NOW LET’S ADD THE TORSO
Now let’s add the torso is part 4 in the head-to-toe stretch series. Your torso has groups of very large muscles including abdominal and back muscle pairs. Stretching it is CRUCIAL to maintaining good flexibility and mobility.
Some torso work involves twists of the spine, so please again, be sure you consult your Primary Care Provider regarding any issues. Read Part 1 – Head-to-Toe Stretch for some basic stretching rules. Torso stretching will begin as some other stretches have by making your body into an “I” and a “T”.
All of these twists are best performed with tight abdominal muscles. You can read about tightening the abdomen in the post The Breath and The Core. All of these movements can be done sitting in a chair too.
- Stand tall, shoulders back chest out, arms up above your head forming an “I” with your body. Keep your hips forward, inhale and on the exhale twist your body gently towards the right. Keeping the hips forward is really important here for this torso twist. Return to centre, inhale, keep hips forward, exhale and twist your body gently towards the left. You can repeat and hold as often as you like. Remember to always be taking nice deep breaths when you hare holding.
- Standing tall with arms at shoulder height and parallel to the floor forming a “T” with your body. inhale, exhale while twisting gently to the right. Breathe and hold. Return to centre. Repeat while twisting to the left. You can repeat and hold as often as you like. With each move you should be able to twist a bit further than the one before.
- Stand tall with your body in the “I” position. Inhale, exhale while reaching up to the ceiling and bending your arms, with body following over to the right side, gently forming an arch. Hold and breath. Return to centre, repeat on left. This is working the very important abdominal muscles that run up and down the side of your torso.
GIVE THIS A TRY
Stand tall and tighten your tummy muscles as much as you possibly can and HOLD. Keep breathing. Now while holding this large group of muscles in, bend over as if to touch your toes. Do not worry if you do not make it to your toes. BE SURE you inhale and then exhale on each extension of the stretching movement. Then inhale and exhale when returning to standing, again make sure your abdominal muscles are tight. YOU MUST TIGHTEN ABDOMINAL MUSCLES EVERY TIME YOU BEND OVER TO PROTECT YOUR BACK.
This might be one of the most important stretches you will ever do! Every time we bend over to pick something up off of the floor or tie our shoes we are risking back injury if we do not follow proper form. Tightening the abdominal muscles is how we protect our back. Bit of a bend in the knee is good too when doing practical reaches to the floor and lifting something up. Of course there are many more ways we can do this. This; however, is the most basic move and by working on toe touches over time, slowly increasing your flexibility while contracting your abdominal muscles you can prevent back injury and pain.
ADDED TWISTING BENEFTS
Stretching that twists your body has benefits beyond the obvious flexibility and muscle work. In yoga twisting exercises are known to improve digestion and detox the body. Also twisting stretches and movements are said to help with stress. I would agree and in fact feel that all stretching helps us focus on our body and our breath, which helps with stress reduction too!
I have been asked about the frequency of a stretching practice. For consistent improvement and maintenance of flexibility my answer would be at least 3 x weekly. You can stretch safely and carefully every day if you enjoy it. You can also add practical stretching to your daily habits. This would involve things like doing a few repeats of toe touches when tying shoes or torso stretches to the ceiling when reaching for a bowl or cup out of a cupboard. The key here is the more flexible we are the more functional we are.
I hope that as you are building your stretching practice you will email me with any questions you may have. I am more than happy to help anyone personally via email questions and answers. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.