Stretching for Life

Written By: Jeanne Aufmuth - May• 31•16

You’d have to be living under a rock to miss the connection between physical fitness and the health of your eyes. We’ve relentlessly sung the praises of acupuncture on these pages – and all of its marvelous benefits – but never neglecting the fact that good nutrition, a positive attitude and consistent physical health are part of the essential and magical combination.

I first read Bob Anderson’s Stretching (a mimeographed loose leaf copy) nearly forty years ago when some skier buddies of my boyfriend were getting in shape for a Canadian heli-skiing adventure. Fitness awareness was in its infancy and at the tender age of twenty-one I was intrigued by the notion of the positive long-term effects stretching could have on my youthful muscles.

Attachment-1The principles of stretching are as time honored as Chinese medicine and as far reaching as the cave man – to coin a phrase use it or lose it. Anderson was an athlete and outdoorsman who believed in maintaining full body strength via simple stretches that could be done as part of a regular home routine. He was a man before his time – before Jane Fonda urged us to “feel the burn” or Nike implored us to “Just Do It.”

I’ve always been the disciplined sort – punctual to a fault, highly organized – and something in Anderson’s visionary message spoke to me. Looking forward is not the basic tenet of a twenty-something but there was a glimmer of a fitter, future me and I started a daily regime of small body stretches. Anywhere from fifteen to fifty minutes a day, and the benefits were immediately evident. Everything I did was easier as I developed a lithe flexibility that saw me through sports injuries, lengthy car trips and the inherent hurdles my slowly aging body asked of me. Over time I added my own quirky movements from yoga and kick-boxing to tai chi. Headstands became a daily staple, but always with the core principle of stretching as support.

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 9.07.44 PMI am sixty years old now and proud to say I haven’t missed a day of stretching in thirty- nine years. Not one day. I’ve stretched on days I’ve given birth and the days after. I’ve stretched on cold dirt floors in Africa and in a tent at 14,000 feet in the Andes. Sure there have been adjustment days (scaled back cheater stretches after knee surgery) but I always find a way. Stretching is like air and water to me – so much a part of my DNA that I literally couldn’t function without it. It has seen me through medical emergencies, sixteen-hour plane rides, grief and joy and loss.

But most importantly stretching has helped me through this challenging journey we call RP. As a wise woman once said, “If Option A isn’t available let’s kick the shit out of Option B!” Not only does the daily flexing contribute to that essential level of fitness, it’s an excellent relaxation tool and stress reliever. Stretching is for life.

Millions of copies and umpteen editions later Bob Anderson is still leading the stretching charge, with contemporary additions on computer stretching et al, and it’s still my bible. Even if you’re allergic to exercise there’s a simple stretch that will work for you – always available and perpetually worthy. It’s crucial to keep moving – for your body, for your eyes and for being the best you can possibly be!

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2 Comments

  1. This is really interesting! I’m glad you’ve found a healthy activity that you can do anywhere and that you enjoy. I’m definitely going to check this out! Thanks for sharing about it.

    • Jeanne Aufmuth says:

      Alyssa — It’s really easy once you get going — and so many options for different parts of the body! Definitely check out the book — he’s published a handy (and cute) pocket sized one too!

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