NEW CASTLE —
Top of the morning to you!
I’m hoping to inspire you with this Irish enthusiasm to take to heart some morning stretches as part of your personal health goals. Morning stretches can be important to include in your routine to maintain or improve fluidity and flexibility. Enthusiasm abounds when you feel good.
Isn’t it interesting how we all become a little Irish for St. Patrick’s Day? People wear green, even when it really isn’t their color. Others go to parades, or are in them, even if it is 40 degrees or snowing. And there is always the luck of the Irish that gets people talking.
Or how about a little Irish humor: Why should you never iron a four leaf clover? You don’t want to press your luck.
You don’t have to press yourself too much to get more limber either. A few morning stretches can make a big difference if you are consistent over time. Stretching is often instinctual. After sitting a long time, we often naturally move in ways that feel good. Even yawning is a natural way to stretch, and it relieves tension.
How do you get enthused about stretching in the morning when you just got out of bed and feel stiff and cranky? Well, maybe you’re a morning person, and don’t feel cranky, but it is a fact that we are all less nimble in the morning because we’ve been sleeping. Less movement means you’re getting less fluids to the joints and spine.
Yoga tradition has a series of movements called the Sun Salutation. It is usually done in the morning, which is why it is called the salute to the sun. This standing movement routine is meant to warm up all of your muscles to prepare for the day. There is also a gentle chair variation. Learning this series requires more than verbal instruction. You may want to find a gentle movements yoga class if this interests you.
The point is, the heat that stretching creates in your muscles is like the sun rising in the body. A few simple stretches first thing in the morning, can be significant to how you feel and how you move through the rest of your day.
The results over time are longer hamstrings, more flexible hip girdle, relaxed lower back muscles, and so on, up the spine to the shoulders and neck. If you aren’t sure what amount of stretching is appropriate for you, check with your doctor or hire a personal trainer to learn what is best for your body. Most often, just listening to your body and doing some light stretching based on what feels good is sufficient.
“Marching in place or a light warm-up can also be included in your morning stretches to get the blood flowing to the muscles and joints. Find a few basic stretches for the major muscles and stretch to the point of mild tension for10 to 20 seconds, then release,” suggests Doug Petrik, exercise specialist for the Dean Ornish Program.
Introduce some stretching to the top of your morning and you’ll begin to notice that you feel more energized. Gentle twisting, hamstring stretches, shoulder and neck rolls can all be affective in getting the warming that will take you into your day with more range of motion and less risk of injury.
By the way, when I’m thinking Irish, what I value most is The Irish Blessing, which has always touched my heart: “May the road rise to meet you, may the wind be always at your back, may the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your fields, and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.”
Irish Whole Grain Soda Bread
- 3 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for working dough
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
- 2 cups low-fat buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons dark molasses
Thoroughly combine whole wheat and all-purpose flours, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Stir in oats and make a well in the center.
Combine buttermilk and molasses in separate bowl. Pour mixture into flour well and gradually work into flour with fingers or spoon.
Knead dough lightly 3 or 4 times on floured surface and divide in half. Shape into 2 round loaves, each about 5 inches in diameter. With a knife, score loaves with cross slash, cutting one inch deep.
Place loaves on ungreased baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 degrees, and continue to bake 25 to 30 minutes longer until loaves are brown on top and sound hollow when tapped on bottom. Cool at least 5 minutes on cooling rack.
Cut into thick or thin wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature. Very nice with jam.