Stretching! Who Knew?

Well, I should have because stretching was a definite part of my life for so many years, but I guess I always thought the only fruits of my stretching were my nice, high-extension developpes and wacked-out grand jetes! Turns out, real people can benefit from stretching too... not just dancers.

After my physical therapy appt. last Monday, I was reminded that I still should be doing some concentrated, targeted stretching to help with my back. I've been a casual stretcher ever since I stopped dancing, but I've gone way easy on myself. Back in the day, I used to stretch until I'd think my muscles were going to completely tear... that's not healthy, and that's what some super-dedicated wannabe ballerinas feel like they have to do. A lot of my flexibility was natural, but every inch of give in my hamstrings was wrought by mini-self-torture sessions that I engaged every day from ages 14-16. I tortured my feet until they looked good too. I stopped growing by then, and all that flexibility seemed ready to stay forever.

Anyway, I could go on about the things one loves to do for the Ballet, but that's another story! As for now, just one week of concentrated, HEALTHY levels of stretching has already started making a difference. I'm sleeping much better. I haven't been waking up in the middle of the night with back pain... just with the need to empty my bladder :). And, I'm noticing that it is already easier for me to stand with more proper posture (tail bone dropped down, minimal curve in low back, without sucking stomach in to achieve it, shoulders vertically aligned with ankle bones). Part of that is probably my increased kinesthetic awareness of late, but the stretching makes that position easier to find. I've noticed that the better I am about about keeping my upper quads, hip flexors, and psoas stretched in front, the easier it is to keep my tail bone dropped in the back. That keeps the pressure off my injured disc and those lower vertebrae.

The timing on this renewed love for stretching is really excellent because I'm just starting to feel bigger and am really noticing the sad obliteration of my formerly toned abs. I'm getting a lot of pull on my ribs now too. So, hopefully the stretching will help me keep some of my original tone and shape after the Spud is fully baked. Brendan is going to pass me by in terms of rockin' abs because he's been doing ab work every morning, and I can't do any! Well, it's his turn to have the best abs for a while... cuz I've been kicking his butt for 7 years now! Can you tell that we're both firstborns??? To his credit, he's got way more muscle in his chest and upper arms than me (because I have practically none), so it has been harder for him to do vast numbers of crunches because he has a heavier weight to lift.

If you are still reading this (potentially extremely boring) post, you might be wondering what sort of stretches and routine I've been doing. Well, it's something like this:

1. 8 cat/cow stretches/poses... this is a yoga thing that my therapist has me do for the back. You kneel in a crawling position and alternate slowly between and arched back and a swayed back position.

2. Hip flexor/upper quad stretch about 2 minutes per side. You kneel on one knee and tilt your pubic bone towards the ceiling until you feel a stretch in the leg with the knee on the floor.

3. Hamstrings. I do a bunch for my hamstrings... old habits die hard. First, I roll them out with my Yamuna balls. Then I do some good old toe touching from both standing and seated positions. I usually finish with the pilates "saw your baby toe off" stretch. That's getting more difficult with the belly getting bigger.

4. Calves. Old school calf stretching like in PE when you were little

5. Wall squats. These help with strengthening in the quads (may need to do some squatting to birth this Spud!) and finding proper alignment for my lower back. I do about 5 of them for an increasing amount of time like 8 seconds, 12 seconds,14 seconds, 16, 18, 20.

6. Side leg series from Pilates. For making sure my rear end and thighs don't get too squishy during pregnancy. I finish that with a figure 4 stretch for my rear. I usually do about 4 minutes per side on that.

I'm going to add the following Yoga stuff after reading about it in a Yoga book that we have. Brendan found a bunch of pregnancy poses in it for me.

1. Shoulder stand into a modified plough
2. Squat stretch... basically an exaggerated grand plie in second position
3. Lotus
5. Tree
6. Splits on the wall

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Weekend Update