Stretch Your Body

Daily Maintenance for Your Face

Since about the age of fourteen I have had a clicking jaw, also known as TMD (Temporomandibular disorders). This disorder occurs as a result of problems with the jaw, jaw joint (or TMJ), and surrounding facial muscles. No one ever connected the two, but I think that the onset could have been triggered the night I broke a molar in half from deliberately crunching down on a popcorn kernel.

For the last thirty years, I have been living with a consistent and quite uncomfortable ache in my right jaw. Until today!

What changed? Well, as embarrassing as it is to admit, it was my snoring. Yes, you read that correctly. Snoring. I snore. Well, I did. I don’t anymore, and I will explain how I stopped…in ONE day!

My husband has always been a relatively light sleeper. And I wasn’t always a snorer. Over the last few years he would joke around with me and say that I had snored on occasion. But in the last six months my snoring had reached it’s peak! My husband was now sleeping with his head sandwiched between two huge square european pillows (the kind we use for propping us up while sitting in bed reading). He would wake me in the night by gently nudging me to get me to roll over…anything to stop the snoring! Of course, I would comply and other times I would ignore him (unintentionally of course, I was sleeping!).

It may have been a coincidence and who can ever say for sure, but in the last two years I had made some changes. I started orthodontic treatment and my body decided to stop sleeping with a pillow. Yes – my body decided. I didn’t consciously decide that I would no longer sleep with a pillow; I think that it had to do with all the body alignment work I was doing, and I maintain that it was my body that made the switch!

The braces are now off and I am wearing retainers 24/7 for a few more months, at which point I will only be required to wear them overnight (for the rest of my life to prevent my teeth from shifting back). I still sleep without a pillow, (intellectually and physically) I just can’t go back to using one.

Eventually, my snoring got so bad and my husband was so sleep deprived that we had to come up with a solution. I offered to go sleep in the basement or restructure our living quarters, but my husband didn’t like those options and would beg me to just go back to using a pillow. Finally, I asked him to record my snoring so that I could hear for myself. My husband has always been a great story teller and on occasion an embellisher…so, to my surprise, no, to my horror…there was not any fiction in his account. Take a listen. Keep in mind that the sounds you are about to hear were made by me: 43 year old female, standing 5’5″ weighing 118 pounds.

How is this possible? I sound like a father bear! Hearing myself was enough to launch immediate remediation. It didn’t take me more than a second to realize (from the sounds of it) that I am very unwell; clearly not getting enough oxygen during sleep and likely not experiencing necessary REM. I am a problem solver and boy was this going to be fun to fix!

That morning (it was Monday, March 9, 2015) when after sending the kids to school, I sat down to the computer and looked up how to stop snoring. Aside from explaining how to identify the cause in order to find a cure, the article outlined how to communicate with someone who snores and how to deal with complaints. I quickly jumped to the self-help section and noticed exercises for the throat. Very intriguing, which also reminded me of my friend Dr. Dana Colson’s book, which had a chapter on snoring and sleep apnea. In her book she describes some of these exercises but also recommends learning how to play the Didgeridoo as did this article. It is impossible to play the didgeridoo without properly balanced throat muscles. At the time of reading her book (three years ago) I immediately went out to buy a Didgeridoo, excited to learn it and teach my family. But because I wasn’t snoring at the time I let it go and focused my energy on other things.

On Monday, March 9, 2015, I started practicing the 5 suggested exercises from the how to stop snoring article.

  • Repeat each vowel (a-e-i-o-u) out loud for three minutes a few times a day.

  • Place the tip of your tongue behind your top front teeth. Slide your tongue backwards for 3 minutes a day.

  • Close your mouth and purse your lips. Hold for 30 seconds.

  • With mouth open, move jaw to the right and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on left side.

  • With mouth open, contract the muscle at the back of your throat repeatedly for 30 seconds. Tip: Look in the mirror to see the uvula (“the hanging ball”) move up and down.

