AUME – Flexibility

Cool down exercises for Autoimmunees

Flexibility – is it only for those elite few or can the rest of us “not as fit” people mould our bodies to become more flexible? Now if you’re reading this with a biological point of view, you will answer of course you can, you just need to train your body. But that is a much easier statement said than done. So I’ve gone out to find positions or exercises, that help us train our bodies to become more flexible which are perfect for cool down exercises.

‘Dayummm, she is so flexible!’, I thought to myself. I found myself just staring. Her butt high in the air, her fingers touching her toes, and then suddenly, whoosh (yes that sound exactly) she’s standing up but with her left leg somehow straight up and next to her side, while the other leg was still firmly placed on the floor.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, Cami, you’re totally checking this chick out! Lol! Now don’t get too excited any guys out there, I was seriously wishing I could do the same. And embarrassingly enough, I decided in this moment, to try it. Big mistake. I think it took me about a week to get rid of the ache out of my legs and back haha. Anyways back to where I’m heading with all of this. Ever admired the elegant stretch of a ballerina or heck any great dancer who is able to flex their body like it was made out elastic. I can’t even touch my toes, but enough about me. All these thoughts have led me to my blog post for today…

Stretch it out!

Of course, you can always try yoga, but here are just some simple autoimmune exercises that anyone can do (whatever fitness level) every day in the comfort of your own home. Later on, you can get advanced and try all sorts of yoga positions your heart desires.

Stretching helps prevent injury, increases your range of movement and relaxes your muscles and nervous system – which means it can feel really good! Stretching is our way to getting more flexible. Other benefits include that it will help lessen the chance of injury during physical activity and also training your body in proper posture. It is something a lot of us underestimate when it comes to overall health and fitness.

The most important thing when stretching is that we should feel a light resistance in our muscles, not tingling, shaking or burning. If our breathing becomes heavy and we find ourselves holding our breaths or heaving, then we are definitely pushing ourselves too hard – ease off and breathe slowly into a position (like in yoga). As you become more comfortable and aware of your body as it stretches into a position, you’ll get to know how much your body can be pushed. Try not to over exert yourself for the following 6 positions.

Lower Body

Japanese Sitting

This position is to stretch the front of the ankle. Kneel on the floor with your toes pointing out behind you and your heels pointing directly to the ceiling. Keep your feet vertical so that knees and lower legs on the ground. Sit up straight and rest your torso on your heels. Hold here for 3-5 breaths, each day you can try to stay longer and longer as your ankles become more comfortable in the stretched position. If your ankles start hurting too much, try using a towel underneath your knees. Sometimes you can cramp up, so you’ll need to get into the position slowly and when you feel discomfort change positions. As you build up the stretch each day it will also benefit your lower back.

Band hamstring stretch

This position is to stretch the back of your leg and release lower back strain. Lie on the floor with your left knee bent, foot on the floor, and your right leg straight in the air with the foot supported by the band. Your shoulders shouldn’t be scrunching up in an effort to tug your leg closer to you. Keep your back flat on the floor and your arms straight. Let the weight of your right leg go into the band and gently draw the leg closer into you. If you feel stable, stretch your supporting leg away from you along the ground. Keep your tailbone anchored down to fully feel the stretch. Take 3-4 breaths deepening the stretch as you exhale. Repeat on your other leg.  Avoid being your knee or stretching too far.

Lying Quad Stretch

This position is used to stretch the front of your thighs using the floor as resistance. Lie on your stomach with your legs outstretched behind you. Bend one knee to bring your heel toward your butt. Grab your ankle ad bring your foot into your butt. Do not arch your back. Keep your inner thighs touching and tuck your pelvis under by pressing your pubic bone down into the floor as you pull your foot in. Hold the position for 3-5 breaths and repeat with the other knee. If there is any pain stop or don’t hold your foot so tightly to your butt. Build up as each day goes by. A thickly folded towel can be placed under your hips if you feel uncomfortable.

Upper Body

Side Stretch

This position is used to stretch the side of your body, shoulders, forearms, and wrists. Stand with your spine in neutral, your feet just wider than hip-width apart, and knees soft. Interlace your fingers and lift your hands above your head with your palms facing upward. Inhale and broaden your ribs as much as possible, without shrugging your shoulders. Keep your abdominals drawn in, and as you exhale, bend to the right.  Inhaling, return to center and exhaling reach to the left. Inhaling, return to center and repeat 3 times to each side. Keep your tummy tucked in tight, you can feel your abs working, keep your shoulders low and away from your ears. Do not arch your lower back or twist your hips.

Upper Stretch

This position is used to stretch the upper arm and increase the range of movement in the shoulder joint. Stand with your spine in neutral, your feet just wider than hip-width and knees soft. Reach your right hand into the air and bend your elbow so that your hand is reaching down your spine. Use your left hand to gently press down on your right elbow to increase the stretch. Hold for 3 deep breaths and repeat on the other side. Don’t let your head be pushed forward by your arm or try to increase your range of movement by arching your back. Keep your abdominals drawn in for support.

Shoulder Stretch

This position is used to stretch your shoulders. Stand with your spine in neutral, your feet just wider than hip-width, and knees apart. Take your right arm across in front of your chest, with your wrist resting on your left shoulder. Keep your shoulders down and push your right elbow toward your left shoulder. (Your wrist may slide over your shoulder). Hold for 3 deep breaths, increasing the stretch with each breath if possible. Repeat on the other side. Don’t let your stretching shoulder life in an effort to increase the range. Keep your tummy abs drawn in and your spine calm.

More Exercise Resources

Did you find these 6 positions helpful? Check out the following references which helped me in my research for this blog:

  1. http://doctordilday.wordpress.com/2009/11/11/sitting-postures-%E2%80%93-part-two-the-postures/
  2. http://www.bodyresults.com/e2hamstringstretches.asp
  3. http://www.exrx.net/Stretches/Quadriceps/ProneLying.html
  4. http://www.naturalphysiques.com/159/stretching-guide-part-i-upper-body-stretches-by-jeremy

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