Defining stretching, strength, and meditation
I talk a lot about stretching, strength, and meditation, but what do they really mean? Below is a guide to the terms and what each topic involves, and how they can holistically combine for your overall wellbeing.
FLEXIBLE MIND, FLEXIBLE BODY / FLEXIBLE BODY, FLEXIBLE MIND
This sentiment means to develop a sense of openness, flexibility, and compassion for yourself and others.
Stretching is not just about lengthening muscles and increasing range of motion (ROM), it’s also an exercise in mindfulness. I like to think of it as “Meditation in Motion”. When we truly and fully engage in what we’re doing we benefit the most – this is true for every aspect of our lives. Stretching can be used as a training tool for mindfulness and meditation practice, and it can assist us to engage with all the other aspects of our lives.
LENGTHEN AND STRENGTHEN
This is more the physiology of stretching. It’s the act of physically lengthening and mobilizing the soft tissue – including muscles, fascia, and additional inert tissue surrounding the joints – helping with freedom of movement and increasing ROM. The lengthen and strengthen concept is an integral part of the rehabilitation phase after an injury or for chronic pain. It’s in this area that the concept of stretching is most used, however stretching and strengthening can also be part of a healthy lifestyle in general. When we’re fully immersed and engaged in what we’re doing, the healing processes of life are enhanced.
PHYSICAL EXERCISE & CARDIO!
Physical activity increases the heart rate to a target zone and improves the cardiovascular system, but it can also have many other benefits, such as increased heart strength and artery function, increased lung capacity, calorie-burning, stress reduction, and improved mental health. It’s not just for athletes though – it’s well known that keeping active can help with disease, diabetes, weight loss, sleep and overall wellbeing. Additionally, some weight-bearing cardio exercise can help improve bone density, which is needed as we age.
Integration is to bring together the sum of the parts so we can work as a complete unit. If the focus is only on one aspect of life, other aspects will weaken. For example; focussing only on cardio will leave a weakness in our strength, focussing on exercise and not nutrition will leave the body depleted of the required fuel, being constantly physical and not stopping to rest will leave an energy depletion. In general, working on the physical without paying attention to the internal or spiritual self will leave an imbalance.
This leads to the following questions:
- How do we manage all this?
- How do we decide what is right for each of us as an individual?
The first thing is not to stress about it – you’ve made it this far so you may only need some small changes in lifestyle. Don’t try to do everything in one day, it’s best to have a different form of exercise on different days.
So how do you get started?
Here’s what I suggest:
- Find the types of activities you enjoy
- Set a long-term goal
- Set short-term goals to help you get there
- Put it out there to a trusted friend to help keep you accountable
- Plan your week (family time, work, rest, exercise, etc)
- Seek professional advice to ensure what you’re doing is right for you
Where to from here?
I’m developing a course to help you understand not only the how-to, but also the what and why. I’ll teach how to stretch, strengthen, meditate, and exercise for wellbeing, but also help you learn about the basic underlying anatomy and physiology, and their purpose. I believe the more we can understand the what, how, and why, the more likely we are to stick with the program.
Photo by Jared Rice