  • From Dana Colson’s book following the diagram on page 64, I practiced her  suggestions which included the self-massage of facial muscles and self-applied pressure on trigger points.

The next morning (Tuesday) my husband reported that I had NOT snored. OK maybe it was a fluke? That day, I practiced all the above exercises and also added Didgeridoo playing. Wednesday morning: my husband reported that I had NOT snored that night either. So far so good. I kept doing my exercises and now feeling encouraged, I searched for proper instruction on how to do the circular breathing required for playing the Didgeridoo. I settled on Sashi. The exercises were tiring for me, which confirm that the muscles of my mouth, jaw and throat have a lot of re-learning to do. I think the snoring pointed that out.

 “The art of circular breathing, a technique that enables the wind instrumentalist to maintain an unbroken sound for long periods of time by inhaling through the nose while maintaining airflow through the instrument, using the cheeks as bellows.”1

Day Four (Thursday) morning: my husband gave me the most sincere gratitude hug and said: “Thank you! Thank you for working so hard at this. I am sleeping right through the night and feel so much better.”

It has now been one full week, and I am feeling so much better now that I am not struggling for oxygen while I sleep. There is also another plus to all this! My clicking jaw is not clicking anymore! I’m quite certain that the self-massage techniques outlined in Dr. Dana Colson’s book are to thank. I can open my mouth again, I feel like Steven Tyler. I know that I will have to include these exercises as part of my Daily Body Maintenance for the rest of my life. I look on that as a positive. It’s really nice to be more connected with oneself and to life as opposed to just rushing around and having others “fix” you with surgery or an appliance. Knowing that we have the tools to heal ourselves is human.

As a result of singing a-e-i-o-u, and wondering why these vowels are so effective, I found singer Alise Ojay who not long ago designed a singing treatment for snorers. Maybe all these years of not having confidence to sing was simply because I wasn’t exercising my singing muscles! Duh! Like with any muscle, if you don’t use it…

I find it so interesting that those of us who focus on health, fitness and body alignment somehow stop at the neck. Welcome to Daily Whole-Body Maintenance.

 

Related articles: 

Singing Therapy Brings Solace to Snorers

Singing Your Way To a Snore-Free Night

How To Stop Snoring

Didgeridoo Helps Stop Snoring

Initial 2 week Progress Report

I am so excited to share this with you!

In only two weeks of practicing the calf stretch from biomechanist Katy Bowman, SC’s back feels about 75% better! That’s what Daily Body Maintenance does, Folks!

I love chance meetings. Although it is quite telling that my chance meetings tend to coincide with daily errands. About two weeks ago I crossed paths with a friend whom I met eight years ago, when our kids were in kindergarten together. We run into each other a couple times a year…usually at the grocery store! Busy mom’s need to cut to the chase and so our 5 minute conversation covered a lot. My friend, SC (who also subscribes to my blog) so when she sees me will tell me that she is up to date on my writing. She quickly filled me in on her ‘bad back’ which referenced my latest blog post and within seconds I did a quick body analysis a la Katy Bowman and was able to get her to transfer he weight back on to her heels. From there I promised to send an email with some instructions on how she could start the process of releasing the tight muscles going up the back of her legs which would be the primary cause of her aching back. True to my word the following is the email that I sent. Feel free to follow the instructions and share it with others. All the information in the email is directly taken from the work of biomechanist Katy Bowman. But first to inspire you on your way, I thought I would share SC’s progress report which arrived to my inbox yesterday!

Hi Kathryn! Okay it’s amazing the impact of these small changes on my back.

I didn’t realize I was leaning forward when I walked! I find that alarming b/c I walk every day and I’ve been leaning forward!!! – when I see elderly people doing that and ironically I always think to myself, geez, I wish I could tell them they’re leaning forward and if they straighten they would feel better, and here I was, leaning forward!  NOW I am constantly telling myself not to lean.  It’s a tough habit to break. I find doing chores (i.e. washing dishes, cooking, computer work and even brushing my teeth) the most challenging as I’m used to doing all these activities at a severe forward angle! Now trying to break the habit is an hourly challenge!!  I can’t believe how ignorant I have been about my posture!

