Do you ever suffer from unbelievable back pain, joint or muscle aches, or even muscle tension? Being only 20 years old, I’ve had numerous jobs where the main point of the job is heavy lifting, standing all day, constant walking back and forth, or even sitting all day. My back, as I have come to find, has many years of stress put on it. The most tension has been embedded deep in my shoulder blades and mainly my lower back. Highly active jobs can really take a toll on your body, and after years of being in the workforce, I decided it’s about time I do something right for my body. So, I got my first professional massage.
It was magnificent at first. Laying on the long massage table, getting my back rubbed gently and listening to smooth jazz, then all of a sudden, “OW! OH, MY GOD!” The masseuse takes her elbow and grinds it into my shoulder as if she was kneading the knot right out of me. After the all intensive body manipulation, it was time to bring on the cups! For those who don’t know what cupping is, cupping is a form of Chinese therapy in which heated glass cups are applied to the skin along the meridians of the body, creating suction as a way of circulating the blood flow in your body. On a side note, personally I like the after dots that come with this massage. Honestly, how many people do you know that wear polka-dots on their body? Not very many I bet! Anyway, the cupping was a way better experience than the body massage. My whole back was stretched by these small cups and each cup was on a specific pressure point, evaporating the toxins that have inhibited my body for so many years. When I was relaxed enough, I started breathing deeply and let out all that pain, but it got me thinking. What could I have done to prevent this pain? What can I do now that will help my body feel better so I won’t have to feel this pain again? The solution was simple. In fact it was so simple that it has been easily over-looked my whole life!
Stretching of course! It’s so easy and it has so many benefits. Just taking a little time away from your busy day is highly essential for your body. The constant go, go, go adds stress to all parts of your body, not just muscle pain. It causes a domino effect on your system because your whole body is linked together. For example, when your back hurts, it sends stress signals to your brain, which makes you feel bad, so it affects your mode negatively which in turn, causes strain on your head.
Some have time for the gym and some don’t, but you don’t need a gym membership to stretch. The benefits of stretching include helping improve flexibility which increases your range of motion (remember the days when you use to do cart-wheels or touch your toes?). Stretching corrects posture by lengthening tight muscles that pull areas of the body away
from their intended position due to the extended amount of time on our computers; many of us have tight chest muscles which pull the shoulders and head forward, leaving us with hunched shoulders. Stretching has the potential to decrease injury by preparing muscles for work before activity. It increases blood and nutrient supply to muscles, thereby possibly reducing muscle soreness!
It even does wonders for your mind. In a short amount of time (10-15 minutes) of stretching calms the mind, provides a mental break, and gives your body a chance to recharge. It’s important to take time for yourself and let your mind relax. With all the different events that prolong through the day, that 10-15 minutes for yourself is vital.
Let’s try this relaxing exercise to help begin the stretching process. Take your hands and place them gently on your stomach (above the belly button, right below your chest). Now take a deep breath in for 4 counts (breathe in 1.2 .3 .4) and then breathe out for 4 counts (breathe out 1. 2. 3 .4). This should be really slow and your shoulders should feel relaxed and not tense at all. Do this 5 times. Now doesn’t that feel a whole lot better? Just doing this calms your heart rate and regulates your breathing which brings oxygen to your lungs. Now you are ready for some stretches! These stretches have been practiced by ancient Chinese farmers for centuries, with kung fu martial arts, and in yoga.
Stretch 1: Exercising the Shoulders, Arms Lower Back
Starting Position: Find somewhere to balance yourself like the couch arm rest or your office desk, take one large step back away but to a point where you can still reach it. Spread your feet shoulder lengths apart.
Movements: Bend forward reaching toward whatever your support is. Keep your head facing straight (look at a specific object and keep your focus on that), and really stretch those arms. You should also feel a stretching tension in your legs and lower back. After you stretch forward come back to the beginning position. Do this stretch 10 times, but with each stretch take your time and really feel it. (see figure 1)
Stretch 2: Circling Single Arm
Starting Position: Take a left “bow step” with the left leg bent at the knee and the right leg stretched behind and place left hand on left knee. While the right arm hangs at the side. Or if you don’t want to look like a weirdo in the office/and or can’t bend too far, just stand up straight with your feet shoulder length apart and place your left hand on your hip.
Movements: Move right arm forward, upward and backward in a circular motion, counter clockwise. Then reverse the direction and go clockwise. Do each direction 10 times. Repeat these movements with the left arm but with your right foot bowed or with your right hand on your hip. Be sure to keep your arms straight and your shoulders relaxed. (see figure 2)
Stretch 3: Exercising Leg Pull
Starting Position: Lean against the wall if you have to, this stretch is easy, place one hand against the wall and simply lift one leg behind you and balance on the other. This stretch mainly focuses on your thighs. Stretch for 1 minute. Do the same processes with the other leg (see figure 3)
Stretch 4: Exercising Leg Stretch
Starting Position: Stretch your leg out and place it on top of your nearest stable support (chair, table). Then stretch down to touch your toes, its not crucial to touch them if you can’t but eventually you will be able to. Do this stretch 10 times.
Front Leg Stretch
These are just a couple of basic stretches that will help your body immensely. Just keep in mind that with each stretch, you are doing your body a favor. These stretches won’t take too much time out of your day. Find a quite spot for yourself and stretch out that tension. Remember to breathe deeply, and while you stretch imagine pushing all that negative energy out of your body. Keep your body stress free and happy!
– Shaila Suleman