Since I'm still riding high on enthusiasm from joining The Man Cave, here is a post about something I consider quite important after doing extensive hard, physical work: some righteous stretching! See, I've never been too excited about yoga. Of course I do some basic stretching and warm-up before any physical activity, which takes about ten minutes at most, and keeps me from tearing muscles, or sustaining similar injuries when using my body. But as I've come to realize, this bare minimum is barely enough to feel real good...
Too Dirty For Taking A Shower ?
Last year, when we were in the thickest part of the construction, including building the tire wall and subsequently pouring concrete, I did A LOT of physical work. Once I overcame my exhaustion, it was quite nice. I got properly tired, slept better than ever, and as the days passed I enjoyed being able to do more and more each day. Yes, pounding tires, mixing concrete with shovels on the ground, and hauling logs of 100-200 lbs around sure helped get a nice upper body. But it all came at an expense. As if my body seized up.
Towards the end of our time together, it occurred to us that we may benefit from some yoga. Manu, our in-house yoga instructor, organized a little session under a lovely tree, where we followed his instructions of basic moves. That's when I noticed that my usual flexibility had diminished to an unacceptable level. Not surprisingly, I remembered hearing how physical work can add strength to your body, but may diminish your flexibility. That's exactly what happened. After thirty minutes I was ready to die... Was I too rigid for yoga? According to my yogi sister, that sound like if I was saying I was too dirty to wash. In other words, I need more practice.
For this reason, I asked Manu to give me a little sequence I could practice, which would give me an overall stretch in about half an hour. This way I could make up for my lost flexibility. He said the sequence consisted of a couple of versions of the Sun Salutation, combined with The Warrior. Okay, whatever... But I can feel how they give all my body parts a nice stretch. I suppose if I make it a daily habit, especially during my urban time, the next urban gig is going to be less taxing on my flexibility. Let's see...
Step By Step Sequence
Thank You World:
So here it is: yours truly stretching his builder body. And where else would I do it, than in our newly constructed building, which is the only place on the property with reliable shade (at least at certain times of the day). And sure, all the debris and broken nails and whatnot could be swept away quickly.
At first I start out very simply: putting my feet on the mat, about shoulder-width apart. I put my hand in prayer position, saying thanks to the nice breeze and shade, then stretch my arms above my head, breathing in, holding it for a bit, then exhaling it out, as I stretch my muscles in the position I am. That's how I keep doing the entire sequence: inhaling toward my abdomen, exhaling slowly while paying attention to the stretch.
As I lower my hands, I focus on my my mind (while it passes my head), my breathing (as it passes my throat), and my feelings (in front of my heart). Sure, these things may sound hokey, but it's all part of it.
Ready and Set
Next, I place my hands on the mat, and pull my right foot back as far as I can. It's important to keep my left knee right above my ankle, and my foot between my hands. This is not precisely the position for the ready - set - go for starting a race, but it's quite close. A couple of breaths of in-and-out, then I continue with pushing my other foot back too.
I keep my hands and my right foot exactly where they were before, and with my left foot back in the same position as my right one, I find myself in the plank. Just like a wooden board, my entire back is supposed to make a straight line, from my heels to my head. If it doesn't come across quite properly in this image, it's because I'm not doing it right! But bear with me, I think I'll be getting there soon.
From the plank I lower myself into the push-up position. In Spanish, a push-up is called lagartija which means lizard (apparently, for the push-up like movements of these little reptiles).
What's more important here, is the Cobra position, which means lifting my upper torso up from the ground, as far as I can. It's essential not to push with my hands, but to do all the lifting in my back.
God is Great
Okay, I have no idea what this position is called, but it reminds of praying Muslims. What's important here, is pushing my butt all the way back onto my heels, while walking my hands as far as I can forward. This gives my entire back a nice stretch.
After stretching my back well, I raise myself into the mountain (a.k.a. downward dog) position, making sure my head forms a straight line with my back between my shoulders.
I start ending this sequence with putting my left foot forward, mirroring the ready - set position, just with the other foot forward.
Finally, I move my right foot up too, and now I can really stretch my back, as well as my legs. Every time I exhale, I push my knees back, and pull my elbows toward my knees too. As much I can feel my calves and thighs here, my back is also getting stretched.
90 Degree Back
Before I raise myself into upright position, I perform this 90 degree stretch, where I put my upper body at a right angle to my my lower one (making sure my head plays the part). Once again, gotta do it right, and I know I have some room for improvement.
Unrolling My Body
As I finally lift up my body, I make sure to do it slowly, vertebra by vertebra, leaving my head for last. For some reason, this part of the sequence always fills me with so much peace and contentment. But the whole exercise is far from over. I will have to repeat this again, starting with my left leg and closing with the right. And then comes the modified Sun Salutation.
Same With an Upright Back
I'm not going to include a pic for the same sequence again, except for the modified part: that is, when I push one foot back, I keep my upper body straight. This will come in very handy in the next stretch.
Get Down, Get Down
Oh, how I love this one! Feeling it in my thighs, on both sides, I really like to stretch myself out properly here. Putting all my weight straight down, I exhale slowly, and feel it in my legs. This one is also great for bike trips!
The only thing left after these sequences, is The Warrior pose, which you can get into from the previous stance, where you pull one foot back. You turn your back foot 90 degrees to the front one, and stretch both arms out, forming a straight line. Next you turn your back, placing your front arm by the inside of your front foot, pointing the back arm skywards, letting your eyes follow it upward.
Of course you have to include it into the sequence, and repeat on the other side. But this is it: A nice 30 minute stretch-out, perfect for maintaining your flexibility, and keeping your body from growing too rigid while getting involved in strenuous physical work, such as pounding tires. Something I plan on making part of my daily routine.
Please let me know if you liked it, or even if you didn't, and what you would like to include here.