As a working Massage Therapist, I see clients for a variety of reasons and I use a variety of integrative modalities with them in order to give them what their bodies need. Every client is different in their reasons of why they have bodywork in their lives, but one thing roughly 85% of my clientele all have in common is living with tight, achy, and painful muscles.
Naturally, the most common question I ask them is, “Do you stretch?” and the most common answer I receive is, “No.”
Most people refuse to believe there is any time to stretch, because they’ve hit the snooze button 5 times until they wake up with only 30 minutes left to get to work in a 45 minute commute. They forego breakfast, water, nutrients of any kind, stretching, and even any conscious breathing; and it all goes down here from there. They spend the rest of their day hangry, fatigued, short-tempered and in a daze until they can faceplant into their couch the minute they get home.
So my question to them, and my topic of discussion today is this:
What did you expect?
You wake up every morning and immediately start pushing your body through the day without warming up your muscles or putting any real food into your body that has been inactive for the last 5-9 hours. You wonder why you’re exhausted by 11am with a pounding headache and stinging, burning knots coming from your shoulders, back, and hips that demolish your comfort and morale for God knows how long?
There must be an easier way….. Right? YES! It’s called ACCOUNTABILITY and SELF-AWARENESS. Through these two simple life-changing techniques, we can change our bad habits and create a positive change that will not only increase your longevity, but it will lessen your stress levels and help produce a happier, healthier environment for you and those who live and work by your side.
Stretching is one of the best things you can do for your body.
Because a stretch is held for 30 seconds MAX – you can stretch at any time during the day. ISN’T THAT MIND BLOWING!? As a professional, I am asked what time of day is best recommended. I always suggest we tackle stretching first thing when we wake up. Our bodies rejuvenate themselves during our sleep time but that doesn’t stop toxins from planting themselves in new areas and causing mayhem. That’s why we feel tight and stiff when we wake up. Our muscles are cold. Have you ever tried driving a car before you let the oil fully warm up? The engine runs completely different and it will shorten the life of your oil, shocks, struts, and even your braking system. Wouldn’t you rather just sit and be patient for 3 minutes to save a huge car repair bill?
I want you to consider for a moment how many moves you think you make on any given day. Add up all the weight you think you contribute to your body (i.e. backpacks, purses, pulling a suitcase, walking 10 dogs on leashes, heavy coats, walking through a city in stilettos, heavy warehouse lifting, moving furniture) – you see what I’m getting at? You are working your muscles; a constant flux of contraction and release. Every move we make from the time we wake up to the time we go back to sleep are being pushed non-stop. Our legs, our arms, and for those of you who work at computers all day long: YOUR HANDS, SHOULDERS, AND NECK. All these muscles are getting tighter and tighter.
When your muscles become too tight, they fight back. They’re telling you, “Dammit, I have had ENOUGH! I am starving, sore, and cold. Stop pushing me for your own agenda and give me some nourishing! I am not taking you another comfortable step until you start giving me something in return! I will break you down if you won’t listen to me!”
To think that we don’t need to stretch is asinine. To put it another way let’s say you’re an employee at a company. You’ve been working there for two years now. You have the highest numbers and more positive feedback than anyone else there. You work blood, sweat, and tears and bring in a lot of money for the company. With that being said, your boss never compliments you on your work; has never given you a raise; has never acknowledged your work; or even offered you an end of the year bonus. Your boss never lets you know they appreciate all the work you do for their company – they just tack on more responsibilities for you.
How do you think that is going to start affecting your morale? Is that somebody you’d want to be working for your whole life?
No? Then why do you treat your body that way?
They stop functioning properly and start causing us problems. When they stop functioning as they should, we become injured. Strains, sprains, throwing our shoulder out, pulling our hamstrings, developing plantar fasciitis, and even causing us headaches – just to name a few. Tight muscles lead to knots, a decrease in our Range of Motion, and an increase to toxic build-up. Those three things, among others (nutrition, water intake, and sanity levels) can cause massive internal imbalances and malfunctions for our hormones, organs, etc.
We are not our body. I’ve said this a thousand times, and I will say it well over a thousand more times. WE ARE NOT OUR BODY. We are a soul. Our body is our machine and everything inside of our body is ours to take care of and feed and fuel in order to obtain a greater longevity. We are not meant to house pain for years and eons. Pain is not something that comes out of nowhere and sets up shop just to dictate what we can and cannot do and then laugh about it… Pain is a chemical signal in our body to let us know something is wrong and needs to be addressed. It is our obligation to listen to our bodies.
Society has made us all out to be crazy, dirty, hippies – just because we encourage the concept of connecting with our bodies! THAT HAS TO BE THE CRAZIEST SHIT I HAVE EVER HEARD. If you refuse to stretch and you refuse to connect with your body, then you mine as well learn to love it and save the rest of us from listening to your enduring complaints. I love you, WE love you, but if you don’t want to make changes to be pain-free, please don’t use us as your vent-station! 🙂
Stretching our muscles is our way of giving thanks to our body. It’s our way of giving our machine and the tools inside of it a reward for letting us destroy it with workouts, vigorous activities, sugar, cross country road trips and 18 hour flights to other countries. We are grinders, hustlers, and DOERS! We conquer what we set out to do! Stretching opens up our muscle fibers to allow new blood flow and flush out some wading toxicity and old blood. Stretching helps us recycle our system and push toxins and tension out of one of our Channels of Elimination (we have four).
Stretching increases our elastin, which helps our tissues retain moisture which, you guessed it, helps us look YOUNGER AND YOUTHFUL without even trying. It releases oxytocin (commonly called the love hormone) and endorphins that make us feel happy and good about ourselves. We feel less stressed and more patient when we take the time to stretch and feed our bodies properly.
All it takes BARE MINIMUM, is fifteen minutes in the morning to stretch our body. A solid stretch sits at 30 seconds. ONLY 30 SECONDS PER MUSCLE is all it takes to wake up your body properly and get your muscles woken up, fired up, and PUMPED UP! When you give that to your body first thing, your body will take you to the moon and back with fewer injuries, fewer pains, and fewer dysfunctions of movement.
You don’t have to become a yogi. You don’t even have to like yoga. You don’t need to become a stretching guru and dance with the wolves. But, you do need to listen to your body. You do need to fuel it and give it what it needs if you still want to have healthy and radically pain-free life at the age of 50+.
As much as I love striking the fear of consequence into you about stretching – that’s not what my intention is. It’s important to me, as a practitioner, to educate you about the WHY of the suggestion. What you do with the information is completely your choice. I’m just trying to help those around you who have to listen to your bodily complaints and see your lack of follow-through to do anything about it.
If I had any other advice to leave you with, I’d suggest you let yourself become vulnerable to your own self. Take the wall down that’s between your connection between body/mind/spirit. And if anybody calls you crude names because you are connected to yourself, remember that ignorance is bliss and with as much love and kindness as possible, give them the middle finger and wish them the best day ever.