I have been stretching my calves 3-4 X daily – and I’ve been doing it over the yoga mat. It’s kinda nice b/c one of the girls usually will join me and we talk while we stretch. By the way, we have not been stretching efficiently or correctly.  C [10 year old daughter] has been in orthotics for over a year now and her calves are SUPER tight! I’m hoping all the stretching will help her feet as well!

My back feels about 75% better.

At work downtown, I have adopted WORK SOCKS that I slip over my regular shoe socks but I can only wear these WORK SOCKS within 8 metres of my desk. If I venture any further I may be confronted by a VP or worse, an external customer… so yes, I am finding the NO Positive Shoes a challenge.  But making the best of it.  Also, I know my left shoulder is injured and will need physio.. there’s weakness and compromised range of motion so I will need to seek professional help on that. [I think that the next series of restorative exercises will correct her shoulder but that remains to be seen].

By the way, I have forwarded your email to a couple of my girlfriends who are feeling pain in their back as well. I hope that is okay. If you have any other recommendations, I will gladly receive and practice them 🙂

Again THANK U!  I’m so glad I saw u at Choices that day! -SC

Here is my email: Hi SC, nice seeing you the other day! Change is difficult for people who really like change (like I do!), so I am very sensitive to how challenging it is for people who want to feel better but don’t really want to make any big or small changes. But it needs to be done and the best way is to start with one change at a time. So this is what I propose for you:

For one week only  (The following are some images I pulled from google just to help clarify what you are trying to do).

1) No positive heeled shoes Ideally, try to not wear any positive heeled shoes (any shoe that brings your heel above level with the rest of your foot). Which of course is difficult to do because even running shoes are often heavily padded under the heel. Avoid those rocking shoes. In any case, when you are home try to be bare footed.

The reason? Positive heeled shoes cause muscles to shorten and joints to become misaligned which are at the root cause of foot, knee, pelvis and back problems. The calf stretch (below: 3 & 3A) is just one of many exercises that is designed to help you lengthen all the tissue most commonly shortened by certain footwear. “The amount of time you spend in shoes with geometry-altering components is the time you spend shortening up all those muscles that you have been stretching out.” – Katy Bowman

In other words: for all the time you spend in footwear with heels you will need to spend that amount of time undoing those forces with these stretches. i.e. to restore your alignment. Can you still wear positive heeled shoes? Sure, but if you want to fix your back then you really need to stop wearing them for a while and reserve them for very important (occasional) occasions 🙂 The image below shows the distortions/ compensations that our body makes when we wear positive heeled shoes. 1A) Evaluation  Notice when you are standing (flat footed) if you are transferring your weight forward onto the front of your feet. Don’t do that. Ensure that you are weight bearing over your heels – all the time. When you stand, walk, stretch etc. Why? The bones of the forefoot are not designed to be loaded with our body weight. The heel bones (calcaneus and talus) are meant to hold our body weight. Which is another example why positive heeled shoes are so bad for us.

2) Parallel Feet  When you walk, stand or STRETCH, ensure that your feet are parallel. The outside of your feet should line up as in the image below (left). Notice that the toes are all pointing forward. parallel feet 2A) No Turn out This is how most people walk, with the foot (image 2A showing right foot incorrect) turning out. The left foot shows correct alignment so that all the joints work efficiently parallel foot + turnout foot

3) Calf stretch with 1/2 foam dome. If you don’t have a foam dome you can roll up a yoga mat or towel. (image to follow 3A) 

Do the following stretch 3x per day minimum. Work your way up to holding the stretch for 60 seconds each time.

