“You’re only as old as your spine!”
Traditional Chinese teachings put a lot of emphasis on spine health. A spine should be strong & stable and there is an acknowledgement that the spine is a whole series of joints and, like all our joints, should regularly move – a well used hinge will never rust!
We should gently roll, wave, flex and extend the spine regularly. The spine is the central highway for not only our blood vessels and nervous system and also the lymphatic system – the bodies waste disposal system so it’s health is so vitally important to us and our wellbeing.
It’s not a coincidence, back illness is highly prevalent in the West, and according to the UK’s Health & Safety executive, there were 3,417,000 working days lost to work related back disorders in 2015/16. So how can we counter balance all the demands of sitting, driving, texting etc?
With this guy… that’s how!!
Me and my spine
Despite years of dedicated exercise, yoga and stretching my body was unable to get into any classic backbending postures – positions like wheel and camel. I found it impossible, not to mention darn frustrating, to watch others get into delicious back-bends and for me not to even get into the starting blocks of this highly therapeutic pose!
But then Stretch Therapy changed all that last year! The work Kit and Olivia have done exploring ‘passive backbends’ was revolutionary for me! The idea is simple enough, use a prop to support the body so there’s no physical effort to hold the pose and you can get on with the important job of relaxing and getting comfortable in this new range. If you’ve ever lent back over something, or some-one, you’ll know how great it feels just to lie and relax as your ribs open and your back softens over the object. As with everything Kit and Olivia do, it’s the impeccable implementation of the idea and the attention to detail that’s key!
The only trouble is I couldn’t get one in the UK!
At around the time, I was weighing up the environmental impact, not to mention the costs, of shipping one all the way from Australia (where they are made), I had a chance encounter with Stephen – a local craftsman and former professional dancer.
Dancers are the athletes of God - Albert Einstein
I couldn’t have handpicked a better person for the challenge; someone who not only understood how the body moved, but who also understood how to shape wood. If you’ve ever read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance you’ll understand how exciting and rare it is to find someone who has balanced the Romantic notion of nature, freedom, spontaneity and personal expression with the Classical ideas of logic, reason and analytical thinking. Check out more about Stephen here.
I got the green light from Kit and Olivia to produce my own UK cousin to their Australian Baby Whale. Kit is committed to the open source model – his whole stretch therapy system is based on it (Contrast it to the US system of copyright and protection). Just pause for a moment and think about the level of fearless living it takes to say “Go for it!’ when someone asks to take your idea and run (off) with it! It’s why I love the ST family and it’s why i love them in particular for creating it.
Anyway that’s my long and very personal story of how this thing came to be…but you’re probably wondering how to use it!
To see more on how to use the baby whale and it’s benefits of the from it’s original founder Kit Laughlin, go here. I’m currently working on content about the way I use mine too. (*)
Where can I get one?
I am absolutely delighted to be able to bring to you my version of the Stretch Therapy created ‘Baby Whale’ – ‘The Hedgehog of the North’. I knew i needed quality – something very strong and stable. Strong because i needed my back to mould around the piece of and not just squash out of shape as i put my full weight through it. It needed to be stable because a muscle that is trying to balance is not a muscle that’s about to relax and lengthen anytime soon!
Finally, the angle of the curve is integral to the design – and it’s no coincidence that this curve ratio we used is frequently found in nature – known as the Golden Spiral
Working with our local carpenter Stephen and your specific requests and dimensions of your back, we can create your very own personalised spine stretching device.
If you’re based in the UK or Europe and would like a stretch needs analysis and to order your very own beautiful ‘hedgehog of the north’ please email me.
Turn around time including consultation which can be via skype is less than 30 days.
(*) As a trained Stretch Therapy teacher, I have permission from Kit and Olivia to share my work with you.