At a lecture many years ago the lecturer, as an aside, pointed out that once you get past a certain age, flexibility drops off much faster than strength or stamina, and is missed in your day to day life much more than either.
I am past a certain age. And I know I should stretch out my muscles every day to avoid making THAT noise when I bend over to pick up the toddler but, by the time the kids are finally settled in bed (there was a lot of emphasis on the the word finally there) I can’t face another ‘ought to’. I used to though – in fact, twenty minutes of stretching to relaxing music after the little ones’ bedtime used to be a pleasure I looked forward to from tea-time on. But, like most pleasures when the Black Dog moves in, I have let it slide. The Dog makes everything seem like a chore, and since my body and soul are temporarily numb to pleasure the things that usually delight me have lost their appeal. But if I give up on all my previous pleasures then I am perpetuating the depression that has stealthily stopped me doing anything I used to enjoy. So a simple task: spend a few minutes stretching after the boys go to bed.
The first attempt was not a success. I tried to simply march myself through a quick sequence of stretches but got bogged down trying to decide which stretches to do first. Day two I decided to use a DVD instead and just follow someone else’s lead. Alas, my littlest son, in his never-ending quest to seize anything shiny, had cherished the DVD one time too many and three minutes in it began to stick and jump. After attempting to touch my toes while pointing the remote at the screen in a doomed attempt to unstick it I gave up in a filthy temper, deeply frustrated that I had failed – again – to do this simple task. On day three I stuck on some music and did a basic salute to the sun, breathing in and out steadily in time to the music, matching the movements to my breath. On day four I just stuck on the tv and began to stretch the bits that felt stiffest as I watched.
Not a great start to a new evening activity. I want the tranquility of stretching to music that used to mark the beginning of ‘my’ part of the day, leaving me relieved of the day’s stresses and ready to enjoy a whole evening. But… the regular breathing to music did slow me down and helped me to just focus on what I was doing right now rather than worry about what I didn’t get done earlier in the day, or what I would do tomorrow. The big surprise was the stretching in front of the tv. I hadn’t realised how much of the day’s stresses I am still carrying in my tense muscles at the day’s end. I know my brain is still carrying them all – whizzing around endlessly like flies trapped in a jar – and know only to well how hard it is to get the brain to just let go. I have been waiting for my brain to let go so my body could relax but last night I realised that I can go in through the other door too. By gradually relieving the physical tension I tell my brain that we are letting go now. I suspect the TV distracted my brain for long enough to let my body get in there. Either way, I will continue to try to start my evening by physically letting go of the day. And enjoy the lovely, heavy sensation of a body finally relaxed for the rest of the evening.