Stretching To Begin & End Your Day

About an hour ago, while I was on the floor on my yoga mat doing my stretching, I heard the low mournful sound of a faraway train. 

As I stretched my limbs, I thought of how I'd heard this sound in the dead of night. And how I'd always wondered where it was headed. It seemed a sad thought to be plunging in the darkness toward a destination in the dark of night. 

Several of you have asked me about the yoga stretching I do twice per day. I'm sure I've talked about it before. But I'll go over it a bit again. 

By the time I was 30, I had to have back surgery. I could barely walk. I used a cane. To walk from my house to the car was so painful I can still recall my tiny mincing steps. The surgery really didn't help. I had a pretty good seven months, then it was back where I started. 

It never occurred to me at the time that there was something I myself could do about it. I depended upon doctors too much back then. 

And then my life changed when, and I don't recall how it came about, I visited this sports medicine doctor in San Antonio. She was fantastic. 

Instead of talking surgery and strong pain pills, which I didn't like to take, she showed me these yoga stretching exercises. She sent me home with pages of what to do, how to do them. 

I was just turning 40, and I recall thinking: how on earth could this help? But I dove into them and did exactly as she told me to do. 

Within a few months I'd lost about 20 pounds, probably from the sheer movement. (Wish it still worked that way.)

And the sciatica that had plagued me much of my life was gone. Gone! I couldn't believe it. 

But I have stuck to that regimen and do them twice per day no matter what is going on. My day is sort of arranged around them. 

Seventeen years later. Yes, I'm overweight. The ankle injury that's been so difficult has put about thirty more pounds on the scale that I'm desperate to get off. I'm hoping this spring I can do more in the yard and get some of it off. Still, no sciatica. 

It takes about 20 minutes twice per day. First thing in the morning, I get down on my bedroom floor. I keep the yoga mat and a tightly wrapped towel close by. And I start the exercises. If I feel stiff, I stretch in other ways that aren't on my list. 

When we wake up in the morning, most people are running around the kitchen, making coffee, getting kids to school (for you younger ladies), and our body simply isn't ready. 

The yoga stretching is my way of transitioning from sleep to daytime activities. I would no more think of just getting up and taking a shower and heading for the kitchen than I would fly. 

As I stretch, I feel my body start to relax into the movements. I feel the tightness that has crept in overnight begin to ease. And then I take my morning shower and start my day. Pain free. 

In the evening, before my meal, I do them again. I have learned that it is as much mental as it is physical. 

My evening ritual of stretching allows me time to process the day, put it away, and ease toward night and sleep. 

Then I take my evening shower to further relax my body. I do some stretching while standing in the shower too. Like putting my hands against the tiles and stretching the back of my legs. I feel the tightness leaving my legs.

I don't even recall how it was I came to go to this doctor all those years ago, but it completely changed my life. I was pain free for the first time in years. Not that I still didn't hurt myself lifting and doing things without thinking, but now, with the ankle injury, there is less chance of that. Because my ankle will stop me before my back gets to that point. 

It might not work for everyone. But it did absolute wonders for me.

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  1. Well I'm going to have to give it a try - my back has been hurting really badly, limiting all my activity, for over a year. I'd rather do exercises than have a doctor offer surgery!

  2. I so admire you for sticking with it, Brenda...very inspiring...I have been thinking lately that stretching is just what I need!

  3. I'm so happy that the yoga stretching has kept you pain free. Thanks for inspiring me! I'll have to try it to see if it helps my allover arthritis stiffness...

  4. Are these standard yoga that could be looked up? Would you describe some of the exercises?

  5. Hi. It's wonderful that you found something that helps to relieve your pain, and that you've stuck with it. Sticking to it is difficult, but so important. My husband does tai chi every day, along with some exercises that he learned in physical therapy seven or eight years ago, and they really help keep his back pain free. Yoga and tai chi also help your keep your heart strong, too.

  6. This is such a good idea. I use to stretch before I jogged. Now that I walk for exercise, I just start out slow and then get faster. I always say, I need to stretch my legs when I walk and take nice big strides. We don't use our muscles like we did when we were younger. Now if someone will help me off the floor....I would try this! heehee! Sweet hugs!

