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Fostering the Mind-Body Connection
Posted by Tee in FGG Guests,Health + Beauty
FGG's Toni reaches for mind-body awareness

The human body is home to both our mind and our muscles, and if you're on the road to a healthier lifestyle, getting the two in touch with, and ultimately in sync with, one another is an important step. We all know that our mind controls our muscles in daily activities like moving our arms and legs for walking, but what many don't know is that the conscious mind is not required for those processes. That means most of us need to focus specifically on connecting them.

One of the easiest ways to train a mind-body connection is by doing simple, daily stretches in front of a mirror. The key here is to focus on and visualize each muscle, or group of muscles, during every stretch. For each of these, focus on keeping the abdominal muscles gently contracted at all times.

:: Stand in the center of a room with adequate space around you. Keep your feet flat on the floor and raise both arms over your head, reaching high to the ceiling. Hold for eight seconds.

:: Keeping both arms up, reach to the ceiling with one arm at a time, feeling the stretch from the shoulder. Pay attention to the feeling of your muscles as they stretch from your arm down your back.

:: With feet firmly planted about shoulder width apart, keep your arms stretched to the ceiling and slowly twist at the waist, to the right and then to the left. SLOW is always the key to proper stretching, as quick movement can result in injury. Be sure your twist stops at a comfortable position, gently testing your flexibility. You should be able to feel the upper muscles in your back flex from the shoulder to your waist. Focus on how each muscle feels as you stretch. Even better: try to count the number of muscles that are moving as you stretch.

:: To add the legs, resume your original stance with your arms stretched to the ceiling, and roll slowly up on the balls of your feet as you continue to stretch each arm independently upward. You should be able to feel the hamstrings in the back of the thigh and the calf muscles in the lower leg. You should also feel the stretch in the smaller muscles of your feet. Be aware of your rib cage and abdominal area as you reach upward. Hold this stretch for about 20 seconds.

:: Very slowly bend at the waist, stretching both arms down and toward the floor. Feel your hamstrings (back of the thigh) stretch and the quadriceps (front of the thigh) slightly contract. Don’t force the arms down, but instead let them hang limply, along with your head, allowing your body weight to pull you down. Pull your abdominal muscles in toward the spine and feel the stretch in your back muscles. Hold this position for about 15 seconds. The abdomen is the center of the body and provides tremendous strength for the back. This stretch can be a great stress reliever, one that’s easy to do any time of the day.

:: Slowly roll your body back up to a standing position by contracting the abdominal muscles and feeling each vertebra in the spine move into place until you are fully upright. Once up, stretch both arms straight out to the side of your body and slowly rotate them in a small circles from the shoulder - ten times forward and ten times backward. This simple “mini-stretch” is a great start to preparing the muscles for daily activity.

Whether you’re sedentary or moderately active or an athlete, consistent basic stretching is a good way to start and end each day. Getting in tune with your muscles is critical in establishing good posture, health, and both mental and physical strength at any size - and for overweight women can become one more step to increasing strength, mobility, flexibility, protecting yourself from injury and preparing your mind and body to enjoy years of active companionship.

Lynda Lee Smith is the author of “Playing the Hand You Were Dealt…And Achieving the Body You Were Meant to Have.” Her book is available at online bookstores now.