I got tricked.
A woman with whom I did a fitness bootcamp once invited me to come along to do some ‘rugby stretches’ at her gym. She neglected to use the noun used by the gym itself to describe the class, in fact typed in bold CAPITALS at the top of the brochure, because she knew if she used the word ‘yoga’ around me, I would suddenly have an ‘urgent meeting’ and be unable to accompany her.
That’s because some four-letter words carry a lot of baggage – and for people like me, the word ‘yoga’ instantly conjures up a whole busload including; drawstring pants, cups of hippie tea, Green Party registration forms and emasculation in general. Unfair? Perhaps, but not completely unfounded on evidence as anyone who has attended such classes will attest.
Yet, stripped of all its ridiculous pose names and associated self-righteous health freak practitioners, there is a lot of good in yoga – in fact you could even say the concept it is based on is critical for our well-being. Why? Because it is all about stretching.
Stretching, when done properly, improves your flexibility, gets your blood to flow, corrects bad posture, reduces stress and helps to prevent injuries. And, unlike other forms of exercise like strength and cardio work, stretching can deliver benefits even if it is done on its own – whereas you’d be crazy to do the other forms of exercise without doing some stretching first and afterwards. If you don’t believe me just ask Sonny Bill, who does probably an hour and a half of stretches every day and he doesn’t get injured a lot considering the extreme punishment his body goes through in the midfield in union, and second row in league – to say nothing of his boxing. But even if you are not really into sport – or any form of exercise at all really – you can still look after your body and mind with a few stretches and you don’t even need any equipment to do them. You can do them anywhere and at any time and they only need to take up a few minutes of your time. So get up from that computer, or put that tablet or phone down and try these wee gems out now. Who knows, you might even like the feeling afterwards. And not a Downward Facing Dog or Cobra Pose amongst them!
Standing Hamstring Stretch
- Stand straight with your knees slightly bent
- Breathe out as you bend forward at the hips, collapsing your upper body toward the floor
- Grab the insides of your thighs and gently straighten your knees until your hamstrings sting
- Hold for 30 seconds to a minute
- Bend your knees and roll up again
- Stretch both arms up toward the sky
- Bend your left elbow and put your left hand behind your head
- Use your right hand to grab your left elbow
- Gently pull your left elbow down toward your head until it hurts
- Hold for 10 to 15 seconds
- Switch arms and repeat
- Stand up straight and hold onto the back of a chair for balance
- Raise your left foot and grab it behind you
- Gently pull your foot up towards your butt while keeping your knee pointing at the floor until you feel a stretch down the front of your leg
- Hold for 15 to 30 seconds
- Switch legs and repeat