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Stretching it

Seems like I sit a lot these days. Writing and blogging and posting and, well, information consumption can do that to you. That’s a bit of a problem for folks who like to move. Not just in the name of “getting in my exercise” or “keeping my weight down” or “not sitting for long periods because it’s bad for your health.” It disrupts me. Period.

And it’s pretty devious because sometimes I don’t notice. Been sitting here a while and everything I’m thinking is getting stale. The words are garbled. The imagination is out to lunch.

So one of my go-to’s is the seated tip. I extend my arms straight out to my sides (like a T) and, keeping my butt cheeks on the chair, I lean straight to one side and try to touch the floor with my fingertips. The other arm, then, is extended straight up to the ceiling.  Then, I repeat this on the other side. It’s a core strength and oblique abdominals challenge. Our trunks are woefully weak in this computer and screen age.

I’m lop-sided. I can reach the floor on one side fairly easily, but not so easily on the other. I attribute this to an injury I sustained 2 1/2 years ago that put me in a brace for a bit. But that’s no excuse. I’m weak.

So, leaning right, I look at the floor, trying to urge my fingertips further, further to touch. Come on, you can do it! Slowly, awkwardly, I brush the floor. Success!

On the other side, I don’t look at the floor. (This wasn’t planned; it’s just how this has gone.) I look, instead, at my hand extended to the ceiling. And feel for the floor that comes into touch. Voila!

Then, I repeat. And of course, I compare. How come it’s so much harder on one side than the other? Injury, yes. Thorn in my side, perhaps.

But here I am, arms extended, to touch the earth and reach for the sky. I am the me in the middle.  When I look to the earth and urge myself forward, my body resists. By my own effort I stretch, eventually. When I look to the sky and let myself go, my body complies, effortlessly.

Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, I say to myself. Humankind is in between and reaching. Do I look down and push or do I look up and reach?

The distance is the same. The difference is me.

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Stretch to Strengthen

No one really wants to be stretched. Especially, not when it goes beyond what feels comfortable. There’s a certain out of control feeling when someone is pulling me and I don’t have any say-so in the how-far-they-go-until-they-stop. If you have ever suffered an injury or undergone surgery and then rehabbed in physical therapy, you know what I’m describing. Pain of a healing sort.

But once you get your range of motion back, you get to start on the strengthening. There are lots of ways to do this. Machines. Dumbbells. Steps. But when you’ve served your sentence you get sent home, often with a lovely parting gift. A resistance band. This band is meant to be your home exercise companion. And it comes with a wonderful secret:

When you stretch it, it strengthens you. A kind of reverse mentality. A give and take sort of relationship, gentle, safe and responsive. It pulls back on you with the force you apply.

Recently, I have been engaged by the folks at Upper Room ministries to address the relationship between body and soul, a connection I find inseparable. I’m a bit unusual in this realm. Religious folk tend to start with the soul and add the body. I tend to start with body and somehow the soul always speaks up for me. I thought the resistance band would be an easy way to make this connection.

So, I designed a simple prayer routine using the band and the words to the praise song, Spirit of the Living God. My daughter Stephanie’s lovely voice accompanies me.

My movement is prayer. The words are prayer. The music is prayer. But it gets better. At the end of this prayer/exercise routine, as the music ended and I rested the band down, I discovered the most amazing thing. I could feel the muscles that had moved the band. The effort, the stretch, the exertion of prayer was still with me. I literally could feel the prayer.

Of course, I had to try it again. Now I was aware of the energy, the symbiosis, the connection of stretch and strengthen, relax and feel stronger. It became fluid, flowing, moving. One motion into the next. Body and soul, together. Who in the world would think of something so simple? I think I know.

My thanks to the folks at the Upper Room for honoring my idea (and unusual approach) and inviting me to join them at SOULfeast 2013.

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