Lengthening your muscles is important for maintaining muscle balance and healthy joints.
When certain muscles are tight (shortened), they pull on adjacent muscles, creating a multitude of issues including poor posture, back or joint pain.
When the hamstrings (back of the thighs) are tight, they pull on the gluteus (buttocks), when then pulls on the low back, often creating low or middle back pain. Tight hamstrings can also contribute to gait problems, poor posture, and ultimately, poor balance.
When the low back is tight, it can pull on any one or more of the muscles of the hip leading to hip dysfunction, or can pull on the scapula (shoulder blades), creating problems with the upper back, neck and shoulder joint.
As the well-known folk song, Dem Bones (or Dem Dry Bones), by James Weldon Johnson goes:
"Toe bone connected to the foot bone,
Foot bone connected to the leg bone,
Leg bone connected to the knee bone"Have you ever had a rubber band that sat around for awhile, eventually becoming somewhat brittle? What if you took that brittle rubber band and tied it around a new rubber band, and pulled in both directions? What happens? Obviously, the brittle rubber band snaps. If you think of your muscles as rubber bands, interconnected, you'll want to keep them hydrated (drink plenty of water, folks!) and flexible. To keep them flexible, stretch them daily in many directions.
The above yoga poses, as shown, cannot be done by all people. Not everyone has that degree of flexibility. However, you can attempt them and work within your own range of motion. Each time you try them, perhaps reach a little bit further, eventually gaining length in the muscle. Some individuals, especially those with poor balance, may find that holding a bar or a rail can be useful. A rail not only provides stability, but it provides a point of contact from which the body may be pulled in both directions, thereby improving the length of the muscle.
Give it a try! You may surprise yourself!
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