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Flexibility Exercises for Youth

As a trained chiropractor, flexibility exercises are a must know and must do.

All eastern medical practitioners know "A flexible spine is a young spine", but here in the west, when was the last time your medical doctor asked you to touch your toes or gave you a prescription for flexibility exercises?

When I was in practice I use to measure each of my patient's range of motion and flexibility and what I found was that on average, adults and even children are highly inflexible.

I had a specialized computer software program where I could prescribe specific flexibility exercises to each person, but the act of prescription alone was not enough.

The person actually had to do them! And most people want a quick fix. As long as I was helping them feel better, why bother with the exercises. They take too much time.

Really?

Give your head a shake if this sounds familiar. A daily routine of stretching would only have to take 10 minutes. Who does not have 10 minutes to contribute to a youthful body?

Ok, that was a rhetorical question. But really, we need to do this stuff. Flexibility Exercises are right up there with the need for oxygen.

The Cause of Inflexibility and Stiffness:

Stress!

Yes, I do blame a lot on stress, but it is the truth. It is a combination of physical stress, emotional stress and chemical stress.

We are born being able to suck our toes, yet somewhere along the line, our bodies begin to store massive amounts of tension. So much so that when I teach yoga to a group of 10 year olds, I see that they have trouble even touching their toes!

Inflexibility comes not just from lack of exercise and stretching, but also from a poor diet and poor mental attitude.

Yes, a diet of processed food and a dead end relationship can make you stiff and tense. Regardless of what types of stress you are experiencing, the more stress you add to your life, the more physically inflexible you will become.

This is why 10 year olds are no longer able to suck their toes...their life, just like their parent's lives are stressed. The entire family needs to add flexibility exercises to their daily routine.

The Daily Four Flexibility Exercises:

Of course there are 100's of different flexibility exercises you could do, but in my experience, these 3 top the charts and give you the biggest bang for your time.

  1. Sciatic Nerve Stretch:
    • This is known by most as a hamstring stretch.
    • The Sciatic Nerve is the longest nerve in the body and as a result, it takes a beating and really needs to be stretched.
    • Sitting on the floor with your legs stretched out in front, bend forward at the waist with a straight spine and hook your index finger and middle finger around your big toe, using your thumb to push on the nail of your big toe (this is a reflex point for the pituitary gland).
    • If you cannot reach your big toe, bend forward to rest your hands on your shins, knees or thighs; whatever is comfortable for you is a good start point. You will be able to stretch deeper the more you practice.
    • In this position practice long deep breaths, relaxing deeper and deeper into the pose with each breath.


  2. Neck Rolls:
    • Being extremely aware of your own body, gently begin by rolling your neck in one direction as you breath long and deep.
    • After a few minutes, reverse directions.
    • If you feel any pain or pinching, back off slightly and make smaller circles. As always, start small and build up the intensity as time progresses.


  3. Shoulder Shrugs:
    • Inhale deeply as you raise your shoulders up toward your ears.
    • Exhale as you drop them back to a neutral resting position.
    • Continue inhaling and exhaling as you alternately shrug and relax your shoulders.
    • Go at your own pace and own speed, always paying attention to your own body's needs.


  4. Cat-Cow:
    • Come onto your hands and knees and alternately flex your spine as you raise your head up, dropping your spine down towards the floor in cow pose; then dropping your head down as you arch your spine upwards in cat pose.
    • Use your breath with the motion. Inhaling as you move into cow pose, and exhaling into cat pose.

One of the best places to learn flexibility is in a yoga class. So I've included a number of additional links to alternative flexibility exercises, some of which are based on popular yoga poses:

Yoga Mudra: Mudras are specific hand positions designed to exercise and stretch different parts of the brain-body. Understand the subtle nature of flexibility with the use of mudras.

Gyan Mudra: Kill your ego and expand your wisdom through a simple hand gesture called Gyan Mudra.

Reflexology Maps: As you stretch different muscle groups, we access different spinal and organ reflexes. Understanding the reflexology maps of your body can help you balance and heal yourself.

Tree Pose: To help open up your hips and groin, this posture will help you feel grounded and secure if your world feels shaky and tumultuous.

Triangle Pose: To challenge you a little, try triangle pose. It will stretch your hamstrings and low back, twist your lower spine, open your heart and work on digestion and balance. An important pose to include and strive for mastery as it incorporates many areas.

Lotus Pose: This is the traditional seated meditation posture. You see all Buddha's adopt this cross-legged posture. It is wonderful to open the hips, knees and groin as well as to stimulate a quiet, meditative mind and initiate the upward movement of the Kundalini energy.

Frog Pose: A wonderful flexibility exercise for the legs, hips, knees and heart. A powerful pick me up exercise and can be used to help with compulsive behaviours.

Camel Pose: A great stretch for the anterior (frontal) musculature – the quadriceps, groins, abdominals, chest and throat. It will strengthen the back and improve posture and digestion.

Pelvic Tilts: A key pose for those with low back pain or disc challenges. Even in acute pain, this is a wonderful exercise to stimulate gentle motion into the pelvis and lower back.

Baby Pose: A comfortable resting pose, especially great for prenatal mommies. This pose stretches the pelvis and spine and stimulates the pituitary gland.

Cobra Pose: A good pose to strengthen the upper body while stretching the lower back. Great for woman with menstrual pain and irregularities.

Shoulder Stand: This is an all round useful spinal stretch pose. It stimulates the thyroid gland and is good for blood circulation in the chest, shoulders, upper back and neck. It is an advanced posture, so if you are feeling like a challenge, here is a good one to try.

Plow Pose: A deep whole spine stretch, this pose also stimulates flow in organs of the abdomen, chest and neck, including the digestive system, kidneys, liver, lungs, thyroid and parathyroid. It is also very useful for individuals experiencing leg cramps.

Chair Pose: This is a good core strength posture. It opens up your chest and belly. Another great pose for pregnant moms.

Bow Pose: Another pose for low back strength. It will improve your posture and increase your entire spine flexibility

Fish Pose: This pose works to open the heart, neck, throat and belly. This is a comfortable flexibility stretch to do each morning before arising from bed.


And...you could always make up your own pose. Kids especially love doing this. Pick an animal and stretch your body to mimic what it may look like.

Always listen to your body, but in general, there are no rules to flexibility exercises, just have fun with it!

Yours in Wellness,

Dr. Lisa

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