Morning Stretches

Lent, Day 29.

Previously: For Now, Just Live, Go Ahead and Give Up Chocolate for Lent, Homebrewing Salvation, My Easter Burden, Learning from Lenten Failures

You could call me an "anxious sleeper," if that's a thing. I've made many visits to the dentist in the past year or more because I've cracked both my lower back molars due to grinding at night (I also wear a bite guard now). Some mornings I'll wake up with aches in my shoulders and neck due to sleeping in a strange position or because I carried too much stress with me to bed the evening before.

A couple weeks ago, I started to think about how to address the stiffness and soreness more intentionally. I'm always on the lookout for tweaks that I can make to how I care for my body, so the thought of doing something to loosen up my joints and muscles first thing in the morning seemed like a good change to make.

And so, upon waking (and even before coffee), I'll come downstairs, fill my water bottle, and do sets of stretches that target my shoulders, torso, calves, and thighs. They're eight stretches in all, and I do three sets of each. They really do help, and I've noticed an improvement in my flexibility as a result.

I've quickly gotten to the point where I look forward to this early morning stretch time. Usually at least one cat joins me, sometimes I put on some reflective music, and I sip my water as I go. The whole routine doesn't take longer than 5-7 minutes, but it has become a treasured part of my day.

The other thing about this time is that it has taken on a certain prayerful quality. I do each stretch slowly and deliberately, and make it a point to notice how my body feels as I reach and move. I focus on the physicality of the action rather than think about the day's to-do list or otherwise let my mind wander. All my attention is on what I'm feeling, where I'm especially hurting, what might need more care or patience.

I call this time prayerful even if I don't use it as a time to actively acknowledge God. Such acknowledgement is more implicit as I deepen my relationship with this earthly vessel of mine, this piece of clay into which God has breathed and given life. I come away with a greater understanding of who I am as a created being and how to tend to myself in faithful ways.

I feel a responsibility to do what I can with what I've been given; to be a good steward of these muscles, bones, and sinews as best I can.

There is a certain liturgy to what I do. I know which exercise comes after another. I am familiar with the movements and transitions, my own individual "work of the people." And I come away with a consciousness that Spirit and flesh have met in this space.

Perhaps I should even conclude with an "amen."

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