Stretching before getting out of bed in the morning.
Stretching is just as important, if not more important, than exercise and relaxation. When we stretch, we open the vertebrae and the muscles go back into “normal” mode. When you wake up after a good night’s rest, do make a point of stretching before you get out of bed. First and foremost, bend your knees and gently press your back and shoulder blades gently into the mattress. This will open-up the vertebrae, because when we sleep, we lie still and the vertebrae “compress” as it were. Then straighten your arms and legs, take a deep breath and stretch your limbs (legs, toes, arms and fingers) as far as you can, and as you exhale relax. Repeat 2 – 3 times.
To loosen a stiff back, bend your knees (close to your chest) and gently drop them to the left-side (inhale) and hold it here while you exhale. Inhale again and take your legs to the right-side and hold it while you exhale. Keep your shoulder-blades on the mattress and be gently when bringing the knees back to the centre. Repeat 2 – 3 times.
Another good stretch for the sciatica, back, legs and hip flexors, is to bend your right-leg and, while placing your hands underneath the knee (stay clear of your knees!) or below the knee on the shinbone, take a deep breath in and gently pull the leg towards your chest. As you exhale, relax your grip and repeat for 2 – 3 times. Then do the same with your left leg.
Another good way to loosen the lower back and sciatica, is to sit on the edge of the bed or a chair in a bent, relaxed position, with a stretched-out leg. Point and flex the foot slowly for 6 counts, while looking at the foot. If there is a strong pull in you lower back, do this exercise while looking in front of you instead of at your foot, until it becomes easy. Repeat this with the other leg.
Still stiff in your back? Stand up and cross your one leg over the other, keeping the front leg slightly bent. Take a deep breath in, straighten your spine and gently bend (ONLY in the spine) forward until you feel a gently pull / stretch on the other leg’s side. Repeat with the other leg in front. Not comfortable? Then stand with your legs hip-width apart, bend your knees and lean slight forward. Gently twist slightly and point your right shoulder at your left leg and vice versa. Move from side-to-side while pulling and pointing your shoulders to the opposite legs. Remember to inhale first and then exhale as you move toward the knees. Do this a few times, then come into the centre and round your back and flatten it. Again, inhale as you curl up and exhale as you straighten your back.
Circling your wrists and ankles one way and then another is also a good way to loosen those joints. If you hear a crackling sound and it is not hurting, then don’t worry. It is your body’s way of telling you to add more Omega oils to your diet! When you don’t eat enough oily fish or get enough Omega oil-supplements in, the tendons that are connecting the bones with the muscles, starts to get dry, thus they “crackle.”
Making sure that you stretch before you get out of bed, is not only important for getting the muscles going and the oxygen flowing, but it is also a way of lubricating all the joints and waking the body up in an easy, less stressful way than jumping out of bed!
Stretching before you go to sleep, is also a good idea if you are stiff from a day of sitting and/or exercising. This will help the muscles to release protein acid build-up, get the oxygen and blood flowing again and help you to relax.
By: Ezette Viljoen (Health & Fitness Editor)