How to do it:

  • you can hold onto a chair back, table top or wall for balance. Eventually you won’t need to.
  • place forefoot on top of foam. Press heel into floor.
  • ensure your body weight is back over your heel. i.e. your pelvis over your heel, ribcage over your pelvis, shoulders over ribs, head over torso…you get the idea.
  • your supporting leg also will have your weight back over that heel. (as in 1A)
  • Aim to get your hip over the heel as shown in the photo below (3).
  • Be mindful of how your upper body responds to the stretch.
  • Careful not to let upper body hunch forward.
  • Remember to keep your feet parallel when you walk and when you do this stretch

calf stretch alignmentcalf stretch with towel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1:2 foam dome1/2 foam dome (they sell them at local Fitness stores or on Amazon.ca )    If you can incorporate this into your life for the next one to two weeks then I would like to give you the next restorative stretch. Following these instructions alone will be very beneficial.

Good luck with it. Kathryn

Bed Stretches #2

Dansk: Sibirisk tiger (Panthera tigris altaica...

These are the stretches that I do first thing

in the morning.

First thing every morning, before my feet hit the floor I do a series of stretches in bed. View Bed Stretches #1 for the introduction.

This is the second video in a series of progressions showing a very short in-bed-stretching routine that I do every morning. It may offer some ideas to start exploring your own options for a morning routine. It’s a good idea to develop a similar habit everyday for the rest of your life. The point is to do what feels right for your body – not what feels right for mine!

Some people might find that starting with holding the knees to chest is more than enough to take on first thing in the morning. That’s fine. Do what works for you. One thing we know for sure, is that we have to move in order to be able to move. So, I’d like to encourage everyone upon waking to get the fuzz out and “keep moving, stretching and using your body.”

This second video offers a quick review of the first two stretches/exercises:

  1. hold knees to chest
  2. single leg hip flexor stretch (right & left)
And each new video features an: Adding on… section:
        Video #2 introduces bicycle legs to ceiling.

 

Explanation:
  • Bicycle legs to ceiling is an exercise, which actively stretches our muscles gradually and gently.
  • As our muscles warm up from this repetitive action we stimulate oxygen and blood flow to our entire body.
  • I focus on working through my feet, stretching and leading the movement up to the ceiling with my heel.
  • When I first included this exercise I only did about 20 repetitions – and it seemed like a long while before I added on.
  • Using my duvet supports my sleepy, inflexible morning body so that I don’t end up gripping my back to hold my legs up.
  • Approximately, one year later, I naturally do one hundred repetitions (counting by 10’s) – Good mental exercise to wake the brain up too!
  • It takes fifty repetitions for me to wake up and the second set of fifty has purpose!

 

It sure is a nice feeling to step out of bed rather than crumble out.

 

NOTE: These Bed Stretches are meant to be a very gentle way of waking up the body. In no way should this routine be considered a workout or performed aggressively. 

I repeat, they should be done very gently. Keep knees bent, this is not a performance routine and knees should remain bent, even if you can straighten them during the day when you do the same type of movement.

Also Note: That when I filmed myself doing these stretches it was already afternoon and my body was very warmed up. First thing in the morning I do NOT move as fluidly; my body feels very rickety and stiff, besides feeling half asleep. Sometimes, I take the stretch and fall back asleep for a few seconds in the stretch! And abruptly wake up – oh, yeah – where was I?

 

It’s just a nice way to start my day.

Bed Stretches #3…coming soon.

Bed Stretches #1

These are the stretches that I do first thing

in the morning.

First thing – after I spend what seems like moments coming to the realization that it’s morning and I have to get up, but really it’s more like ten minutes of denial and futile attempts of turning back the clock or finding the elusive pause button.

I have put together a little video (first in a series) to demonstrate this very short in-bed-stretching routine that may or may not be right for you, but never-the-less, it can give you an idea of the possibilities, which might give you a place to start exploring your own options. The point is to do what feels right for your body – not what feels right for mine! It was probably six months of just doing the first three exercises before I added the fourth and a few months after that before adding on the fifth and sixth. Let your body be your guide.

NOTE: These Bed Stretches are meant to be a very gentle way of waking up the body. In no way should this routine be considered a workout or performed aggressively. I repeat, they should be done very gently. Keep knees bent, this is not a performance routine and knees should remain bent, even if you can straighten them during the day when you do the same type of movement.

