Stretching Out with Michelle Le May by Christine Lynn Harvey

Michelle LeMay has been dancing since she has been 2 years old. While in college, she majored in ballet and heard an announcement on the radio about a fitness contest in Florida called the "Most Physical Female." "I decided to enter it and I never did aerobics before," LeMay says. She won the preliminary round and realized she had to take some aerobics classes if she was going to win the contest which she did. LeMay then competed in the National Aerobics Championship which she won."That's what brought me into the whole fitness thing." She began traveling around the world competing and attending workshops. The experience fired her interest in fitness and she began taking more physiology and anatomy classes in college. While all this excited her, she says something was missing in her heart. "I realized it was the dance. Dance is very soulful. It's a self expression of the spirit. So, I came back from traveling and merged the two. Doing fitness and dance is just the ultimate for me."

Michelle says the 1980's brought the aerobics and dance-fitness craze in which a lot of rolling around occurs on the floor. She says by the time she was 30, she was waking up with stiffness in every part of her body. "I was literally hunched over and walking like an old lady." At the time, her roommate was female bodybuilder 6-time Ms. Olympia Cory Everson who did fitness workshops with her. "On stage, she would mimic me, saying 'this is Michelle getting up in the morning,' and everyone would laugh. So I realized, here I am a fitness expert and I'm not healthy." LeMay attributed it to working her body too hard and not balancing herself with proper stretching.

In the journey to well-being, LeMay naturally began combining dance, stretching and yoga which culminated in a new technique she calls "Dance Inspired Yoga,"which she exemplifies in her new DVD series "Spirit Flow." "It has evolved over the years to become more of a gentle method, one that clears your body and quiets your mind. It's very peaceful and relaxing."

LeMay says people were getting tremendous results from doing less and doing more relaxation exercises. "People were responding 'You mean you don't have to work that hard, and you can still look and feel better?' LeMay's body began 'leaning out' and she was eating better - she didn't have that ravaging appetite attack that she would experience after a hard day's work and workout. "It was a 13 year process and it's still evolving. The stretching technique became a calling. We can't escape stress, but we can change how our bodies respond to it. Stress condenses and contracts our bodies. We can literally clear it out with stretching."

Now at 43, LeMay says she feels in better shape than she was in her 20's. "The stretching affects the clarity and peace of mind I have." LeMay's new "Spirit Flow" DVD series incorporates yoga positions that roll forwards, backwards and on diagonals. There is a wider range of motion through the yoga movement. "It's kind of a slow dance of the muscles. Many DVDs on the market involve holding and contracting the muscles. This is the only DVD series I know of that actually relaxes the muscles and joints as you are moving, so you open the way for the congestion to release from the body." she says.

There is a full body 60-minute workout, 30-minute workout, 7 essential stress relievers which are 5 minutes each. "Five minutes are better than nothing. If you are sitting at a desk all day, you can get up and relieve tension by doing some the stretches for 3 minutes. You feel the difference immediately."

LeMay relates a story of a friend who had a headache all day and who got no relief from 4 aspirins she had taken. LeMay encouraged her to do some stretches even though she did not feel well enough to try. After some coaxing, her friend followed LeMay's advice and the headache was gone. LeMay says stretching also offers relief for PMS, and other kinds of pain. "Our body is a field of energy. In that field, everything is supposed to flow freely. With physical, emotional and mental stress, areas can get stuck. If you just relax and stretch, it unwinds that congestion, opens up and allows the energy to flow. The benefits are accumulative. The more you stretch, the better you feel!"

LeMay's mission is to make people feel comfortable in their bodies and bring back their vitality. "I call it peacefully powerful." With LeMay's DVDs, people can work within their own range of motion, no matter what their physical condition is. Unfortunately, many people are intimidated by yoga and stretching because they have made their mind up that they are inflexible. The irony is, you get more flexible by stretching. "I think the media has shown many yoga poses as being tied up in a pretzel. We're not trying to achieve a certain pose. It's all about freeing up that stuck energy to get it flowing."

For more information on Michelle LeMay's 3 Spirit Flow DVDs "7 Essential Stress Relievers," "Rejuvenating Core Stretch," and "Alive in Your Body" ($14.99 each) please visit www.razor3donline.com. For more info on LeMay visit: www.michellelemay.com.

Photos courtesy of Robert Reiff/Magic Light Productions and Beate Johansson. For more info, visit: www.magiclight.com.