Why It’s Better to Be Gumby (Flexible)

Okay, I hate to admit it, but I haven’t always been the best when it comes to stretching, but I have vowed to make it more of a habit from here on in.  As I approach the half century mark the latter part of this year, it has become abundantly clear to me that I need to be more flexible.  I have the cardio/weight lifting habit down, but am seriously lacking in the stretching department.

Since I can’t seem to make it into yoga as much as I would like to, I did some research on some worthwhile stretching books. I have two really good books already, but wanted something new.   I found an excellent one entitled:  Stretching: 30th Anniversary Edition by Bob Anderson I plan to scan copies of relative pages so that I may forward them on to family/friends/clients/colleagues!  If you are new to stretching, or want something for just about every sport or activity you could think of, this is the book for you.  Here are highlights from the book:

Stretching When to stretch?

Before you begin your day in the morning

At the workplace to release nervous tension

After sitting or standing for long periods of time

When you feel stiff

At odd times during the day, i.e, when watching TV, listening to music, reading, sitting and talking

Stretching_2 Why stretch?

 √Release muscle tension making the body feel more relaxed

√Help coordination by allowing for freer and easier movement

√Increase range of motion

√Help prevent injuries such as muscle strains/sprains.

√Make strenuous activities like running, skiing, swimming, and cycling easier because it prepares you for the activity; it’s a way of signaling the muscles that they are about to be used.

 √Helps maintain your current level of flexibility, so as you do not become stiffer and stiffer over time

 √Develop body awareness; as you stretch various parts of your body, you focus on them and get in touch with them; you get to know yourself.

 √Helps loosen the mind’s control of the body so that the body moves for “it’s own sake” rather than for competition or ego.


Back Pain – PSO What???


The psoas is a rope-like muscle located deep in the stomach, which runs obliquely from the spine to the femur. The psoas is joined at the hip, literally, by the iliacus, which runs from hip to thigh. Together, the psoas and iliacus make up the iliopsoas–the body’s most powerful hip flexor.

Why should runners care about a hard-to-find muscle with an unusual name? The psoas is the muscle that enables you to run.  When you lift your knee, the psoas contracts. When your leg swings back, the psoas lengthens. For a runner averaging 180 strides per minute, the left and right psoas each contract and lengthen more than 5,000 times during the an hour run. That’s a lot of stress and strain on a band of muscle that’s only about as thick as your lower forearm.

The psoas also promotes good posture. Along with a coordinated team of core muscles–abs, obliques, lower back–the psoas helps stabilize your midsection and pelvis. Every time you stand, walk, or run, you’re engaging the psoas. If the muscle is compromised, either by injury or tightness, your running inevitably suffers.


If you find yourself shuffling more than usual, feeling a twitch in your stride, you might have a psoas injury. If you’re experiencing pain running uphill, walking up stairs, or doing any other activity that requires you to lift your knee, you might have a psoas injury. If you have hip, groin, or glute pain, you might have a psoas injury. If your lower back is aching … etc., etc…

The psoas is complicated.  Most runners don’t walk into their physician’s office and say, “Doc, my psoas is killing me,” because they don’t know about this muscle. They complain of other symptoms, from the lower back down to the foot.

Either way, it’s not enough to treat the psoas alone.  All issues of tightness, poor posture, weakness, and muscular imbalance need to be addressed together for successful resolution of a psoas injury.  Whether a strained psoas leads to low back pain or an achy back triggers an injury to the psoas, the symptoms should be treated in tandem.

If you can’t pin down which came first in the causal injury chain, the psoas is a great place to start. By treating the psoas, runners often find relief from pain in the low back, hip, hamstring, and groin.


Try this: Lie on your back with both legs straight. Pull one knee towards your chest. If the other leg lifts off the floor involuntarily, then your psoas is too tight. Now try the other side. Muscular imbalances are common, especially among runners, whose side-to-side discrepancies are reinforced through repetitive movement.

The number one culprit for a tight psoas is your chair.

Sitting for long periods puts the psoas in a continually shortened state.  Muscle memory maintains this shortened state, even when you head out for a run.