Also Note: That when I filmed myself doing these stretches it was already afternoon and my body was very warmed up. First thing in the morning I do NOT move as fluidly; my body feels very rickety and stiff, besides feeling half asleep. Sometimes, I take the stretch and fall back asleep for a few seconds in the stretch! And abruptly wake up – oh, yeah – where was I?

This first video demonstrates the first two stretches/exercises that I do upon waking. I am demonstrating on the floor…you didn’t really think that I would show myself stretching in bed, did you?!

It’s just a nice way to start my day.

Flexibility Is Relative

The Work

The Progressions

The Achievements

The Cycle Repeats

It all comes down to perspective.

Many years ago, when I was fairly new to Ashtanga Yoga (having about six years of an inconsistent practice under my belt), my Yoga teacher casually mentioned how stiff she was feeling that particular day.  Meanwhile, a very seasoned Yogi in her own rite; in 2000, she was authorized to teach by Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois, and in July 2009, she was in the first group of 40 students to receive Level 2 Authorization – to teach the Primary and Intermediate Series of Ashtanga Yoga.

How could she be stiff? Or even know what being inflexible meant anymore – just look at the positions she can put herself into…

It was a wonderful moment of realization for me – that elusive perspective.

All things are relative. Flexibility, strength, power, agility, fitness…it’s all relative to where you are presently. Even if you are a competitive athlete; first you have to relate to your present level of fitness/ability before you can compete against your opponent.

Therefore, when inactive or active people compare themselves to me or to others, I understand – their perspective dial is cloudy; they have forgotten.

Where YOU are right now is all that matters. Where YOU will be tomorrow is insignificant.

______________________________

I think a lot about how I speak to children. I teach my children that if they fail they should try again…anybody need to hear the bicycle analogy? It’s the same for us. Just because we are adult doesn’t mean that we have to excel at our first, second or third attempts. Go back in time for a minute. Stop and explore an internal dialogue, which supports your efforts, with honesty and honest effort, without expectation.  What does that dialogue sound like?

______________________________

I was going to say: If you try, it will happen. But “IT” is an expectation in itself. Yoga is about being – being in the moment. Forget about “IT” and just be in the now.

Without being esoteric, what I’m trying to convey is that “IT” is simply in your daily practice. The daily self-guided practice can be applied to everything we do (your 4 minute morning, your HIIT workout etc.), because when we engage in a self-guided practice, we are teaching ourselves, we are learning about ourself.

“IT” is an endless process.

I think everyone would benefit from learning a self-guided yoga routine, be it short or long. There are variations for everyone at any level, be it modifications to suit lack of flexibility or for physical rehabilitation or for those with time restrictions. Here is a link for David Swenson’s Ashtanga Yoga Short Forms book, which has 15 minute, 30 minute and 45 minute routines which are well rounded.

Where I am today may seem very far in the future for those who are just beginning to exercise.  It is just as important to not compare with me or others as it is of equal importance to NOT compare with what you were once able to do; remember that everything is relative. In the eyes of the novice, what I do might look advanced, but I can feel equally stiff and inflexible, much like my Yoga teacher from many years ago. An advanced position or posture still has room to grow. It’s only called advanced relative to the beginner.

Yoga is the physical therapy that we can apply to ourselves. Really, no one can help us better than we can help ourselves. Our bodyworkers (Yoga teachers, RMT’s etc.) are our guides. With their guidance and with our daily self-guided practice we become more in tune with how our body is functioning.

Each time I step on my Yoga mat or slip in the pool, I too feel like a beginner (in my own way). For each day is a new beginning, a new configuration of everything. My body alignment, movement patterning and understanding has changed from yesterday’s practice and so standing on my mat today I have to adapt to what feels unlike my old self. Essentially, each new day is a fresh start but with the gift of accumulated knowledge from previous days.

“Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.”

-Albert Einstein

_________________________________

Below is an excerpt from an article written by Kino MacGregor, which I think explains very clearly the importance of the self-guided practice also known as Mysore Style. To view the complete article click here.

