We’ve just had a holiday weekend in Ireland which was hopefully an opportunity for many of you to unwind and connect with family and friends. I often think of August as a great opportunity to pause and refresh, often we’re in a holiday mode and there are still a few weeks to go before the busyness of back to school and College and all that goes with that!
So I want to invite you into an experiment with me this month. Hopefully you have some down time but even if you are flat out at the moment, the invitation is to take time over the next few weeks to find your stretch.
This invitation has both a physical and spiritual component to it, so the suggestion is to enter into this both as a practical experiment and as a metaphor for how you live your best life.
To get us started, I invite you into a little experiment with me right now…
- Raise one arm high over your head, reaching for the sky
- Reach a little higher
- And now reach a little higher again!
Great job! I love this exercise because it shows us that there’s always a little bit more of a stretch there.
In every area of learning and growth, how to live a little in the stretch is a beautiful way to learn how to grow, how to develop and how to become.
Read on for how you can use your stretch to promote your physical and emotional wellbeing and use it as a metaphor for growth in all areas of your professional and personal life.
Stretching for Physical & Emotional Wellbeing
Mark Waldman, in his book, Neurowisdom says that “mindful stretching increases your body awareness, and this has been shown to give you greater emotional control along with higher levels of personal satisfaction and well-being”.
He shares this simple experiment for you to try, which I’m paraphrasing a little here:
- First turn and twist your torso in the way you would normally stretch your body.
- Then remain still and notice how you feel. Usually, most people will spend about 5 or 10 seconds to stretch out their neck or back.
- Now, I invite you to see what happens when you take a full 30 seconds to turn your torso and your head to your right side and another 30 seconds to turn your body and head back to center.
- When you do superslow movements you’ll experience many more subtle aches and pains. This is the information your brain needs to send a relaxation signal to each of the tense muscles in your body.
- Take a moment to notice how different your left side feels compared to your right side.
- Next imagine yourself turning slowly to the left side.
- Then take a full 30 seconds to actually turn your body and head to the left, and another 30 seconds to come back to center.
- Again, notice how different everything feels.
- If you do this same stretch in 5 or 10 minutes, you’ll notice far less pain and greater ease of movement, a fact that has been demonstrated in many slow-movement studies.
- It is the awareness of your body, brought about by very slow movement, that is the key element for relieving pain and increasing your sense of well-being.
Practice doing this type of mindful stretch on the hour, taking a few minutes break from your desk or whatever activity you are engaged in, and notice how your sense of wellbeing increases.
Finding your Stretch
Many of you will have experience of yoga, pilates, aerobics or other physical fitness classes. And you will be familiar with teachers and instructors telling you in all of these contexts to listen to your own body, to only do what is right for you depending on where you are at in your current levels of fitness and flexibility. You’re encouraged to stretch and push yourself, each time stretching just a little beyond where you are at comfortably.
Your stretch therefore, physical and metaphorical, might be more or less of a stretch than what others are doing. Again, we know this from our experiences with instructors in our exercise classes: our teachers will usually have a level of mastery that is beyond where we are at as their students. So we can’t start with the same poses or stretches as the Master! We can, however, start where we are at and with practice, stretching a little more each time, we can develop mastery ourselves.
So find your stretch, that point of expansion that is exactly appropriate for the place where you are at right now and that will move you in the direction you want to go. Don’t worry about what others are doing. This can be in relation to your wellbeing and your physical fitness but it could also be in relation to being a better version of yourself at home or at work. Or it could be about how you spend your free time and/or whether you have practices in your life that support and nourish you and bring you joy.
What is the area in your life where you most need to ‘stretch’ yourself and take action to improve the quality of your life?
For my part, I’ve been working and stretching myself a lot in my professional work during Covid so, for the month of August, these are some of the things I’m doing to stretch myself into more self-care and deeper connection with my family:
- Appointments with my dentist, optician and physiotherapist – yep! All three!
- Regular yawns and stretches throughout each working day
- Completing the LIFT Leadership programme with my husband and sons
- Taking a week’s vacation with no access to calls or emails
Stretching as a metaphor for growth
On my Dream Builder and Life Mastery coaching programmes, my clients learn how to stretch! They experience this stretch in many different ways: emotionally, mentally, physically, relationally, financially, creatively,. They apply their stretch in every domain of their lives that’s important to them, including e.g. health and wellbeing, relationships, career and creative expression; and time and money freedom.
As part of this process, they are supported in creating a vision for their lives which is a stretch beyond what they are being, doing, having, and experiencing currently. They explore, perhaps for the first time as adults, what it is they would love to create in their lives and they learn the tools and get support to take the steps to achieve that life.
How about you?
If you could be, do or have anything in your life right now, what would you love?
This is not about what you think you can afford, or what you think you deserve, or what you think your boss or partner, children or neighbours would approve of. Answering this question is about identifying what you would love if you could be, do or have anything you desired.
If you were guaranteed success – what would you love?
And how can you best stretch yourself so that you are growing personally and professionally, moving into alignment both with your most authentic self and with the life you would most love to be living?
If you would love to explore these questions with the help of a coach, why not join me for a complimentary strategy session, your hour of power to identify your stretch and your immediate next steps for leaning into it. Book your session here.