I talk a lot about how our physiological and anatomically issues stem from the way we live out modern lives. The way that we move (or not move, more accurately) in everyday life is a precursor to many of the ailments that we encounter as we age.
The biggest example of this is sitting. Sitting for long periods of time has become a staple in many of our daily activities. And considering our bodies have evolved to be movement machines, figuring out ways to counteract this sitting epidemic is essential to maintaining vitality and achieving longevity.
Your body, in every sense of the term, is the product of what you feed it or how you move it on a regular basis. What you feed your mind, for instance, will determine your perception of life. What you feed your body will determine how your genes express themselves. And how you move (or don’t move) will determine…well, how you move.
So when I talk about sitting being as bad as smoking for your body (maybe a slight exaggeration, but not by much), I’m referring to how it affects your body in a physiological way. Physiology, for those who aren’t sure, is how an organism or body part functions. When we sit for long periods of time on a regular basis, our bodies adapt to it and it affects how we function mechanically. Certain muscle groups stiffen up, impeding the movement of joints, which limits our range of motion and ultimately puts us in our grave.
One of the specific areas of our bodies that is impacted by sitting is the thoracic spine. This is the middle area of the spine. Ironically, a lot of lower back pain is caused by limitations in this area of the spinal column.
Last week we talked about the importance of rotation of the thoracic spine and how to counteract that by utilizing the spiderman lunge with thoracic spine rotation. Another direction of movement that should be worked on in this spinal area is thoracic extension.
Thoracic extension happens when you pull your shoulder girdle backwards. Think of the movement that happens when you’re sitting at your desk and lean back to stretch your arms in your chair. This is thoracic extension. Most of us can go into thoracic flexion (think hunched forward) without any problem. This is because, since most of us either sit or stand all day in a hunched over position, we’re naturally staying in flexion anyway. So working on extension is paramount to keeping your body functioning optimally over time.
One great way to train yourself to go into extension is by using the cat/camel exercise. This is a move utilized in yoga. It’s extremely simple and can be performed by anybody, anywhere. If you notice in the video, Sharon has incredible extension (she’s done yoga once or twice in her day). This may not be the benchmark you shoot for, but it will give you a good idea on how stiff you actually are in this movement.
If you want to put some added benefit into this exercise, use it work on breathing. Yes, I realize that you know how to breath, otherwise you wouldn’t be alive. But most of us don’t really know how to breath. While you’re performing your cat/camel exercise, breath in as you look up to the sky for 4 seconds and breath as you sink your hips under and look down for 8 seconds (or until you’re completely out of air)
This is a great exercise to help fill the dead space in your training. Like I talked about last week, instead of standing around and talking during your rest period, do some mobility work or stretching to help counteract the impact of your day.