Four lessons from stretchin’ daily for two years

Image: Ginny Rose Stewart

The first transformation happened halfway through year one of my daily gym regiment. It took me by pleasant surprise!

I was on an evening running session when I felt a sharp and transient sensation that left me stabilised.

It felt as though I had reset back to my fourteen-year-old physique. My shoulders sat squarely. My breathing developed a rhythm. Speaking became easier. I projected sentences further, with impressive power, without placing any strain on my voice. My hips moved my body forward and backwards with ease.

At the end of that training session, I was as light and flexible as a ballerina. I had restored a certain power I couldn’t understand at the time.

Here’s what else I have picked up along the way:

1/ Focused breathing is a magical experience

I can’t recommend this habit enough! The focus on how you breathe might help quieten down your nervous system and lessen stress and anxiety. With time and consistent practise, it’ll become a tool that keeps you grounded – emotionally and physically.

And when you talk, it’s important to have focused/deep breathing. Speaking solely from the throat disrupts your speech tone which forces you to pause for breath in halted and uncomfortable intakes of air.

Focused breathing helps me to declutter my mind and listen to my body.

Over the last ten years, I’ve grown to enjoy reflecting and writing about my life. This habit helps me keep my mind clear. And it would be impossible to do that if I didn’t place any conscious effort into my breathing patterns.

2/ A Yoga session can happen while I wait for the Gautrain to pull in

It’s fairly easy to assume that certain disciplines are (impossibly) hard to practice. This leads to an aversion to trying new things. With that type of thinking, ideas and experiments are thwarted.

One such discipline is Yoga. It is often discussed and sold in a way that says, subtly, a beginner needs to have a mat, complete gym attire and a dedicated serene environment in the hills.

A person who has not had any practice is easily intimidated. Yoga looks like a lofty pursuit that can’t be accessed willy-nilly.

A session of stillness and peace can happen anywhere, anyhow.

When I learned stretch, relax my shoulders and feel my exhales through the whole body, I could turn off distractions and tune into myself even in a bustling train station at rush hour.

3/ How I stand or sit affects how the entire body feels and functions

When I started out running, I pushed my shoulders inwards and my neck forward which put a strain on my upper body. My breathing got halted and grew uncomfortable after a few minutes of exercise. All the damn time.

I had poor form.

With consistent exercise, I figured out that I needed to keep my upper body straight when running/playing football. That habit was transferred to my daily activities. 

This one physical habit improved my posture. Which meant that I could train my body to stand, walk, sit and lie down in positions that put minimal pressure on muscles and ligaments.

A straight up and natural posture helps me in these four ways:

  • Prevents muscular pain and keeps backache at bay.
  • Keeps my bones aligned, which then allows for the joints and other features to function at their best.
  • Keeps the ligaments in the spine free from unnecessary pressure. This also helps me to quickly detect and stretch out pain points in my back.
  • Lessens body fatigue. When my muscles work properly, it allows me to expend energy efficiently.

4/ Nose breathing is boss!

A mindful breath – drawn in deeply and then let out gently – can make your entire body feel centred.

In general, it’s healthier to breathe through your nose instead of the mouth. Nose breathing is more natural and helps the body to effectively use the air you take in.

The nose — a feature made to help you breathe safely and efficiently — is masterfully designed to:

  • Filter out unhealthy particles. The hair inside your nose filters out dust and mites to prevent them from entering the lungs.
  • Rinse inhaled air. Your nose warms up and dampens the air you take in. This process translates the air inhaled to the required body temperature. It makes it easier for the lungs to use.
  • During nasal breathing, the nose releases nitric oxide. NO is a vasodilator, which means it helps to widen blood vessels. This helps improve oxygen circulation in your body.

The ultimate goal is to stretch the body until it stops being an activity you pay much attention to. Just like you did when you were a kid.

Published
Categorized as Health

By THEMBA JAY

Wordsmith: I write and edit words. I speak and facilitate public conversations. I think and consult.

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