Flex Appeal
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Flex Appeal

A new workout promises to reshape your body.

Re-Shape Your Body

Being flexible not only makes it easier to perform such simple tasks as changing a lightbulb, it also helps improve your performance and reduces your risk of injury when you exercise. Now there is a new way to stretch that may also provide added health benefits, according to Bob Cooley, president of The Meridian Stretching Center, in San Jose, California. The Meridian Flexibility System, based on 16 yoga postures, involves "resistance stretching." To deepen a stretch, you contract a muscle while you lengthen it.

Cooley says contracting and relaxing the muscles gives you a deeper release than either yoga or typical warm-up stretches. According to Cooley, each muscle relates to a different organ, via meridians (pathways of energy that travel through the body). "By stretching, you unblock the energy to those organs, thereby improving their function," he claims. Sounds funny, but fans swear the sessions can help relieve everything from PMS to constipation.

Try these stretches a few times a week, after your regular workout. Hold each position for a total of about 30 seconds, but only contract muscles for 10 seconds, then relax and repeat. For more information, including how to order a video with the complete exercise plan, call 408-347-1767 or log on to www.meridianstretching.com. --Alyssa Shaffer


Shape your shoulders

Works: Back of neck and shoulders.

Claimed benefits: Said to stimulate the colon, helping to relieve constipation and improve regularity.

How-to: Sit on pillow as shown. Raise arms to shoulder level; cross left elbow over right and bring palms together. Press palms together for 10 seconds while pushing elbows against each other. Relax, then repeat the contraction, continuing cycle for about 30 seconds. Untwist arms, repeat with right elbow crossed over left.

Baby your back

Works: Inner and backs of legs; between shoulders.

Claimed benefits: Said to stimulate the spleen, helping to ease symptoms of PMS.

How-to: Stand with feet slightly wider than hip width apart. Clasp hands behind you. Bend forward from the hips and bring arms above your head as high as you can go without straining. For extra resistance, pull arms apart and downward as your head goes between your legs. The more you contract your quad muscles, the further forward you can bend.

Tone your thighs

Works: Thighs, hip flexors and abs.

Claimed benefits: Said to improve digestive health.

How-to: Kneel with your back facing a wall. Bring left leg back until top of foot is pressed against wall, keeping knee on floor (if this hurts, place a towel under knee). Bend right knee at a 90-degree angle as shown, hands on right thigh. Push against the wall with left foot for 10 seconds. Relax, then repeat the contraction, continuing cycle for about 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.

Get your doctor's approval before trying this or any new exercise program.