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'Put Your Foot in Your Mouth' - the Value of Good Flexibility and a Strong Spine
Recent Presentation Given by Barbara Moroney
Based on the book 'Natural Body, Natural Shape'

Last week I babysat Peter, a friend's 8½-month old son. At Peter's age, babies crawl everywhere. They explore tiny bits of things on the floor with their mouths. Afraid to let him out of my sight, I brought him upstairs to my office so that I could check my email. The next time I glanced at him, I discovered he had eaten a sticky note. (Later, his mother told me not to worry; he gets plenty of fiber that way).

I moved away from my desk. With nothing in reach, Peter grabbed his foot and put it in his mouth. He contentedly munched on it, gazing at me with his big, round baby eyes.

We adults can still put our foot in our mouths, but for most of us, it is an embarrassing social, not physical, act. As a yoga practitioner, I often reflect, enviously, on how flexible babies and young children are. I recently watched a toddler effortlessly squat, heels-on-the floor, to pick up a toy she had dropped.
One test for flexibility in the lower back and hamstrings is to stand with your feet together, slowly bend from the waist, and touch your toes. If you cannot touch your toes with your legs straight and without bouncing, you are not flexible enough. Try this test now, if you can. How far down to your toes do you reach?

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Foot In Mouth Quote

Take a moment to try the following instructions:

· Rest both feet flat on the floor.
· Place your hands on your thighs and using the pressure of your hands as a guide; relax your thighs into the chair.
· Lengthen your spine from your tailbone all the way up through the crown of your head.
· Open your chest and relax your shoulders away from your ears.
· Let your head come to rest naturally over your shoulders.
· Take a deep inhalation and a deep exhalation.
· Notice how differently your body feels at your desk.
· Keep the sensation of this alignment as you continue to read this article. You will come back to it later.

We lose flexibility in part because of the habits we develop as part of our lifestyle.
One such common habit is the way we sit when working at a computer. For example, notice how you are sitting. Are you straight and relaxed? Or, are you slouching? Slouching rounds and shortens the upper spine, collapses the chest, and juts the head forward. The result is often back pain, stiff neck and sore muscles. Slouching interferes with every system in your body - breathing, circulation, respiration, hormones, digestion, and excretion). Take a moment to try the instructions in the box on the left.

Muscles tighten from everyday anxieties - about health, family, finances, and the future. Muscles tighten up when you have to meet a deadline, they tighten when you have to get your child to a sporting event on time, they tighten when you have to run an extra errand at lunch, and on and on and on. Eventually they forget to let go.

To imagine the kind of energy tight muscles expend, ball one of your hands into a tight fist. Now, do not unclasp your hand. Ever. How long do you think it would be before the muscles in your hand became exhausted? It seems almost impossible to keep this tension indefinitely, yet this is what chronically contracted muscles in your shoulders, your lower back, or your abdomen may be doing. They remain tight, driven by habitual worries, even when you are having fun or sleeping. Tight muscles sap your energy, energy you could be using to improve your game of golf, or run a better time, or get a peaceful night's sleep. In addition, tight muscles hurt, especially in the morning.

Notice how you are sitting again. Are you still straight? If so, relax your buttocks into the chair, lengthen your spine and make yourself longer. If you are slouching, well straighten up, for heaven's sake.

Staying flexible and keeping your spine in good shape requires effort. For example, where in your schedule today is your entry for stretching and relaxing your body? Where will the entry be tomorrow? How can you counteract your daily habits that decrease flexibility and worsen your posture without creating a daily habit to reverse the process? A daily commitment will do the most to maintain and even increase your flexibility.

Check your posture again. Are you getting the idea you need to work to change a habit of slouching?

I recommend yoga because its poses engage your whole body. Notice in that very brief exercise you started from your feet and went all of the way to the crown of our heads. Yoga stretches, strengthens and balances. It helps to create new habits to replace the old ones. Yoga creates an inner sticky note that reminds you to stay calm and relaxed while you go through your daily activities, that reminds you to sit up straight while you focus on your work at your desk.

Your body's natural shape is efficient and takes the least amount of energy to function. Tight muscles are not part of that natural shape. Yoga returns your body to its more natural state, like when you were a baby and could put your foot in mouth, literally, as Peter did.

While it takes time out of your day to maintain and/or improve your flexibility, remember this quote. It is from a book, The New Yoga for People Over 50. "It takes time to take care of yourself, but it takes even more time if you don't take care of yourself." So, take care of yourself, resolve to make toe touching and stretching, especially with yoga, a daily priority.

To have Barbara Moroney speak to your group or organization, contact us at 303-766-3153 or via e-mail.

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Healthy Spine

Based on the book 'Natural Body, Natural Shape'

 

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