Remaining mobile and flexible is the key to leading a vibrant life, free from limitations. The human body is designed to be active. When we stop moving a muscle the way it was intended, it shrinks (atrophies), resulting in pain and imbalances in the joint and surrounding muscles.
What’s the difference between mobility and flexibility?
Good mobility is when each joint in the body can move freely through its full range of motion. Good flexibility means each muscle can stretch and generate force in a functional way. Remaining both mobile and flexible is the key to living a life based on our desires. For example, we might love taking long walks with our friends, but foot and knee pain may prevent us from enjoying this once-cherished activity. Daily Essentrics® can help us to improve our mobility and flexibility, so that we can continue to participate in life fully!
Here are 3 tips you can apply to your Essentrics® workouts:
1- Deep Breathing vs. Breath-Holding
When faced with a challenge, a common physical response can be to brace ourselves and hold our breath. This response creates muscular tension which can limit our ability to stretch. Releasing tension through deep breathing will help achieve better results – the more relaxed we are, the farther we can bend, stretch, and reach.
Breathing deeply also delivers oxygen to the bloodstream and muscles, providing energy within seconds. This helps us to build endurance in fully lengthened muscles as we move through various strengthening exercises.
In Essentrics®, we exhale with the effort when we imagine pushing heavy objects, helping to lengthen and subsequently strengthen all the muscles and joints involved. Remember to follow the breathing cues during your workout so that you can maximize your results.
2- Work with the Myotatic Reflex
Have you ever noticed that if you reach too quickly to grab something, your body hinders your efforts by tightening up? This brilliant reflex is actually the body’s way of protecting the muscles from tearing. Muscles can increase their length close to 75% (compared to tendons and ligaments, which have only 4-6% flexibility.) We need this reflex to protect our muscles in dangerous situations. However, in order to improve our muscular flexibility, we need to learn to work with the stretch reflex – so it won’t work against us.
It is easy to understand the mechanics of this protective mechanism if we compare it to the seatbelt in our car. When we pull our seatbelt too fast and too hard, it locks up. If we pull slowly and gently, the seatbelt gives way and extends easily to the required length. The same can be said for our muscles. Instead of reaching too far too quickly, by alternately stretching and pausing for a moment repeatedly, we can quickly and safely gain more length in our muscles and reach the end of our stretch. At that point, strengthening can take place, helping reinforce good mobility and flexibility.
In Essentrics®, we practice this with overhead arm reaches, so we can reach high cupboards and change light bulbs with ease. Remember to move slowly and breathe, giving your body the chance to recognize that what is happening is not dangerous but advantageous.
3- Move Gently Through Your Full Range of Motion
The best part of the Essentrics program is the way it prepares us for actions that take place in daily life. To maintain mobility and flexibility, Essentrics workouts are based on gentle, full-body movements. Being mobile and flexible is more than just being able to touch your toes – it means being able to move in all directions with ease.
In Essentrics®, we move through the natural range of motion of each joint and muscle while performing familiar movements across all planes of motion. We Pull Weeds, Wash Tables and Remove Sweaters in ways that allow every student to work at their own pace. Over time, these movements become easier as we strengthen not just the larger ones that we can see in the mirror, but the smaller muscles that support the joints as well.
Improving our mobility and flexibility with Essentrics® exercises is easy and enjoyable because the movements are familiar, safe, and gentle. This full body workout keeps all our muscles and joints functioning well so we can live our lives free of limitations.
Contributing writer Beth Oldfield, Level 4 Essentrics® Instructor