“Memorizing the postures allows students to focus internally, which is the real goal of yoga. When you do not know what you will be doing next your attention will always be on your teacher rather than within yourself.

Once you memorize the sequence of postures that your teacher determines is right for you the entire practice transfers deeper into the subconscious level. Practicing in the Mysore Style method allows you to have days where you go deeply into your practice and also days where you go gently into your practice while performing all the same postures. This natural variation prevents injury, trains you to listen to the body and increases internal body awareness.”

Kino MacGregor

Mysore Style does not only have to apply to Ashtanga Yoga. I think it is paramount to view our daily body maintenance in this same way: Self-Guided Practice. A lot of people I know rely on a workout buddy to get their workouts done – but that is another conversation altogether.

“Things I love about Yoga… is that the deeper you scratch, the deeper it goes…”

~ Meghan Currie

Below is an inspiring time lapse video of Meghan Currie showing her daily practice.

Get The Fuzz Out

My friend Joanna, was at the Vancouver Yoga conference last weekend where she took a couple workshops with Leslie Kaminoff (author of Yoga Anatomy) and he showed Gil Hedley‘s, Ph.D., (founder of Integral Anatomy Productions, LLC, and Somanautics Workshops, Inc.) video “The Fuzz Speech” explaining why stretching is necessary for our body, perhaps an explanation you have never heard before. Outstanding!

Joanna told me about this video. I thought it might be a helpful addition to the fascia series I’ve been building on. Thank You, Joanna!

Warning: there are some images from a human cadaver which is helpful in understanding the topic. If you’re squeamish, close your eyes and just listen.

Here is a link to Gil Hedley’s YouTube Somanaut’s Channel.

Below, I have typed out Gil Hedley’s The Fuzz Speech, for those unable to view the video.

“Here’s the thing about the Fuzz: You can see it now, I’ll put it in [the video] over my voice.

The Fuzz yields to my fingertips. Sometimes I come across a stronger or thicker strand that doesn’t yield to my fingertips – that represents older fuzz sometimes, or maybe that represents the nerve. But each night when you go to sleep, the interfaces between your muscles grow ‘fuzz’, potentially – and in the morning when you wake up and stretch the fuzz melts; we melt the fuzz. That stiff feeling you have [in the morning] is the solidifying of your tissues, the sliding surfaces aren’t sliding anymore. There’s Fuzz growing in-between them.

You need to stretch.

Every cat in the world gets up in the morning and stretches its body and melts the fuzz in the same way that the fuzz melted when I passed my finger through it.

When you are moving it’s as if you are passing your finger through the fuzz, just like I did on the cadaver form here.

So you have to stretch and move and use your body; in order to melt that fuzz that is building up between the sliding surfaces of your musculature. The sliding surfaces, those shiny white surfaces, of the rectus femoris sliding against the vastus intermedialis. So, these sliding surfaces are all over your body and the fuzz is all over your body and as you move you melt the fuzz.

Now, what happens if you get an injury? Ah-ha! My Shoulder! [He grabs his shoulder] My shoulder is stiff now, I’m holding my shoulder. I go to bed, I wake up in the morning, I don’t stretch my shoulder – I’m afraid, it hurts. So, I’m wandering around like this, [demonstrates walking with his arm stuck to his side] – last nights fuzz doesn’t get melted. I go to bed; I sleep some more. Now I have two nights fuzz built up. Now, two nights fuzz is more fuzz than one nights’ fuzz. What if I have a weeks’ fuzz or a months’ fuzz? Now those fuzz fibres start lining up and intertwining and intertwangling and all of a sudden you have thicker fibres forming. You start to have an inhibition of the potential for movement there, It’s no longer simply a matter of going ooh-ahh stretch. Now you need some work. Now you might need to do a more systematic exploration of that place to restore the original movement that you lost; usually this is the case – we have a temporary injury then we restore movement but sometimes we call this ageing. The build up of fuzz amongst the sliding surfaces of our bodies so that our motions become limited, that limit cycles become introduced into our normal full range of motion and we start to walk around like this [he mimics frozen robotic movement]. We’re all fuzzed over, our bodies are literally solidifying. We’re reducing our range of motion in the individual areas of our body and over our entire body in general.

