Stretching and Rolling

photo-96

Yesterday I danced my butt off!! It was the perfect way to spend the first day of the year. Great company, awesome dancing. Before leaving to go dancing I thought to myself I wanted to stretch as I knew this kind of dancing requires my whole body, but I didn’t make time for it. So I paid for it afterwards. When I got home, my whole body was feeling it. I was exhausted, the kind of exhausted from awesome physical activity, and I was achy. Especially my hips and low back. I knew this would happen as I have not been on top of my flexibility lately. After taking a shower, all I wanted to do was lay on the couch with my husband and watch a movie. And although we did watch a movie, I chose to spend the first 20 minutes of it foam rolling. As I finished, I think my words were “This tool is magic”.

I cannot stretch enough (pun not intended) the importance of flexibility. When I talk about flexibility I do not mean being able to do the splits or bend backwards until your hair touches your butt, or even touching your toes. Flexibility looks different for everybody. Obviously the more you stretch the closer to touching your toes you will be (If you are not there already). But the point of stretching should not be so you can do the splits or touch your toes, it should be so you can move your body efficiently and safely in whatever physical movements you choose to partake in. Although I can touch my toes on any given day, there are days that it takes more effort to get there, or where the tightness in my hamstrings (the back of my thighs) is more intense. That is because I need to stretch and release. Which I did not do before dancing. So although I look limber and can touch my toes, it does mean my body is at it’s most efficient.

Going in to any physical activity improperly stretched, can put you at greater risk for injury. Although I am definitely not injured from my intense dancing session, if I do not take the proper steps I could get there. Especially if I keep exercising without taking the time to release the tension build up in my body. And the #1 step, is self myofacial release. Which is where my friend the foam roller comes in. If you do not own one, I strongly recommend you getting one. It doesn’t take much space, and it can be used in numerous ways to help with all kinds of body movements.

For the purpose of today’s post and because this is what I am working on myself I will share a video of using the foam roller on your IT band (the side of the leg), your hips and glutes. All these muscles being tight play a big role lower back pain. Stretching your back when you have tightness there, might help some, but the true culprit is your lower body. (I am not referring to back pain due to injury, or spinal dysfunction or disk problems.) The roller I use here is this one. But if you are new to rolling, I recommend you get a softer one, and even a longer one. The longer one has more versatility and can be used for many other things.

For the sake of your body’s health, and for improved mobility and flexibility, make sure to properly stretch regularly. Oh, and did I mention that walking is a physical activity? So if you are someone who walks, you should stretch regularly.

Paradoxical Living

As I navigate through life, creating and re-creating myself, something has become clear to me: my life is full of paradoxes. While there was a time I would fight that notion, I now am learning to embrace it. I used to think that having a split decision about something meant I was spineless, weak, and easily influenced, without a mind of my own. But as it turns out, I am finding more and more power in being comfortable with the “in between”.

Since allowing myself to embrace the paradoxes, I have experienced an expansion of my life. I feel like there are so many more possibilities and discoveries when I am not limited to a one sided mind or opinion. I find that I have more compassion and acceptance because I am not stuck in any notion that things should be a certain way. Today I might feel like squats is the best thing to tighten the tush. But next week I’ll tell you that jump lunges really do the trick. The reality is, I truly believe they are both great exercises and I also believe that they are both the best depending on where I’m at physically and how I feel. Same goes for politics. I find people who are an “extreme” anything, right or left, to miss out on a lot. Because they are so consumed in “following” a particular leader or idea, they become blinded to the fact that the “other side” might have good ideas too. I find it limiting. I believe the same to be true for religion. Believing strictly in one way of life, in one follower, one can become lost emotionally and spiritually. One can loose it’s true self to the depths of another person’s beliefs. On the flip side, I value commitment and loyalty, choosing something and sticking to it. I value the fact that some can put all their faith in another person or idea and be happy with what comes of it. I see the strength that comes with choosing to live with strict ideals and morals. I myself, need flexibility. I can’t just stick to squats. My body functions so much better when I incorporate all kinds of exercises, and my mind is the same.

The appeal in living a life full of paradoxes is the freedom that comes with it. One day I can sit and meditate and fully embrace the peaceful lifestyle of a buddhist and the next rejoice in the celebrations of a christian faith. I will reap rewards from having a progressive and unconventional parenting style while at the same time instilling some positive values in my child with firm discipline. While choosing to have a mainly raw, vegan, wholesome diet, I can be found chowing down on some beer and pizza from time to time. I embrace it all. My life feels fuller, without unnecessary sacrifices. Why limit myself with labels such as “christian”, “democrat”, “hippie”, when the world is so full of opportunities and constantly growing ideas? Be a tree hugger one day, and be a city girl the next. The only thing I need to be committed to is the creation of ongoing beauty in my life. And that comes with lots of experiences, lots of failures, lots of ideas and exposure to ideas, but mainly lots of acceptance in the world and myself, and the role I decided to play in it to make it a better place for myself and the ones I love.