When you wake up in the morning what is the first thing you do? After you have groaned and considered killing the alarm clock, there is a good chance you lift your arms over your head, arch your back and yawn. Most mammals do this and it is generally considered to be a stretch but it isn’t – its called Pandiculation. What you are actually doing is instinctively waking up the muscles and fascia in your back, unwinding your arms and taking in a large lung full of energising oxygen. A stretch involves holding a posture for a prolonged time. Whereas warming up involves going from one posture to another in a series of repeated movements – training your body and mind to expect changes in posture. This is why I suggest Tai chi in the morning to get you moving and yoga for the evening when you need a good stretch.
As most people assume that they start the day with a stretch then it seems logical to continue the routine to the rest of the body. When you wake up in the morning, have a good stretch to get yourself going, right? This doesn’t doesn’t make sense as for the rest of the day you will be doing activities that require muscle contraction – running, walking, cycling, simply moving around and even sitting all involve contracting the muscles not stretching them. Wouldn’t it make more sense to start the day by warming up and preparing your body for the activities of the day?
Following Pandiculation it would be a great idea to go into a series of mini warm up exercises. So, for example, before you roll over to get out of bed why not roll onto your back and lift your knees up to your chest then go through a series of mini rolls from side to side to warm up your spinal rotatory muscles. And before you bend over to put your socks on start with a series of mini bends and single leg stands. This may sound a bit extreme, but you would be surprised to hear how common it is that people wake up feeling great only to bend over to put their foot in a sock and feel their back ‘go’ – its only because their poor old back muscles are simply not as awake as their brain is.