with folded palms, but you have to progress from there. There is no limit to the number of rounds you can do. I recommend at least two. The second round is always much deeper than the stiff first one.

ASANAS

There are a lot of different stretches and yoga poses out there. I am recommending some of my favorites that positively affect your whole body. If you are doing and prefer other styles, great. As part of the Transcendental Meditation community we did a series of simple stretches every morning that we called asanas. Asana is defined as a body position or yoga posture. You can find a simple, easy to perform asana routine in Deepak Chopra’s book Perfect Health, a recommended read. But start now. No waiting until you find the right one. Practice until you find the right one.

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