A short psoas can cause several postural problems: lordosis (arched lower back), anterior pelvic tilt (pelvis tipping forward), and hunching. Running with any of these postural dysfunctions can lead to a myriad of other injuries and issues, including hip, groin and lower back pain. Our bodies simply aren’t designed to sit all day.

But unless you’re in a financial position to quit your day job and become nomadic, you can’t avoid sitting in a chair. What can you do? Take a stand, early and often. Make it a habit to get up and stretch regularly. When you sit, pay attention to your posture. Don’t let your lower back arch. Sit up tall, like your momma told you, and don’t slouch.

Try and avoid excessive core work.  Doing too many sit-ups actually trains the psoas muscle to be short. And in running, you want the psoas to relax and extend. If it’s too taut, then the psoas can’t lengthen. Without that length, the psoas can’t contract with as much force. Six-pack abs should come with a warning label: Runners beware–too many sit-ups may cause psoas tightness.

Core is beneficial only in small doses. Too many crunches can wreak havoc on your psoas.


Whether you’re just recovering from a psoas injury or dealing with chronic tightness, start back slowly. Avoid any activity that aggravates the psoas, like hill running, until the pain subsides. If the psoas feels stiff or tender to the touch, enlist muscle release massage. Once the psoas is released and relaxed, the real work begins–undoing all those hours of sitting, at your job, in your car, at home. Regular stretching is the best at-home antidote to a tight psoas. (See the psoas stretches listed below.)

Remember, though, that your psoas didn’t get tight in one day, and the pain you experience is not going to get resolved in a day. You’re re-training the muscle, which takes time. So be patient and gentle. Overstretching the psoas can trigger a myotatic reflex, in which the muscle, instead of stretching, contracts and shortens. Ease into the stretch without straining, aiming for a lengthened sensation.

Lengthening your psoas not only decreases your risk of injury, but can also open up your stride. Picture the long sweeping stride of an Olympic runner. Now imagine your prototypical old man shuffler, skimming the sidewalk with each step. Whose psoas is shorter? More than likely, the shuffler’s. And whose is stronger? Without a doubt, the Olympic runner
Lengthening the psoas can open up your stride. It can cure a litany of injuries, improve your running posture, and lessen tightness and pain in the back, hip and groin. Sit less, stretch more and get ready for your running to improve.

Psoas Stretches


Sit tall at the end of a table, with your thighs halfway off . Pull one knee to your chest and lean back. Your lower back and sacrum should be flat on the table. If there’s any rounding in your back, or tipping of your pelvis, then you’re pulling the knee too far, so loosen your hold. The other leg should hang free off the table. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds for each side, and complete at least two or three repetitions.

NOTE: Physical therapists use this stretch as a flexibility test for the hip flexor. To pass, the posterior thigh should touch the table, and the knee should passively flex at an angle of at least 80 degrees.


Kneel on one knee, with the front leg forward at a 90-degree angle. With your pelvis tucked, lunge forward, easing into the stretch without straining. If your psoas is tight, your tendency may be to arch your lower back; make it a point to keep the back straight. Raise your arms overhead for an added abdominal stretch. To vigorously stretch the psoas, complete 20 reps on each side, holding the lunge for 2 to 3 seconds.


Step one foot 3 to 4 feet in front of you. Lunge forward until your front knee is at a right angle. (Readjust your foot position if necessary.) Turn your back foot out about 45 degrees. Keeping your back foot firmly planted, and your head, shoulders, hips and knees facing forward, raise your arms overhead. Relax your shoulders; don’t let them inch up. Lift your rib cage away from your pelvis to really stretch the psoas. As in all yoga poses, breathe deeply and easily. Don’t strain. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.

More info about the psoas and more stretches:





The Many Benefits of Good Posture

I didn’t appreciate having a 3 inch growth spurt when I started high school.  I remember my Mom always reminding me to stand up straight and watch my posture. It took me several years to truly appreciate my height.   I now thank my Mom for helping me to be mindful of my posture.

Here is a link to an excellent article on posture.  http://artofmanliness.com/2009/06/21/30-days-to-a-better-man-day-22-improve-your-posture/ The author explains the following:

Makes You Look Taller.  Good posture adds an immediate inch or two to your height.  Try it, you will be surprised.

