Despite my honorable intentions to avoid it, being at Green’s parents’ house (there has to be an easier way to say that) has resulted in a whole lot of sitting on my ass and not a lot of moving around.
I don’t know what it is about this house, but being here makes me feel lazy, and my body is pretty angry at me. I’m lacking energy, and I’m SORE as hell. I live in a body that’s used to doing intense sessions of hardcore sweaty yoga and hooping for hours. And here I am letting it atrophy. It’s not happy with me at all.
Our bodies gotta move. They don’t like sitting still. Still bodies start to stiffen and lock up.
Does that mean you have to get out of your house and go to the gym for half an hour to wake up your body? No, not at all. You can do some easy, simple stretches and body awareness exercises right here, wherever you are. If you aren’t a big mover and you want an insanely simple place to start, or even if you are into movement and exercise but you’re having one of those days where it’s tough to get going, here’s a quick activity to try.
Oh, before you start, I should state that I’m not a professional stretching instructor person, I have no licenses or doctorates that qualify me to instruct you, so try this at your own risk and go at your own pace. This activity is pretty dang low key, though. It’s gleaned from almost ten years of practicing yoga and personal experience/discoveries.
I’ve broken it down into three steps. Do as many or as few as you like, but at least try the first step. You may surprise yourself with what you discover about your own body!
You should try it right now. Go ahead. You don’t have to leave your computer or anything.
You do have to stand up, though. Come on. On your feet!
-Stand with your feet together. If you can’t get them to touch, bring them as close together as is comfortable without losing your balance.
-Focus on sending your body weight into your heels. If it feels like you’re going to topple backwards, lift your chin and pull your shoulders back (either try rolling them back, or imagine you’re pulling your shoulder blades together in the center of your back).
-While you stand here, think about your spine. That’s that set of bones that starts right below your hips and travels all the way up to the base of your skull. Think about pulling it upwards so that it is as straight as possible. Lifting your chest up helps this, as does attempting to touch the top of your head to the ceiling.
-Relax, then try this again. The point of this step is to gain awareness of your body’s natural alignment.
-At this point, I should mention that your breathing should be natural. Don’t hold your breath for any of this. If you catch yourself holding your breath, back off and go back to the last step you could comfortably breathe in.
-While standing in focused alignment (from Step One), bring your arms out to your sides, palms facing up. Bring your arms all the way up over your head, and cross your fingers together.
-Very gently, use your grip on your own hands to pull your arms up straight. The goal is straight elbows. You should feel this in your shoulders. If you’re having trouble getting your elbows straight, focus on gently pressing on your ears with your arms.
-Slowly and deliberately start to pull your arms slightly backward. Keep them straight. Remember to lift your chest and focus on the alignment of your spine. Try to keep your weight in your heels if possible. If you feel like you are straining your neck, you can drop your head back if it’s comfortable.
-Slowly push your hips a bit forward. Keep your chest lifted. Breathe normally. What you should be feeling here is a little bit of a back bend. If your back hurts a little, that’s okay, but back off if you feel any sharp, shooting pain.
-Alternate lifting your chest up and pushing your hips out, then relaxing into your normal stance. If “lifting your chest” isn’t working for you, here’s what you’re aiming for: Take a deep breath and hold it, then pull your shoulders back slightly. You should feel your sternum raise up. When you let your breath out, try to keep your chest where it is.
(You can drop your arms whenever you need a rest and bring them back up when you’re ready as you do Step Two.)
-Keeping your arms up above your head, bend your knees. Suck in your belly. Bring your upper body down slowly, doing your best to keep your back straight and your chest lifted. Bend your knees as much as you need to in order to touch the floor.
-As soon as your hands are on the floor, let them support your body weight. Let your neck go. Allow the weight of your head to hang down, gently and naturally stretching out your neck. If you’re having trouble letting it go, you can try slowly turning your head from side to side as if shaking your head “no”.
-Keeping your belly sucked in to protect your lower back, bend and straighten one leg at a time. Do this at your own pace. The goal is to attempt to straighten each leg while letting the other relax in a bent position. Remember to keep your feet as close together as possible. If you’re having trouble with balance, you can move your hands further out in front of you.
-As you straighten each leg, shift your attention to your hip joint. Feel the stretch there. If you can identify where your hip joint is, slowly let yourself sink into it a little bit. From there, you can shift your focus to getting a slight stretch in your lower back. (Again, suck in your belly so that this is done safely.)
-When you’ve stretched out each leg to your satisfaction, or if you’re just ready to stop hanging upside down, suck in your belly, bend your knees, and slowly roll back up to standing, stacking each vertebrae on top of the last as you go. Stand for a few moments in your focused alignment from Step One. Take at least three slow, deliberate breaths.
-Smile. Your body says thanks!