Of my many bodily deficiencies (see Pants, Tight), one has been protesting louder lately. I’m creaky. I’m tight. I’m about as flexible as a granite countertop. I can feel it when I walk, when I run, when I wake up and when I tie my shoes. So, when I see Instagram feeds of handstands and splits and people who can pretzel their bodies into the shape of capital letters, I want some of that. (I also want whatever is being posted on #TacoTuesday.) I want to know what it feels like to be long and limber. Was it time to flex and stretch?
Lifetimes ago, I tried yoga classes. One happened in the late ‘90s. I liked it, but did not stick with it. The other time happened maybe 10 years ago. I walked into a hot yoga class in Miami, sweated out the equivalent of Lake Alice, then mistakenly drank a juice that tasted like blended grass, because apparently it was blended grass. Since then, the only time I really touch my toes is to clip them.
While I have dabbled in some post-workout stretching and go through phases where I want to go all-in, it has always taken a back seat to exercises that will help reduce my back seat. So, I have opted to lift, run, swim, and more — but I have never carved out the time to stretch regularly.
I know the benefits of yoga and stretching, because I can feel them on the rare occasions that I do take time to bend and burn. Although I may not stretch regularly, when I do, these are my three favorites.
Lie on your back with your knees bent. Place one ankle on the opposite knee, then pull that knee to your chest. Sweet mother of Spurrier, this one hurts feels so good.
For this frog pose, start with your knees and elbows on the floor. Then widen your legs to feel the stretch in your inner thighs.
This “sit” muscle in your hips can be stretched to help relieve and prevent back pain. Kneel on the ground and put one foot in front of you flat on the ground (your thigh will be parallel to the floor). Then thrust your hips forward and your back backward to feel the stretch.
As is the case with just about any health behavioral change you can make, the question then becomes how you can turn knowing what to do into actually doing it.
I do not know the best way, but here’s what I am going to try: 15 minutes four or five times a week. Instead of couch time, I will slither down for some mat time.
I do not anticipate any elegant downward dogs in my immediate future, but I do know that I am getting tired of my body barking.
Ted Spiker (@ProfSpiker) is the chair of the University of Florida department of journalism, as well as a health and fitness writer. He is the author of DOWN SIZE, a book about the science and soul of weight loss and dieting.