Makes You Look More Confident.   Good posture gives you an air of strength and confidence.  Think about it… shoulders back, chest out, chin in….

Improves Organ Function.  Slouching forces your rib cage to compress your organs decreasing their efficiency.

Reduces Tension and Pain in Your Neck, Shoulders, and Back.  Most of the discomfort you feel from sitting at work comes from sitting improperly.

Increases Concentration and Mental Performance.

Prevents Beer Belly.   Incorrect posture accentuates any belly fat you have while proper posture can hide it.

Tummy Troubles???


Abdominal or stomach massage often gets overlooked in the overall benefit of massage, while there is little debate to the benefits of a full body massage.

For adults as well as for infants and young children, massaging the abdominal area promotes digestion, alleviates gastric upsets, soothes the nerves related therein, and benefits the organs that are interconnected with the stomach, as well as the intestinal tract.

A stomach massage can be done either in conjunction with a full body massage or can be used specifically to deal with certain digestive and stress issues. It is not uncommon for the digestive process to become interrupted when one is dealing with significant stress or tension.

Abdominal aches, gas, and a “knot” in the gut are all typical reactions to stress and pressure. For individuals of all ages with these stress related issues, a stomach massage can not only alleviate the symptoms, but can actually alleviate some of the stress which causes the symptoms.

Most abdominal massages are done using a firm but gentle pressure, beginning under the rib cage and working clockwise around the area with small but meaningful circular motions. A circle should be completed no less than twice. For many individuals, both grown and growing, abdominal massages can be so beneficial that often the massage is completed four or five times in one sitting.

Abdominal massages can be excellent for stimulating the bowel movements that can become irregular or infrequent due to stress, dietary issues, medication, or other health issues. The muscles of the bowels require some form of stimulation in order to function appropriately. If undulation does not occur, the movement of the bowels becomes sluggish or nearly stops.

A firm and intentional abdominal massage can often help stimulate these muscles and facilitate the movements of the bowels. This works for adults, children, and infants. The pelvic region and genitals are not considered part of a stomach massage.

Colicky infants can benefit greatly from an abdominal massage. There are as many opinions about colic as there are babies who suffer from it. However, there has been documented evidence that stomach massages can create a soothing muscular action which helps relieve infants from colicky feelings and promote peaceful rest during the evening hours. Colic is most likely a digestive issue in infants, and the process of abdominal massage tends to ease the strain of the digestive issue.

Adults as well tend to develop these same digestive issues, we just no longer refer to it as colic. Rather we call it indigestion, acid reflux, gas, bloating, and other forms of digestive malfunction.

When abdominal massage is done correctly, the muscular lining of the abdominal wall activates appropriate muscle activity within the organs protected by the muscular wall. This of course increases the likelihood of a well functioning digestive system.

While healthy eating habits and proper exercise are also excellent for a healthy digestive tract,adding a abdominal massage to the regimen can increase other efforts by at least 25% or more.

The stomach is considered the “core” of the body. Exercise based in control of the stomach muscles such as yoga, abdominal flattening exercise, and meditative exercises are all focused around the strengthening the core.

The reason for this is that so much energy within the body transfers through the core. Emotions as well as physical exertion all can be stimulated or related to the core of the human body. An appropriate abdominal massage can increase the effectiveness of all surrounding organs, ease the tension associated with those organs, and release the inner emotions carried in the core.

Abdominal massages are one of the few forms of relief that one is capable of providing for him or her self. Back/foot and neck massages all carry similar emotional benefits to stomach massage, but without a willing participant, these massages can not be performed in a solitary state.

While it is best if a stomach massage is performed by a willing participant, in a pinch, it can be performed by oneself and create the same effect, making it an immediate and accessible form of self love behavior. I know I have many fond memories of my Mom rubbing my tummy when I wasn’t feeling well; and I know my dog sure loves having her belly rubbed!

If you are really having tummy troubles, and a abdominal massage doesn’t seem to be doing the trick, you might want to consider a colonic treatment. Interested in colonics?  Go see my friend Robbie.  I have been seeing her almost a decade!  She is amazing!!!  She is offering a $49/special through the end of the year!  Tell her I sent you.