A young woman in a yoga pose...relaxing.
If I asked you if you are aware of your body when you are resting, relaxing or stretching, you’d probably think I was a bit nuts. Why should I be doing something when I am trying to relax and not do anything? The issue is when many of us “relax,” we are actually filling our overstressed minds with more, and not truly focusing or being mindful or our relaxation.
If I asked you to make a list of how you relax, what would it include? TV or screen time - AKA mind numbing sedentary activity? Sitting on the couch or in the lazy boy (there’s a reason that chair is named lazy and not great body and health chair you know), which is detrimental to your posture and your back. The point here is relaxation verses distraction. Activities - like bright light and action with screen time or social media - may actually be ramping up your body even more, giving it less real relaxation. They also contribute to an already sedentary lifestyle. Sitting is the new smoking you know… The mindful relaxation I am talking about is stretching. Literally unkinking the body for all the sedentary hours that put it into such painful and stressful situations.
Mindful stretching is merely getting up from your chair and taking time to focus on your breath – nice deep breaths to reduce the carbon dioxide you’ve built up from shallow breathing, and also allow the shoulders to drop from the tense hours in front of a screen – whether it is at work or home with social media, TAV or games. Stretching is a way to re-oxygenate the whole body. When you brain is deprived of oxygen, it becomes fatigues and lethargic. Instead of standing tall and reaching for the skies in a stretch, far too many people reach out to a vending machine, snack drawer, or a calorie laden coffee or drink guaranteed to boost their energy…and their waistlines.
Take time to stand up and stretch, following these principles. Static stretches like the familiar hamstrings or quads are meant to be a daily practice, or for after a workout – yoga is an example of a series of static or held stretches. Doing one to three repetitions of each and holding them five breaths or 15 to 30 seconds to relax and let gravity do the work allows the muscles to reset themselves without the feeling of tearing or tightness the next time you go to that position and hold it. Never force a stretch but always feel that moderate pull, and know it will take time and consistent work to change the tissues elasticity or flexibility. The first stretch will start the flexibility process and feel good, the second if time allows even better with a focus on breathing and if time allows do a third and really focus on where you are feeling it in the body; the breath – deep and diaphragmatic and your posture tall and upright. The ultimate goal is for relaxation, reinvigoration and reenergizing the body.
Focusing on your body and breath verses the to do list for a few minutes will allow you the energy and focus to get more done on that list and be less stressed doing it. You will be a better human being if you do this as well!