Knee osteoarthritis once threatened to sideline 45-year-old Olympic swimmer Dara Torres. But for the past several years, Dara has worked to improve her flexibility with the help of physical therapy and Ki-Hara, a unique set of exercises designed to create balance and efficiency in the body. This philosophy is also reflected in the name, which refers to the Chinese principles of ki (life energy) and hara (the body’s center of gravity and balancing point, below the navel).
The key is to do exercises that balance opposing muscle groups (the front and back of the thighs). Also important: Extend the limb only as far as you comfortably can while resisting at the same time (take six seconds to do the stretch).
|Photo credit: Andrea Mead Cross|
Here, Dara shares a few Ki-Hara exercises from her book Gold Medal Fitness: A Revolutionary 5-Week Program. Get your healthcare provider’s okay before trying these stretches or starting any new fitness program.
Step 1. Start in a kneeling position. Place your right leg in front of you at a 90-degree angle. At the same time, contract your left front leg muscles (including hip flexors below the hip bone) as if trying to lift your knee, while also pushing your lower leg against the floor.
Step 2. As you do this, use your bent right leg to balance and pull your body forward, keeping your chest up and your core muscles engaged. Release and repeat 8 to 10 times; then switch sides.