As we emerge from hibernation and step into springtime activities, it can take a while to limber up and shake off that winter stiffness. Especially after a day of gardening, which requires so much rotation and twisting, you might be feeling sore and uncomfortable. So what to do? The best remedy for this sort of stiffness is some stretching! Lunge stretches (to open hips, spine, upper thighs, and calves) and forward-bending hamstring stretches (to open the back of the body) are a good place to start, but don’t forget to do some twisting stretches! Our bodies are springs and they need to be able to twist and rotate in both directions for spinal health, organ health, and general vitality.
Those of you who practice yoga are familiar with rotational stretches that involve a spinal twist. Some yoga teachers describe this type of twisting as a “wringing” (similar to wringing out a washcloth). This prepares the way for more fluids to flow into and nourish the joints and muscles as you untwist. Gentle twisting can also be excellent preparation for forward bending.
Here, I’d like to share with you one of my favorite twisting stretches—it is gentle on the spine, great for the hip flexors and groin area, and it should feel luxurious after a day of gardening, because it involves lying down!
Lie on your back with knees bent, and feet flat on the floor, with your heels pretty far away from your sitting bones.
Position your feet wider than hip width, then drop both knees toward your left. Your right knee should be hovering near your left ankle and your right hip will have popped off the floor a bit, introducing a gentle twist to your spine. Now REACH through your right knee so that you feel a lengthening stretch from your right thigh through the front of your hip, possibly extending up into your low back. If you feel a good stretch through this area, what is happening is that you are shifting and twisting the relationship between your psoas muscle, your iliacus muscle, and all the nerves and blood vessels reaching down into the core of your inner thigh.
Linger here in this active stretch, reaching through the knee for a full breath or two, then do the other side, noticing which side started out feeling tighter.
You might want to alternate sides several times, reaching and wringing open the front of your hips and thighs.
Do they even out with a few repetitions? This can help unwind the one-sided rotational tendency we often reinforce through gardening. Lie face-up in the starting position again to “take in” the change. Your back may feel more at ease.
Now listening to your body, you might be led into doing a different stretch, perhaps a larger twist for your back with both knees stacked together, or you may simply want to extend your legs flat out and rest. (Listen to your body; if it hurts, don’t do it!)
The length you find through these twisting stretches should put some spring and ease back into your movement! If you aren’t feeling enough relief from your stiffness, and you want some help with improving spinal mobility, just give a call.