  7. I'm glad yoga has been such a good pain reliever for you, Brenda. I'm so envious of your ability to exercise on the floor. I'm going through chemo right now and when I recover I hope to have knee surgery that may allow me to get off the floor once I'm on it. (Losing a few pounds couldn't hurt either!)

  8. YOU SAID THIS : When we wake up in the morning, most people are running around the kitchen, making coffee, getting kids to school (for you younger ladies), and our body simply isn't ready

    AND IT REMINDED ME OF MY DOGS! They have more common sense than I do, obviously because if they have been laying around they don't just jump up and get going... they do a long stretch first!!!! :)

    And I used to do yoga stretches to handle back titled after the dog stretch...and should start them again, thank you Brenda! :)

  9. I'm giving you a big amen on this one, Brenda! About 5 years ago, I herniated 3 disks in my lower back. It was one of the most painful experiences of my life. Even after going through lots of physical therapy, and 3 different chiropractors, I was still in pain on most days. I refused to get a cortisone shot in my back - not only because of the pain associated with that, but I'm also well aware of the dangers of cortisone. I then tried acupuncture and that actually helped more than anything else I had tried. I then decided to try yoga. I signed up for a weekly class. It took about 8 straight weeks before I finally realized that I was actually pain-free most days! It has now been almost 3 years of taking weekly classes and I am totally hooked. I have not only gotten rid of my lower back pain, but I am stronger, a little leaner, and my balance is better, too. And, like you, I do daily yoga stretches morning and night just to keep myself flexible, calmer (don't forget to do deep breathing during the stretching!), and pain-free. Namaste! :-)

  10. So glad this helps keep your back pain at bay. My husband has had back pain off and on our whole married life [46 years]. A few years ago his orthopedic doc sent him to PT. It was there that he learned he must do streching exericises daily. He faithfully does them each morning without fail. He no longer has back pain! I've read recently that most folks really don't need surgery but need to learn back strengthening and streching exercises instead. ♥

  11. I should start the stretching. I use to do it everyday and I've gotten away from it. I do know that when I hop (ok, not hop but roll) out of bed I am stiff and crunchy feeling. This would make such a difference!

  12. That's so true. The dogs and cats stretch before they get up! Good point!

  13. I've been thinking about giving yoga a try! Would love to learn more about the stretches you do.

  14. I agree with everything you said. I bought the "Yoga for Arthritis" by Peggy Cappy, it is a great DVD. I also have bone problems and doing these exercises each day has greatly reduced my pain level. Medications were offered to me but this stretching is better to relieve pain than any pill.

  15. I d that year's ago to and it does work, I have my list of things to do and do them 3 times a week

  16. I so agree with the yoga, I used to do it every day and then stopped when i needed it most. During the most difficult year of my life (last year) I stopped. Now I am back to doing them again every morning and evening. When I first started I could not even hold myself up while sitting on the floor from surgery. Now i sit straight up! My improvement also comes from the fact that I have acupuncture twice a year and has greatly helped! Keep it up I know I will!

  17. A friend of mine teaches Yoga, and she loves it. I took Pilates, but had to stop when I broke my finger. Now, I need to lose a bunch of weight. Maybe I will try yoga next or tai chi.

  18. I used to do a yoga stretch class 2 times a week and beginning Pilates once a week then I got bursitis really bad in one hip and stopped as I was in so much pain all the time - I started back after awhile and the lady that had been doing the class quit and the new one didn't live up to her in voice or method and I quit going - I really need to start on my own again - I need it - thanks for reminding me.

  19. I used to have so much pain in my lower back and hips, so much that I couldn't sleep at night, but then I started doing Pilates a couple of times a week, and the pain has been very greatly reduced. I've been doing Pilates for about 4 years now, and I am like you, I wouldn't think of missing a session. It strengthened my core, and that support has made a big difference in how I feel. When I have overdone it and feel pain, I add in a few extra Pilates sessions throughout the week, and it really helps a great deal. Glad to hear that you found relief from your pains in a way that made sense for you.

  20. I'm going to show this to my husband. He has been suffering with back pain for almost a year. I am so happy to read about a way of healing that doesn't involve pain pills or other such things. I really hope it helps him. So glad it has helped you, Brenda. I'd like to start doing yoga, too.


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