When you think of youth, what comes to mind? Limitless possibility? Boundless energy? That innocent blend of driving curiosity and the developing capacity to satisfy it? A youthful body is characterized by the vital energy of a child bursting forth from school, the grace and agility of a running back, and the total body flexibility of a pre-teen gymnast. As young children, our supple bodies were in constant motion, strengthened by use, inspired by our innate need to know. Our civilized adult lives require us to move in a less dynamic range, and so our bodies gradually lose their ability to move fully.
Unless we counter this by setting aside time for physical play and variety in our movement life, we lose touch with our agility, stiffen up, and grow weak in areas not frequently used. As our vitality dwindles, we feel, well . . . old, particularly when we lose flexibility in the pelvic area. Lack of mobility here is an unmistakable mark of aging, a stiffened gait, an inability to stoop or squat with ease, an embarrassing struggle to come to standing. The pelvic center, the area from our waist to the pelvic floor, is the body's center of mass and weight. When we move anywhere, the pelvic center is predominantly the thing we are moving. It is the body's grand central station. Large and small movements originate from, travel through, or return to this center. When it is agile, motor impulses, like trains, travel freely without a glitch, integrating our movement.
Graceful, well-coordinated movements then travel evenly throughout the body, calling upon the right measure of flexibility and strength from each body part. And when movement is integrated in this way our body weight can be mobilized to accomplish even the most astounding feats of physical prowess, balance, and skill. Picture Tiger Woods' golf swing, or Michael Jordan closing in on two points.
Today we barely have a chance to exercise and mobilize our body in daily life. The result? A cycle of lessening ability. We do less, lose mobility, so we do even less, lose more mobility. If our pelvic center becomes stiff, weak, or both, our movement impulses cannot move through the pelvic station. And if the force of a movement cannot travel effectively through the pelvis to its destination, it gets diverted elsewhere. This kind of misdirected force is an invitation to injury. Most of us are a mixture of imbalanced strength and weakness. Muscles that are chronically contracted can pull bones out of their proper alignment, and chronic strain due to faulty alignment is a leading cause of injury to the hip and knee joints as well as to the spinal discs, placing them in serious jeopardy of further deterioration and dysfunction.
Sedentary living commonly gives us a weak abdominal wall and tightness throughout the pelvis. On the other hand, healthy abdominal tone, together with pelvic flexibility, helps keep the bones of the spine, pelvis, and legs in proper alignment, permitting movement impulses to travel through the body's center with ease. The resulting strength and flexibility produces freedom in movement, which is tantamount to preventing injury as we age. The practices which follow offer an antidote to the forces which inhibit our freedom to move and deaden our vitality. Fit them into your day regularly, and you will reclaim your youthfulness by increasing vital energy and restoring strength and flexibility to the pelvic center.
Here are some exercises you should do to keep yourself forever young
The Reclining Half Warrior Pose (Ardha Supta Virasana)
If you are quite stiff in your hip joints, try this gentle posture. Lie on your spine with knees bent and feet placed on the floor about 18 inches apart. Drop both knees to the left so that your lower body spirals to that side. You may feel a stretch in the muscle on the top of your right thigh. If you'd like more stretch, pull the right heel up to the pelvis, allowing the knee to drop to the floor. Extend the left leg downward so the thighs are touching. Allow the entire back side of the pelvis to fall into the floor. Relax and feel the released weight of your body stretching the muscles around your hip and thigh. To come out of this pose, bend the left leg, with the knee falling out to the left side, and roll onto your left side to sit up. This will protect your knee joints from any strain or torsion. Repeat on the other side.
Warrior and Reclining Warrior (Virasana and Supta Virasana)
If you have a good amount of flexibility in your hips, sit d irectly between your heels with the palms placed on the soles of the feet. For more stretch, arch back to rest upon your elbows, and then finally rest your entire back on the floor. Stretch the arms overhead along the floor, palms together.
The Hand-to-Foot Pose (Padahastasana)
From a standing position, inhale and raise the arms overhead. As you exhale, hinge forward from your hips, keeping the torso long and the arms extended. If they reach, place the palms on the floor in front of or at the sides of the feet. If not, allow the spine to curve and let the arms and top of your head hang toward the floor. If this feels like too much of a stretch in your hamstrings, bend the knees slightly. To come up, inhale and either reverse this process or bend your knees and roll up through your spine, with the chin coming off the chest last. If this forward bend is painful for the back of your thighs, stand about three feet behind the back of a chair. Bend from the hips and reach to the chair. As you work to lower your torso while keeping the legs straight, you can use the chair for support. The chair may also allow you to remain longer in the posture.
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