This week's exercise is the Vitamin H stretch in a modified form for those who have stability issues, or are over 70 years old. You'll find this stretch very similar to the calf, hamstring, and lower back stretch we did in Part 1, but there are some key differences I want to point out.
First and foremost, this stretch does not hit the calves as much (because your feet should be flat on the floor), and has a greater focus on the lower back.
Second, this exercise must be done much more gradually, because your center of gravity is further away from your feet than in the previous exercises. You will see that I have designed three variations of this stretch to meet whatever your stability needs are.
Variation 1: Lean over your secured walker, above a chair.
This is the version of the exercise that uses the most stability aid, and is the least intense. All we are trying to do here is get the student used to the feeling of moving their center of gravity forward.
First, the student should get into a comfortable sitting position on a sturdy chair. Then, their walker, or a desk, or another chair should be placed in front of them, close enough for them to grab hold of an stand up comfortably with. Next, while standing, they should lean over their walker, stabilizing their body with their arms and legs.
They should lean over only as far as is comfortable, and only for as long as they feel they are stable. If they ever get dizzy or lose balance, they should immediately sit back in the chair.
Work your way up to holding the position for 30 seconds, then a minute, then two minutes. Also work on bending more in the lower back and less in the upper back or neck.
Variation 2: Vitamin H without a chair, focusing on the hamstrings.
Once the first variation has become too easy, and the student is feeling nice and stable, they can move on to the second variation of the Vitamin H stretch. In this version, the student takes the same forward position, but without having a chair. You could always keep the chair behind the student, just in case, but the goal is to be able to hold the position for 2-4 minutes without needing to rest and sit down frequently.
The key internal difference for performing this version of the position is to focus on the proper pelvic rotation. We are trying to further stretch the hamstrings (and eventually lower back) with this version of the stretch. As you hold the position over the walker, you should be working to tilt your belly toward the floor, and your sitting bones up toward the ceiling. This will create an immediate stretching feelings that goes all the way down the back of the leg to the knee.
Be sure to keep your knees straight the whole time! If you have to bend your knees, it means you are leaning over too much. Back off until you are going at my Rule of 80%.
Variation 3: Full bend using the wall to support.
So, you've mastered both previous versions of the Vitamin H stretch. Wonderful! Now you are ready to be in the full stretch. To accomplish this, you will use a wall (to prevent falling backwards) and stand facing away from it with your walker or chair and a pillow in front of you. Make sure your feet are about 6-12 inches away from the wall, but kept close together.
Next, lean forward and push your butt backward (without bending your knees), until your butt touches the supporting wall. With that as support, lean forward more, until you are able to rest your head and your arms on your walker or chair, using pillows or folded blankets for comfort. This should give you a further stretch in your lower back than the previous variations have allowed you to achieve.
Make sure you are rotating your hips just like in variation 2, and keep your feet planted firmly on the ground. Also, secure your walker to make sure it will not slip or slide as you lean on it.
Finally, you can come out of the stretch by pushing up off your walker or chair with your arms, still using the wall to lean against and stabilize yourself. Then, once you are upright, you can slowly shuffle your feet backward toward the wall until they are fully underneath you, and you can move around normally.
Do this stretch for 2 minutes, 3-5 times per day. And always breath deeply!
P.S. Don't forget about my seminar this weekend (November 6th) at Yang's Fitness Center in Andover, MA! Check out the details here!
I hope to see many of you there!