Then if we throw exercise into the mix it becomes a marriage made in heaven. When you exercise regularly you instantly choose healthier foods. But there is a 3rd part to this healthy living pie and that is stretching.
If you exercise regularly you need to stretch regularly, but do you? Tightness shows an imbalance within the body and stretching can help rebalance, alleviate pain and tightness and keep you on the “parkrun” track longer.
Most of us know about the importance of a warm up and cool down, but are they the only times that stretching should occur?? Quite simply the answer is no!! Stretching throughout the day has many benefits - releases stress and tension from our muscles and mind, helps the muscles feel loose and relaxed, and breaks up the monotony of the day in the office. Cats and dogs stretch throughout the day, why can’t we?
I understand that in our time poor world that finding 30 minutes to dedicate to just stretching is well, stretching it... so here is a quick solution, it’s not the only stretch you need to do and other stretching needs to be done as well, but the benefits of holding this stretch for up to 2 minutes, 3 times a day is remarkable - this is the stretch to stretch. ARE YOU READY FOR IT... It is the Downward Dog!! And here is why:
- It helps calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression as it stimulates the nervous system.
- Relieves headaches and insomnia
- It energises the body - it can help a runner restore lost energy after a race and can also help someone who is fatigued in an office - could this be the answer to the 3pm energy slump rather than the sugar hit ?
- It stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, achillies and hands – plantar fasciitis included
- Can help relieve back pain - practicing it with proper alignment can make your upper back more flexible and less likely to store so much tension
- It helps to strengthen the upper body as well as the lower body
- Helps prevent osteoporosis - strengthening the upper body and building or maintaining bone density
- Helps relieve symptoms of menopause (both forms - lol)
- Relieves menstrual discomfort when done with head supported
- It boosts circulation - when the heart is above the head the circulatory system will benefit as it encourages blood flow throughout the whole body. This helps the body to flush away toxins, keep the immune system fighting fit and can help regulate blood pressure (if you do have high blood pressure consult your health professional before commencing)
Other Therapeutic Benefits
- Therapeutic for high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica, sinusitis
- Improves digestion
- There are variations of this stretch which makes it suitable for everyone and the same benefits can still be had – such as the dolphin pose
From an acupuncture point of view this amazing stretch activates the very important bladder channel. It is the longest channel in the body and has acupuncture points that run from the inner eye, up and over the head, down the entire spine and posterior leg, along the side of the foot and ending at the pinkie toe. You are effectively improving your health inside and out!!
So it is time to strike a pose and get the many benefits on offer. Imbalances lead to injury so take the time to treat your muscles and your mind to a relaxing downward dog stretch. Who knows this could be the difference you need to get that new “parkrun” PB.
How to do the Downward Dog Stretch
1. Come onto the floor on your hands and knees. Set your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders. Spread your palms, index fingers parallel or slightly turned out, and turn your toes under.
2. Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor. At first keep the knees slightly bent and the heels lifted away from the floor. Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of your pelvis and press it lightly toward the pubis. Against this resistance, lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling, and from your inner ankles draw the inner legs up into the groins.
3. Then with an exhalation, push your top thighs back and stretch your heels onto or down toward the floor. Straighten your knees but be sure not to lock them. Firm the outer thighs and roll the upper thighs inward slightly. Narrow the front of the pelvis.
4. Firm the outer arms and press the bases of the index fingers actively into the floor. From these two points lift along your inner arms from the wrists to the tops of the shoulders. Firm your shoulder blades against your back, then widen them and draw them toward the tailbone. Keep the head between the upper arms; don't let it hang.
Run Strong, Run Smart but most of all Run Happy
Trish Russell x