Most people sit on chairs, and never think that they can be a useful tool to get healthy.
A lof of health complaints can be blamed on a chair – anything from hip and low back pain, to problems with digestion and breathing, concentration and productivity.
The 90/90 position that chairs, couches and cars put us in cause chronic tension and shortening in all anatomical lines of the body, but the back line takes the biggest beating – from your plantar fascia, through the calves, hamstrings, low back – to the upper back, neck and temples, your body tightens, oxygen delivery worsens, tissues suffer and stiffen and when you get up from your chair or go and try to work out, your low back, hips, knees and feet may start to scream.
To make it worse, many people wear shoes that cause additional stiffening of the back line – any positive heel, a few mm to a few inches, can make matters worse. If you are into sports, sitting is fatal to performance, as it worsens your ability to store elastic energy, making jumping, and even sprinting and running, poor. Any bending forward movements that require hinging at the hip, are affected and movement patterns become dysfunctional and painful, leading to injury and long breaks from training.
How about other complaints like constipation, indigestion, pelvic pain, incontinence, breathing difficulties or inability to concentrate? Sitting may be involved here as well.
How about the ladies, who want to have a nice round shape to their glutes? Impossible if you are sitting on them all day. In my Neurokinetic Therapy ™ work, I often find the glutes unable to perform, and the calves extremely stiff and unable to yield to a stretch.
To undo some of the damage of sitting, I am offering you two super simple versions of the ”double calf stretch”. You can do it anywhere and make your chair a weapon of health instead of a weapon of destruction.
Double calf stretch for beginners
Stand in front of a chair. Place your feet at hip width. Point your feet straight forward with the outside edges of your feet straight. That means that the outside of your foot will be parallel to the edge of your yoga mat. Straighten your knees. Start to slowly bend forward at the hips, making sure your low back stays neutral. Only go as far as you can move your tailbone up without flexing your low back. Support your hands on the chair. You will feel a stretch in your calves, the backs of your knees, your hamstrings or your glutes – everyone feels a different stretch. Hold for a minute and repeat 2-3 times.
For an extra challenge: check with the tension in your quads by relaxing your knee caps. You should be able to drop them loose during the stretch. Next, externally rotate your femurs so that the backs of your knees are pointing straight back. This may lift your arches. How about that?
Double calf stretch for the advanced user
Use a mirror to make sure that you can do the above version of the stretch so well that your tailbone is parallel to the floor. If you can do that it’s time to add a level of excitement to the stretch. This time you will step on a rolled up towel or half dome and place the balls of your feet on top and the outside edges of your feet straight at hip width. This will ensure a deeper stretch. Again, keep the knees straight as you bend forward at the hips, keeping the low back neutral. Hold for a minute and repeat 2-3 times.
For an extra challenge: check with the tension in your quads by relaxing your knee caps. You should be able to drop them loose during the stretch. Next, externally rotate your femurs so that the backs of your knees are pointing straight back. This may lift your arches and place more weight on the outside of the feet. You are welcome!
Move well and see you soon!