So, I believe that one of the great benefits of body work – whether it be massage or structural therapies or physical therapy or any kind of hands on therapy – These types of therapies introduce movement manually to tissues that have become fuzzed over through lack of movement, whether the lack of movement is because of an injury and a person is protecting that injury or because of personality expression. There was many years I just walked around like this: I was very still and monk like. So, then I became more dynamic in my personality when I realised what I was doing to myself and the kind of life that I wanted. So, you can grow fuzz by choice or by accident or whatever and yet here, now that you have heard the fuzz speech, you know that you can take responsibility for melting the fuzz and if there is too much fuzz in your body and it’s frozen up, you might want to seek help in order to introduce movement so that the new cycle is a little more movement and a little more movement and a little more movement instead of a little less movement and a little less movement and a little less movement.

Fuzz represents time. The easier it is for me to pass my finger through the fuzz, the less amount of time it’s been there. If I’ve got to whip out my scalpel, to dig my way through one otherwise sliding surface and another, you know that that’s been building up for a long time. So you can actually see time in fuzz.

That’s The Fuzz Speech.”

You Are In Control…More Than You Know

Second league game for the Toronto Blue Jays. ...

Image via Wikipedia

Sometimes we need to hear the same thing from other people and worded slightly differently before the message really takes hold.

The following are two very brief posts about getting up from your work station to move around and stretch even a little bit throughout the day.  A little, well intentioned movement here and there really does make a significant difference to our well being.

Our children are encouraged to do this in school; such as the little movement from changing classrooms between subjects.  It all adds up.

Something you didn’t know about me: In the early nineties I was a 7th Inning Stretcher for the Toronto Blue Jays.  At the seventh inning, a group of us and the Mascot would rush onto the field and lead the crowd in an active (one minute or so) stretch.  The best part from my perspective, is that for a few minutes before our spot, we got to hang in the dug out and meet some of the players (not sure if they allow this anymore?  And I got a ball used in play from the 1991 All-Star Game signed by Ozzie Guillen -White Sox, Roberto Alomar -Blue Jays, Sandy Alomar- Marlins and Ken Griffey Jr.-Seattle Mariners).

Most of the crowd would stand up and do these stretches along with us, while the 7th Inning Stretch song blasted over the loud speaker. After sitting for so long, this little activity left everyone feeling refreshed and more alert to cheer on their team!  Just another example of how effective short bursts of exercise have a beneficial impact on our health.  Don’t short change the small stuff!

Here is a link to a Globe and Mail article by Harvey Schachter, You’re Not Really Chained to Your Desk. You’ve got to open the link, the photo next to the caption is priceless.  He comments briefly on Pierre Khawand’s research:

Make it a habit to incorporate movement into your day, every 40 minutes or so, to revive your energy and mood, urges consultant Pierre Khawand. Stretch, walk to the other side of the office, go up and down a few flights of stairs, walk briskly to the kitchen area for coffee, or if on the phone simply stand up and move around.”

For convenience I’ve attached Pierre Khawand’s article below.  You can click on his link which will take you to his site for further reading.

Make it a Habit to Incorporate Movement into Your Day: Every 40 Minutes (or so)

By PIERRE KHAWAND | Published: SEPTEMBER 14, 2011

We sit for too long! Way too long! And not only our bodies suffer but our brain and our overall mood and energy! So let us put a stop to this and get energy flowing and get re-invigorated.

