Yin and Yang
Yin and Yang
By Mary Lauren Eubank
“Wear your shoulders like a belt, Mary Lauren, not like a pair of earrings!” A famous quote by my favorite Aunt Jane, one she told me while I was slouched over eating dinner at her house when I was in high school. Until she pointed it out, I didn’t realize that my shoulders comfortably rounded forward and crept up towards my earlobes( near to say of a pair of dangle earrings). Of course, she would notice because Aunt Jane has spent her career teaching yoga. Yes, my Aunt Jane for the past twenty five years has spent a portion of each day twisting her body into wild positions all in the name of stretching. And she will be happy to know that ever since my dangle earring revelation, so do I!
Cardiovascular exercise is amazing and undeniably a key part to a successful weight loss plan. But I believe cardio alone is not enough. To fully gain all its benefits, cardio should be paired with a consistent stretching routine. Stretching is the yin to cardio’s yang.
Many times cardio leaves our bodies achy, tight and sore. Without stretching, you may compromise your form during exercise putting yourself at risk for injury. And when your body is tight and uncomfortable, you are less likely to try to push your cardiovascular limits hampering your chances to increase endurance and strength. Our muscles, tendons and ligaments long to be lengthened and if you are serious about fitness, I suggest carving out time to stretch.
I mentioned my Aunt Jane practices yoga and I am a Pilates instructor but remember you don’t have to take a class to get some good stretching in.
Here are a few ways I incorporate stretching into my daily routine to ensure my muscles, tendons and ligaments have the chance to elongate.
The Hairdryer- Whenever I flip my hair over to dry, I leave my legs about hip width distance apart and inch my face as close to my knees as I can. According to the American Academy of Orthapoedic Surgeons and the Mayo Clinic, you must hold a stretch for thirty seconds to allow the muscle to release and stretch. If I’m really tight, I may have to bend my knees a bit. To open up my hips, I bend one knee while straightening the other and switch.
The Doorway- To combat those forward rolling shoulders, I stand in my doorway with my fingers pointing backwards and palms out. I take a few steps forward until I feel a nice stretch across the front of my chest. This is an easy one to do when you are watching your kids play. You also do this one arm at a time against a wall.
The Baseboards- As a runner, I have battled shin splits and found this stretch to be very helpful. Flex your toes so your weight is in your heel as you press the padding of your toes against the wall above the baseboards. Your heel will be about six inches from the wall. Straighten your knee and lean into the wall using only your fingers so the weight remains in your heels. After thirty seconds, bend the knee and feel the stretch move from your calf to your achilles tendon. Try the other leg.
Shoulder Shrug- While waiting at a stoplight, I shrug my shoulders trying to touch my ear lobes and then drawn them as far down as I can. I imagine my shoulders as elevators going from the top floor to the parking garage. After shrugging a few times, I try to maintain the lowest “parking garage” position as I drive!
This week I am challenging the moms of Stroller Strength and you to spend at least ten minutes every day doing some sort of stretching. Maybe try a yoga class or, instead of watching commercials, hop off the couch and stretch through them. Complete the circle of your fitness program and dedicate yourself to stretching.