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Stretching, Posture and Flexibility

Our bodies were made to move. And if we don’t move them enough they can get stiff, sore and a little bit pudgy! Our bodies were also made to run on optimum fuel. If we keep eating and drinking the wrong foods and beverages then we can also get stiff, sore and a little bit pudgy!

Woman Stretching

Our bodies were made to move. And if we don’t move them enough they can get stiff, sore and a little bit pudgy! Our bodies were also made to run on optimum fuel. If we keep eating and drinking the wrong foods and beverages then we can also get stiff, sore and a little bit pudgy!

In a perfect world we all have the time for work, family, exercise and other commitments. But this is not always the case. Let me share with you a fantastic stretch method that improves flexibility quickly and can be done by people of all levels.

The stretch method is called stretch therapy (formerly posture and flexibility) and was developed by an Australian man named Kit Laughlin. The system includes stretching, fascial remodeling, strengthening, neural re-patterning and relaxation.

The main points that define this method of stretching include:

  • Post-Isometric Contractions (PIR): At the end of the stretch position an isometric contraction is done. This basically means the muscle is tensed but it doesn’t move. What this achieves is that the neural impulses to the muscle are momentarily reduced so that further movement in the stretch is then made possible

  • Reciprocal Inhibition Reflex (RIR): This involves using an agonist (the active muscle) to stretch the antagonist (opposing muscle). An example of this type of stretch is stretching the neck muscles by looking to the left or right. The neck muscles being stretched are the antagonists while the neck muscles on the opposite side (agonist) hold the stretch

  • Apprehension Reflex (AR) – This involves overcoming the body’s reaction to tense up when placed in a position that it perceives to be unsafe or unstable. The way to overcome this is to place something in contact with the muscle being stretched so that the body feels more supported and stable and therefore more easily relaxes. If someone was doing a hamstring stretch but their leg was way off the floor, one could place a pillow between the back of the leg and the floor, making sure that the pillow is touching the hamstring. The body will feel that it is now safer to relax more.

If you put all of these together, you will achieve a more rapid increase in flexibility than by using many other methods.  

This is a particularly good method for people who have limited mobility and/or strength and are unable to hold or get into yoga postures. It re-programs the body in a unique way that restores strength, flexibility and posture to leave people feeling relaxed and revitalized… and maybe a little bit sore the next day! As one student told me as she left a class, “I feel like I’m floating”.

If you are interested in seeing some of these stretches in action and even trying them for yourself there are some great clips here: www.youtube.com/user/kitlaughlin?feature=results_main

Stretch therapy is a great way to improve flexibility quickly. But exercise is just one part of the equation. The other is diet.

There are some basics that will help you to get more flexible, mobile and supple:

Stay hydrated! This can be achieved by drinking enough good quality water and avoiding (or at least limiting) intake of things such as coffee, black tea, "energy" drinks, soft-drinks and alcoholic beverages. When the body is dehydrated the cartilage, vertebral discs and joint linings can also become dehydrated resulting in increased stiffness.

Avoid foods that are known to cause inflammation (especially joint inflammation) within the body. Foods such as sugar (brown sugar and raw sugar – don’t be tricked into believing they are healthier options!), meat, poultry and dairy products are known to cause inflammation in the body. It is also important to avoid any foods that one is allergic to and seek treatment to heal any intestinal damage that the allergy may have created.

For many people, one cause of stiffness in the body is arthritis. Foods that have been shown to aggravate arthritis include red meat, sugar, fats, salt, caffeine and the nightshade family of plants (tomatoes, eggplant etc.). Many studies have found that a healthy vegan diet improves (and may even eliminate) arthritis – both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis – significantly! In rheumatoid arthritis especially a nutrient-dense vegan diet can help to overcome the body’s immune system imbalance.

But enough of the “bad” foods – what can you eat to increase flexibility, suppleness and relaxation of the muscles?

Green Leafy Vegetables

Green leafy vegetables are a clear winner here! They are packed with magnesium which works to relax muscles. Green smoothies get a gold star, and will deliver loads of magnesium, and other vitamins and minerals that will make the body strong, healthy and supple.

Fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C will help to support healthy collagen in the body. As we age, collagen production slows down and a clear sign of this are wrinkles (or as I like to call them “character lines”) on the face! Collagen is also found within the body. It is a connective tissue that connects to bones, tendons and cartilage. Foods containing vitamin C include strawberries, kiwi fruit, capsicum or bell peppers, citrus fruits (these may aggravate some people with arthritis), cherries, broccoli etc.

Garlic also assists with collagen production. And the good news is that soy products contain genistein which contains collagen-production qualities. In fact the full plethora of phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables will help to neutralize free-radicals which can destroy collagen. And one more healthy collagen tip is to include good quality proteins in your diet such as whole grains, lentils and beans, nuts and seeds etc.

And last but not least, don’t forget your good omega 3 fats! Ditch the seafood and fish which are high in pollutants such as mercury and methylmercury (linked to detrimental effects on the cardiovascular and central nervous system), dioxins (known carcinogens that have been shown to cause liver damage, reduction in immune function and skin rashes), PCB’s (polychlorinated biphenyls) and other pesticides.

Chia Seeds

Your best sources of omega 3 fatty acids include foods such as walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds and products, flaxseeds etc. If you have a lot of inflammation in your body, then adopting a healthy plant based diet will help to overcome the inflammation. If you are currently taking fish oil to help overcome the inflammation then make the switch to algae oil. Algae-derived products are also a rich source of pre-formed EPA and DHA without all the nasties that may be found in fish oil products.

The time to work on your flexibility is now! I see a lot of elderly people with such impaired range of motion that even the most basic of tasks is difficult. When I see them shuffling into a room, shoulders stopped or unable to bend or reach to pick up an item it reminds me to look after myself.  I am reminded to maintain a range of movement that will assist me in aging more gracefully. I hope that this information will encourage and empower you to do the same.

Eve_NguyenEve Nguyen, ND is a degree-qualified Naturopath, CPAP therapist and K.L stretch teacher with over 10 years experience in the field of health and Nutrition. In addition to teaching nutrition and cooking classes, Eve was chosen to be a Fairfield City Green Champion in 2010. As a vegan with a particular interest in environmental impacts on our health, Eve enjoys delivering information/ presentations to help people realise the link between the state of the environment and their own health.

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