01 Apr “I know I should…”
I am a massage therapist and I hear this phrase a lot. Because I care deeply about my clients and their overall health and well being, I ask a lot of questions before, after and sometimes during our sessions. I ask about self-care routines and then offer suggestions and insight to help people make a shift – in a habit, a belief or a way of being in their bodies. There’s often a recognition on their part that a particular change would probably make them feel better, and yet I find myself asking the same questions, over and over. Why is that? For some, a sense of overwhelm can cause them to put up a barrier to change. Not knowing where to start too often means not starting at all. So what I can do to help my clients is to keep it simple, to offer really easy ways to remember self care.
One wonderful thing we can do for ourselves is to move our bodies regularly. I can hear it now, yet another common response, “I don’t have time!” We all just plain have too much to do! I get that. I totally get that we are a culture in perpetual motion, zooming from one activity to another obligation, with no opening in which to squeeze one more thing into our busy days. A trip to the gym is great, and I’m all for committing to a regular aerobic and/or weight-bearing exercise routine. But there’s something we can (dare I say should?) do every day, which is to stretch our bodies, head to toe. And it doesn’t have to take more than 5-7 minutes to move all our parts, to release the tight places and to become aware of where we’re carrying our stress. With awareness comes the ability to choose a new way of moving in the world.
And then there’s the bonus of stress relief. In her book, Self-Nurture, Alice Domar notes that “chronic stress can trigger continually high levels of stress hormones (for example, adrenaline and cortisol) that produce elevated blood pressure or heart rate, increased oxygen consumption, weakened immune systems, and other physiologic imbalances that eventually lead to symptoms or even full-blown diseases.” Her recommendation? Yoga. She writes that many of her patients “report that yoga is among the most effective stress-relieving methods they’ve ever practiced.” And yoga is, at its simplest, really good stretching.
So where to start? There are many instructional DVDs, classes and books about stretching and yoga. My own stretching routine is based on yoga moves that I’ve been practicing for years – 12 years to be exact, which is when I had back surgery for a herniated disk. My yoga-based, post-surgery stretching routine kept me loose and helped me to strengthen my muscles, as well as made me aware of how I was feeling in all areas of my body, not just my back. If I hadn’t instituted a stretching routine and kept faithful to it, I’m pretty sure I would not be able to do the physical work required in my professional life. Nor would I know, first hand, the very real benefits of stretching, for myself and for my clients.
Debra Bloom is a massage therapist, energy medicine practitioner and life coach with a practice in Mansfield, MA. She will be demonstrating her own 5-7 minute stretching routine at the next Women’s Business Network meeting on Tuesday, April 9, at 9:30.