Moving

Movement does wonders

I am not referring to the structured exercise and sports activities here (even though these do wonders as well), but to the few minutes of stretching, walking around, climbing a few flights of stairs, or whatever movement you can fit in in a few minutes to get re-energized and ready for the next task. Here are some basic ideas as a starter and I would also like to help you design your own breakthrough movement routine–so stay tuned for a follow-up blog article on the topic:

  1. Adopt a stretching routine that you like or design your own. If you search for “stretching videos” on the web, you get about 14,000,000 results. So plenty of ideas out there. I included 3 of these results below to get you started.
  2. Walk to the other side of the office, or office complex, or maybe around the block! Fresh air would be a highly desirable added benefit if at all possible.
  3. Go up and down a few flights of stairs and do it intentionally as if you had a purpose. By the way, you “do” have a great purpose.
  4. Go to the kitchen area, but this time go briskly and instead of food or coffee, get some water, and get back briskly!
  5. Organize your desk and your files but again, do it with intention and with energy.
  6. In addition, when on the phone, or in a web conference, stand up, move around, and stretch. Take advantage of the web in a different way!
  7. Finally, find a companion who likes to do this with you a few times a day, so you can remind and encourage each other.

Most importantly, it would help to have a variety of these movement activities ready so you can spontaneously use the one that is most applicable to the situation at hand. Keep a list handy. Maybe post one closeby. Put a check mark every time you do one.

When making your list, have some activities that are short for times when all you have is a minute or two. Have others that are longer for these 5 or 10 minute stretches. Maybe one or two that are even longer for when you really need to get away from that chair!

Remember to not let more than 40 minutes go by without invoking movement! If you guess why 40 minutes, you will get a copy of my Accomplishing More With Less book!

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Also remember the Micro Breaks courtesy of Mark Finch & Associates.

For reference the Micro Breaks routine is a series of stretches/exercises, which take less than a minute.  Again, this reinforces what the above article suggests.

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Leave a comment to share with others how you incorporate micro breaks into your work day.  Do you excuse yourself for a minute and take a few flights of stairs?  Walk briskly down the hall as opposed to sending an email or picking up the phone?  

Stretch Your Body

Stretching exercises

Stretch Your Body every day.  Do Yoga, Pilates, traditional sports stretches or other.  Whether you spend 4 minutes or an hour or more a day stretching, when done properly, your body will respond positively to the attention.  Too much focus on tightening and strengthening without lengthening the body’s musculature and connective tissue can have a negative effect.  Likewise, it is easy to overstretch areas that are already flexible leaving the problem areas unattended.  I did exactly that in my early twenties, which caused a very painful knee condition called chondromalacia.  I recovered from it with a lot of help from physiotherapy and massage.  I learned a lot in the process.  Doesn’t it always seem that we learn best from painful personal experience.  I spent a lot of time doing rehabilitative stretching and strengthening and walking around with ice packs strapped to my knees.  As a result stretching has played a significant role in my body maintenance routine ever since.

I highly recommend seeing a professional for advice specific to your individual needs.

I believe that therapeutic massage, myofascial manipulation and active-release therapy among other techniques are necessary to support our over-worked, over-stressed and over-exercised bodies.  I think that most people view massage as a luxury, something to do while on holiday or at a spa rather than as a form of body maintenance.  To get the most from any type of physical therapy, one must collaborate with the therapist as a working relationship.  Tell your therapist that you are keen to make improvements, so ask questions.  Work with them to figure out what type of repetitive movements (or lack of) might be contributing to your muscle soreness or joint pain for example.  Do not leave their office without at least one stretch that you will practice daily.  Careful not to overwhelm yourself with more than three stretches at a time, because you probably will not do them.  The next visit the therapist can reassess and give you another stretch to work on.

I know not everyone can afford massage therapy, I guess that is why it still falls in the luxury category.  But, you can access affordable massage by looking up the teaching colleges.  The students need real bodies to practice on and the price can be very affordable so that you might be able to make it a monthly appointment.  My Registered Massage Therapist did her training at WCCMT and can vouch for its credibility.  They have a student clinic that you can check out as an example. www.collegeofmassage.com/newwestminster/

I haven’t been to Utopia Academy in Vancouver, but as another example of what a student clinic is like, you can check it out here. www.utopiaacademy.com