A better back and ache-free muscles are just two things we can gain from moves inspired by creatures. Here are the best ones to try…
Stretch Like a Cat
WHY? For muscles to be healthy and perform well, they need to be able to lengthen and shorten that’s why stretching is essential if you want to move as nature intended and stay flexible, say physiotherapists. Cats and other animals stretch regularly so they’re always ready to pounce or run.
HOW: Stretch every day to lengthen your spine and strengthen your core. Go on to your hands and knees with your wrists under your shoulders and your back straight and flat. Then, slowly and gently arch your spine upwards like a cat does when it stretches (or when it’s cross). Return to the starting position and repeat eight to 10 times.
Jump like a Kangaroo
WHY? Any weight-bearing exercises, like tennis and brisk walking, are great for your skeleton because your bones respond to the stresses that your muscles and ligaments place on them by forming new bone tissue and becoming stronger. Studies suggest that, for more benefits, bones need to be ‘shocked’. Jumping a few times daily does this. It can help increase bone mass in the hip and lumbar spine.
HOW: Stand up, bend your knees, bring your arms back and lean slightly forward. Then, swing arms forward and up and jump as high as you can. Wait several seconds between jumps. Don’t jump if it’s uncomfortable, or if you have osteoporosis or have had a previous hip or spine fracture.
Pose like a Starfish
WHY? Adopting a power pose – like animals do in the wild when threatened can not only make you look more powerful but actually make you feel stronger and more confident too.
HOW: Harvard University researchers found that standing in a wide open starfish pose (hands on hips and legs apart) for just two minutes can increase levels of testosterone (in both men and women) by 20% and decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol by 25%. High levels of testosterone can lead to increased confidence and low levels of cortisol means less anxiety. So, stand like a starfish whenever you need a confidence boost.
Squat like a frog
WHY? Keeping leg muscles strong not only means better mobility as you age, research has linked them with healthy brain ageing. A study of female twins at King’s College London found that the twin with stronger legs had fewer brain changes associated with ageing. This squat is great for strengthening quadricep (thigh) muscles, say physiotherapists.
HOW: Place your feet shoulder width apart, with your feet turned out to 45 degrees. Start off close to the ground, with feet flat on the floor in a squat position. Lift your bottom up by straightening your knees, keeping your torso forwards but don’t go higher than halfway up. Hold this position for five seconds, then return to the full squat position. Repeat several times each day.
Hum Like a Bee
WHY? Breathing meditations can help calm and prepare you for sleep, say sleep experts.
HOW: Sitting in a comfortable position, close your eyes, drop your shoulders and relax your jaw, keeping your mouth closed. Breathe in deeply through your nose, ensuring your belly rises on each in-breath. Breathe out gently through your mouth, but with your lips together so that you can make a humming sound as you do so. Try to keep the hum going for the duration of the out-breath. During the out-breath, notice how the hum vibrates in your chest. Focus fully on this vibration. Breathe in again and repeat the hum on the out-breath. Do this for six full breaths. Sit quietly for a few moments and go to bed.
Be a Butterfly
WHY? This yoga pose can help ease tight hips and an aching lower back.
HOW: Sit on the floor with knees bent then bring the soles of your feet together and gently pull your feet close to your pelvis. Holding on to your feet, lower your knees closer to the floor, opening up the groin area. Stay in this position for 30 seconds to two minutes, or gently bounce your knees up and down, like a butterfly flapping its wings. Avoid this pose if you have Iong-term knee or back issues.
Stand on One Leg Like a Flamingo
WHY? Maintaining good balance as we age is crucial to help protect us from falls and fractures. Good balance can also be a sign of good overall health. Medical Research Councils have found that 53 year olds who could stand on one leg for 10 seconds with their eyes closed were the most likely to be fit and well 13 years later.
HOW: Keep your balance on track by practising one-legged standing. Start by doing it for 20 seconds at a time, looking straight ahead, or while doing everyday activities, such as brushing your teeth at the sink, suggest physiotherapists. When you can do this comfortably, up the challenge by trying it with your eyes closed or while throwing a ball against a wall.
Stand Like a Meerkat
WHY? The key to good posture is to look confident and erect, but relaxed, say physiotherapists.
HOW: Think meerkat. It will remind you to lengthen your neck upwards and the rest of your spine downwards while releasing your shoulders down and outwards. Look ahead (we’re so used to looking downwards and at close objects that we unbalance our spines and place a substantial burden on our neck muscles). To reduce this muscular tension, we need to find a point of balance for the head rather like a ball on a cue stick.
Roar Like a Lion
WHY? The Simhasana (Lion’s Breath) yoga pose can help release stress especially if you hold tension in your face and jaw (you may clench your teeth when you feel anxious).
HOW: When you’re starting to feel overwhelmed, find a quiet place to sit. Place your hands with fingers outstretched on your knees. Inhale through the nose and as you exhale, open your mouth wide and stick out your tongue downwards, while raising your eyes upwards. Exhale loudly or add a roar to release pent-up emotions. Repeat five times and you should feel your jaw and face relax.
E249 – Animal Inspiration for a Better Back and Ache Free Muscles – www.diabetic.today