Do you feel you are losing flexibility? When you think of relieving tightness in your legs, hips, back or shoulders my guess is that you think “I just need to do more stretching". Am I right?
And this is the #1 reason most people think they should go to Yoga. To stretch. To relieve tightness and get more flexible.
But for a stiff, tight active aging body over 50, trying to contort into yoga postures can be difficult, and sometimes even dangerous for the ligaments and muscles if that area isn't already pliable. 
Traditional static or passive stretching and the popular foam rolling method have been shown to not actually have a positive, lasting impact on the length of a muscle, and research suggests that stretching or rolling should only be done AFTER a workout, as a method of aiding recovery, while the muscles are warm. 
So how can we actually gain flexibility? 

Think of it this way ..... The goal is not to "stretch" a muscle, but to improve its range of motion, and gain more ease in the joints and the surrounding area. The answer my friend is with Mobility Exercises. Movement is the key.  

One definition of mobility is: The ability to move freely or be easily moved
If you are like me and want to age well and stay as active as possible for as long as possible, then staying mobile (the ability to move freely) should be a part of your plan.  As the saying goes, “Use it or lose it”. 

When we start to feel stiff, stuck, compressed and tight we usually start to experience more pain, which often leads to less movement and then feeling less capable to "do the thing". Tissue and joints literally get dry and “brittle” if they aren't moved regularly. Fascia starts to stick together instead of being able to slide along its surrounding surfaces. Muscles lose their ability to contract and lengthen too if the muscle fibers are held fixed by a tight sleeve of connective tissue. Inflammation starts to occur. Movement is stunted.
The solution is to start mobilizing that area more, through a pain-free range of motion, to bring fresh blood flow and hydration back to the joint, and to promote more freedom to the whole fascial area. So instead of stretching your neck, mobilize (roll) your shoulders. Instead of stretching your hamstring, mobilize your whole back line (roll down). Instead of stretching your calf, mobilize your foot and ankle (roll through your foot).  

This saying captures the bigger impact of why having good mobility is the key for healthy movement, sport performance and active aging. If you want to maintain muscle strength, good balance and optimal function to keep doing all the things you love to do, look at mobility as your first priority to keep tissue hydrated and supple and then add muscle strengthening. 


And so it goes that in Pilates the first pillar of our movement plan is to MOBILIZE. We move gently through the spine, hips and shoulders hydrating the individual joints and their surrounding fascia that connect different parts of the body. 

The second pillar is to STABILIZE. This is specific strengthening of muscles and joints that are weak or unstable. Stabilizing with stationary (isometric) exercises and also with specific Pilates based movements that roll, rotate, extend and flex the body. Strengthening while mobilizing and vice versa.

Both of these pillars are supported by the third pillar of Pilates which is BREATHNG. 

The breath is the key to turning on your brain-body connection, helping to relax areas that are "holding on" and improving core stability with its relationship to breathing and core muscles. If you are not breathing well it is often related to a lack of mobility around your ribs and spine and poor strength of your breathing and core muscles. Remember if tissue can't open it also cannot contract. Breathing well helps to both mobilize and strengthen your spine through the movements of rib cage expansion, nourishes the whole body with fresh oxygenated blood, and improves abdominal stabilization.

Finally, Pilates puts Mobility, Stability and Breathing together to bring the body back into balance. The result of this balance is greater movement around all the muscles and joints, with more strength and stability and less strain and struggle - BALANCE & PERFORMANCE. 


So how can you add more mobility to your day? Start each day or workout with a few key mobility exercises and add frequent movement breaks throughout your day to keep your tissue (and brain) feeling nourished, hydrated and capable of doing more. Even a short mobility break will leave you feeling less creaky, more pliable, refreshed and ready to take on your next task or the upcoming workout or activity. 
Here is a short Mobility Series I want you to get up and do right now with me. Remember to breath slow and deep, keep things moving through the breath and do not push into pain.
1. Stand with good posture, feet hip width apart and balanced. Turn your palms up and stretch your Arms out to the side, then slowly up over your head as you Inhale through your nose. Exhale out through your mouth as you slowly lower them back down by your side. Repeat 5 x
2. Cross your arms over your chest. Inhale and lift your chest up, then exhale and side bend over to the right, then roll your spine forward, then over to the left. Inhale back up to center then reverse the order over to left, through center, over to R. Repeat 3 cycles.
3. Place your hands on your hips. Step your right foot in front of your left (like you are turning to your left), then step the right foot behind you like you are turning back to your right. Your are stepping in a semi circle around your stationary left leg. Keep breathing. Repeat 8 x then change sides.
4. Finally Roll Downs. Release your hands to your side and stand with feet hip width apart. Inhale through your nose, then nod your head and start rolling down, over your legs. Inhale at the bottom. Then exhale and slowly roll your spine back up to standing, one vertebra at a time with your head last, eyes straight forward. Repeat 3 x.
Now check in ...... How do you feel?? More mobile, yes! Less like Father Time has a firm grasp on you, yes! Adding this 5 minute routine can be a game changer when practiced often.

I encourage you to print off this mobility plan and stick it up on your fridge. I can't wait to hear how your new Mobility Habit is serving you. 

Yours in Healthy Movement,

PS If you have questions or are interested in working with me inside one of my Pilates based movement programs or privately, please reach out any time www.pilatesfunction.com