Tips, tricks and tools: work your quads to stretch your hamstrings

Learned this little trick and the underlying concept in massage school. You can get more out of your hamstring stretch if you first activate your quads. The concept is called reciprocal inhibition. When you have antagonistic muscle groups and you activate one set, the opposite set has to relax. Quads and hamstrings are antagonists, meaning they perform opposite actions. Activate your quads and your hamstrings have no choice but to relax. Then, follow up with your favorite hamstring stretch and you’ll get more bang for your buck. Who can’t use more bang for their hamstring stretch buck?

Step 1 Activate Quadriceps: a simple way is to “sit” with your back against the wall. (I’m having a flashback to high school basketball practice)

Step 2 Stretch Hamstrings: you’ve got lots of options.  Mia the cat seems to like this one. Here’s what you need – an open doorway and a couple of legs. The leg that remains on the floor increases the stretch on the leg that’s up the wall. Also, be mindful to keep your low back flat on the floor instead of arching your back.

You’ll feel the stretch change as you change the angle of your foot (bringing toes towards nose) or as you slightly rotate the leg. Holding a stretch for approximately 90 seconds allows the brain to reassign the muscle tension in the target muscle group. If you start with a more moderate stretch you’ll be  able to increase it over the time of the stretch. If you start at your maximum stretch, you can make yourself really sore and encourage your muscles to go into spasm. Your choice.

Enjoy those loose hamstrings everybody!

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Happy Small Business Week!

I am so grateful to all my readers and all my massage clients. As a small business person, I cherish each and every one of you! To celebrate Small Business Week I’m inviting you to join me over at Kiva.org in supporting another small business person in Peru. Kiva is a non-profit organization providing micro-finance loans to small business people all over the world. The website explains how the system works. A fun fact is that one of my clients is related to the folks who started Kiva!

A couple years ago, I contributed to a small business person in Costa Rica in honor of my clients who help my small business provide for my family. Carmen is in the re-payment process. As she made payments on the loan, the money was available to lend again. I next chose Luis, another small business person in Costa Rica. Now I have re-lent the money again, this time to Lucia in Peru. It’s a loan that keeps on going.

If you would like to join me in supporting Lucia in purchasing cattle and pigs or would like to select another loan applicant, head over to the website and consider a loan and/or donation. Just browsing the applicants can be inspirational. Thanks again for supporting me in my small business. I really appreciate it!

Benefits of Pregnancy Massage

There are very specific benefits of pregnancy massage. Research supports the following claims about massage:

  • offsets the negative effects of stress on mother & baby
  • lowers blood pressure
  • increases parasympathetic response in body
  • decreases cortisol levels
  • increases serotonin & dopamine
  • decreases anxiety & depression
  • increases systemic & local blood circulation
  • decreases late pregnancy edema in lower legs
  • relieves muscle spasms, cramps & myofascial pain
  • improves labor outcomes

That’s a pretty impressive list. I’m happy to go over more specific studies and details if you’d like to call or meet in person. The point I’m trying to make is that there’s real evidence that pregnancy massage is much more than pampering.

This year I’m offering a different kind of special in honor of mothers. As a certified pre-natal and post-partum massage therapist, I’m happy to offer a discount to pregnant and post-partum women. I’m defining post-partum very loosely: up to a year after baby arrived. If you know any pregnant or post-partum moms, send them in for a massage!

Honoring Moms Special

  • a 60-minute massage is $65
  • a 90-minute massage is $85.
  • This offer lasts through June 15, 2012.
  • Limit 3 per client.
  • Not offered as a gift certificate.
  • Cannot be combined with other offers, discounts or specials.

Thank you for forwarding this email to any pregnant or post-partum women you know who may be interested. They will thank you too!

One little change – lighten up!

ready to scrub!A conversation today led me to a new thought. What if I dropped all the negativity I felt when doing household chores – would it lead to less strain on my body? Over the years I have marveled at how I can regularly manage the physicality of doing massage while cleaning the bathtub can strain my shoulder! Of course, I could clean more frequently, necessitating less strenuous scrubbing. But the new thought today was this – what if the negative attitude I have while scrubbing the tub contributed to muscle tension, which led to muscle/joint strain? What if, indeed?

When I write “one little change” articles, I share things I’ve learned and regularly practice. This time, I submit a proposal instead of a tried-and-true tip. Join me in this experiment and let me know if you notice any difference. My most common negative attitude while doing household chores is resentment. Am I really the only person in the house who notices the need to clean? Why is it always me that follows through? Why am I the one cleaning at 10:30 pm the night before a visitor arrives? There are many ways to answer these questions and great conversations to have at a relaxed family meeting. But, while the actual cleaning is going on, what if I consciously set aside these resentments and chose to put on a cheerful attitude while also putting on a pair of gloves? I’m game to try. Please share in the comments below any wisdom you’ve gained over the years in this area. I would love to hear your story.